It is no secret that the American workplace has rapidly changed and the “Madmen” office culture from the 50’s, (you know, the chain smoking cigarettes and having midafternoon drinks), is gone. Now-a-days, the 40-hour work week is all but history. The stress of keeping a job has never been higher and the American worker is more physically and emotionally taxed than ever.
We all know stress is bad for our health but what you may not know is that stress is terrible for the bottom line – not just your company’s but it’s detrimental to your own checkbook as well. This comes to fruition in two ways. The first is rather obvious, that being healthcare costs. Stress related diseases cost Americans and the businesses they work for an astronomical amount. Healthcare spending has soared as high as 300 billion dollars according to the World Health Organization, proving many employees and companies are spending more on healthcare than ever before. Unfortunately the cost isn’t predicted to drop anytime soon either. Within the last 30 years, stress levels in women have grown 18% and they’ve grown 25% in men. These elevated levels have resulted in the American worker being exposed to an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease. In fact, two thirds of all doctors’ visits for employees are due to stress related conditions. You might not expect stress to affect your performance or the company’s output but it is, without a doubt, doing so. U.S. employees spend 200-300 percent more on indirect healthcare in the form of absenteeism, sick days, and above all lower productivity.
The second way stress robs us blind is by cutting into productivity. While you may be putting in extra hours, the benefit of each additional hour spent working while stressed yields a lower quality of work. While the “work yourself ragged and squeeze ‘em for all they got” mentality might have been the approach that kept butts in seats for more hours, studies have shown it doesn’t always mean more revenue generated. We are seeing that happier employees produce more in less time than individuals who are stressed out due to working longer hours. Like some economist said way back when, the law of diminishing marginal returns is always at play. The time you spend at your job will not be valuable if you are overly stressed out and in this case it’s not only supported by economics, but science too.
However, all hope is not lost. We as employees must find balance in our lives…a “center” if you will. For many Fortune 500 companies that center is coming in the form of meditation. It is widely known that one of the best and least expensive ways to become healthier and happier is through meditation. In fact participants in a mindfulness program displayed “an increased sense of purpose and had fewer feelings of isolation and alienation.” Combine this with the decreased symptoms of illnesses related to stress and you get a Grade A solution according to the Huffington Post.
The benefits don’t stop there. According to an additional study done by the National Institute of Health, benefits can be even more dramatic than these aforementioned ones. Individuals that participated in frequent mindfulness meditation saw up to a 23% decrease in mortality and a 30% decrease in death due to cardiovascular disease. To those who thought working yourself to death was just an expression, and to those who thought meditation was simply some breathing exercises…you couldn’t be more wrong.
The wonderful thing about mindfulness is that there is no overhead. There is no equipment needed to indulge in enlightenment. All you need is yourself and an open minded approach. While there are studios available and an increased number of classes popping up around the United States, mindfulness can be practiced in your own home or cubicle. According to http://www.helpguide.org, mindfulness lies in practicing techniques to achieve a state-of-alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to the thoughts and sensations without predetermined judgment. These steps allow the mind to refocus on the present moment.
To practice mindfulness on your own (courtesy of helpguide.org):
Sit on a straight-backed chair or cross-legged on the floor
Focus on an aspect of your breathing, such as the sensations of air flowing into your nostrils and out of your mouth, or your belly rising and falling as you inhale and exhale
Once you’ve narrowed your concentration in this way, begin to widen your focus. Become aware of sounds, sensations, and your ideas
Embrace and consider each thought or sensation without judging it good or bad. If your mind starts to race, return your focus to your breathing. Then expand your awareness again.
These exercises practiced and incorporated into a daily routine can be extremely helpful for individuals in high stress positions or for anyone seeking to reduce the amount of stress in their lives. In this new business landscape, companies recommend their employees try to find their center and practice mindfulness.
Encouraging our employees to lead physically and mentally healthy lives? WE MINDFULLY DO THAT.