Over the past decade, mindfulness has gone from fringe spiritual practice to mainstream obsession. Oprah meditates. Steve Jobs did it. Katy Perry does it. And yet, with all the hype surrounding mindfulness, it's easy to lose sight of its real benefits for businesses.
Meditation, the core practice of mindfulness training, doesn't just make you feel good or give your face a radiant glow. Research on this practice shows that meditation and mindfulness training more generally offer businesses a real ROI.
Put simply, when it comes to bringing mindfulness into the workplace, it's not just the right thing to do. It's also a sound investment that pays out real returns over the long run. According to an emerging body of research, when companies invest in mindfulness, they are likely to experience the following five benefits.
1. Mindfulness reduces employee stress and mitigates the risk of burnout.
The world of work has fundamentally changed over the past 20 years. We now go through our days with supercomputers in our pockets. We're able to communicate around the globe in seconds. Despite the obvious advantages of our faster, more connected world, our current age also comes with a powerful challenge: We now live in an "always on" state of perpetual stress and technological distraction.
Mindfulness works as a powerful counterbalance to this ordinary state. Numerous studies suggest that mindfulness practice helps employees reduce stress and build what just might be the most valuable capacity in the digital age: resilience. One recent study, for instance, showed that the benefits of mindfulness training extend beyond the individuals doing the practice. Researchers found that even the direct reports of managers who practice mindfulness experience lower rates of emotional exhaustion.
2. Mindfulness reduces unwanted turnover.
The workforce has become increasingly transitory, and unwanted turnover poses a threat to most businesses. Experts estimate that unwanted turnover can cost up to 200 percent of an employee's annual salary. So how can we keep high-value employees from leaving? In one recent study, researchers examined the relationship between company mindfulness programs and retention. They found a significant relationship between mindfulness and higher levels of commitment among employees to their current employer.
3. Mindfulness increases productivity and engagement.
Mindfulness training also has powerful effects on productivity. Researchers studying the effects of workplace mindfulness programs found that this training led to greater vitality, enhanced focus, and higher levels of engagement in the task at hand.
4. Mindfulness works as a powerful tool for recruiting top talent.
In a tight labor market, where many companies struggle to attract top talent, mindfulness programs give companies a competitive edge. This is perhaps why leading companies like Google, Nike, Apple, and Goldman Sachs are all heavily invested in mindfulness training. And it makes sense. If given the choice between a firm that invests in the well-being and resilience of its employees and one that doesn't, most savvy applicants will choose the company that is more invested in its employees' success.
5. Mindfulness boosts creativity and innovation.
With the nature of industry and work continuously changing and with new disruptive technologies like A.I. looming, creativity and innovation are essential business assets. Researchers at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Netherlands, wanted to understand the impact of mindfulness training on creativity. They found that just a few minutes of mindfulness practice led to statistically significant increases in "divergent thinking" and also increased the range of ideas subjects were able to generate.
The key upshot of this emerging research is that mindfulness is a sound investment -- one that pays out on a variety of different levels. At the level of social responsibility and doing good, investing in the well-being and resilience of employees is simply the right thing to do.
And yet, at the level of raw financial returns, these programs also offer a tangible and significant ROI. By investing in mindfulness, after all, businesses can expect to create an environment with less stress, less unwanted turnover, greater productivity, more top talent, and greater innovation.