It’s Time to Build Mindfulness into Corporate Culture

Posted by Parisa Mirzadegan on January 27, 2016

Happy, healthy employees are better employees. So why is it that corporate wellness programs are so often perfunctory and prescriptive? Only 7 percent of companies surveyed in a national study provide a “comprehensive program” for their employees, according to Fortune.

Adopting a comprehensive wellness program is better for both companies and for employees: Johnson & Johnson leaders estimate that their comprehensive wellness programs have cumulatively saved the company $250 million on health care costs from 2000 to 2010, according to the Harvard Business Review. A key element of successful, comprehensive wellness programs is mindfulness.

As we strive to increase workplace wellness, there’s no better way to do so than to empower employees to make mindful choices about their own wellness. Nobody knows your employees’ bodies better than they do. Unfortunately, corporate culture has instilled a “grin and bear it” mentality for so long that it can be difficult for employees to become aware of their own pain in the workplace.

This difficulty in recognizing pain points can result in over-general remedies and quotas that do not necessarily reflect complete wellness. The time has come for companies’ wellness programs to step aside and let the employees speak. The first step in doing so is to build mindfulness into corporate culture.

One of the best ways to encourage your employees to work and live mindfully is to provide them with opportunities to practice exercises like meditation and yoga.

“Anxiety, stress, depression, exhaustion and irritability all decrease with regular sessions of mediation,” according to the mindfulness experts at Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World. The health effects of mindfulness exercises are tangible; The American Journal of Cardiology published a study that found that meditation, as a stress-decreasing approach, could control high blood pressure and help people live longer.

Your employees’ wellness can also be improved by practicing mindfulness through yoga. Yoga can help employees reduce stress, improve fitness, and even manage chronic conditions, according to the Mayo Clinic. Successful companies like Clif Bar, Asana, and Google, to name a few, include in-house yoga in their corporate wellness perks. Choosing to provide mindful exercises like meditation and yoga in your company’s wellness program signals a dedication to promoting a whole-health approach to employee wellness.

Encouraging mindfulness must also go beyond offering lunchtime yoga at the office. Mindfulness can come in in many different forms, the simplest of which is awareness: awareness of pain, awareness of choices, and awareness of company culture.

Starting with pain awareness is an important first step, but empowering employees to address their pain points is the key. Providing employees with the ability to make mindful choices introduces an element of trust into your office space.

San Francisco start-up Asana has taken big steps in empowering its employees to control their own wellness. Asana gives each employee $10,000 to equip his or her office with adjustable desks or any other tools to amp up their health and happiness. This places the choice in the hands of employees rather than an ergonomics department. Happy, mindful employees do better work, ultimately providing a high return on investment for companies that choose to empower their employees.

In the end, the success of any corporate wellness program comes down to company culture. Implementing changes that build mindfulness into your company’s culture will allow the benefits of your corporate wellness program to extend throughout—and beyond—the workplace.