Calm employees make business sense

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In the past, stress in the workplace has either been ignored or no-one knew how to deal with it. Thankfully, that is no longer the case.

Businesses are finally realising that addressing their staff’s wellbeing will not only make them happy but give them greater job satisfaction, increase productivity, creativity and, ultimately boost the organisation’s bottom line.
 
It should come as no surprise then that HR departments around the world have recognised the benefits of introducing mindfulness programmes. Mindfulness is a practice that wakes us up and enables us to become present. It takes us out of autopilot and makes us better at responding, rather than reacting.
 
Studies show that mindfulness can lead to increased productivity, greater satisfaction at work and enhanced problem-solving abilities. Since introducing mindfulness for its staff, Transport for London has reported a 71% drop in days off related to stress, anxiety and depression. While a 2012 study in the US on HR staff found that after eight weeks of training in mindfulness mediation, workers had higher levels of concentration.
 
Companies including BP, eBay and Goldman Sachs now have meditation spaces in their offices, while Google, Facebook and Etsy have also taken steps to make their businesses calmer places to work. There are also organisations, such as Calmworks, which go into businesses to teach them about mindfulness and help them run workshops or set up programmes.  
 
#CalmDay on March 26th is an opportunity to raise awareness of the stress we experience at work and some easy mindfulness techniques to help us beat it. There are countless ways that businesses can encourage their employees to be more mindful, and it doesn’t have to be time-consuming: 

Reclaim the lunch break
Some organisations are now actively urging staff to take their lunch break, even suggesting that they set their out of office replies to let customers and suppliers know that they’re getting something to eat and recharging their batteries.
 
Employees could take a solo break in the middle of the day to do a short guided meditation with the Calm app, to see how it can improve their concentration for the rest of the afternoon.  
 
New creative techniques
For businesses looking for bold ideas, group creativity meditation could help staff uncover better ways of working, or even dream up an innovative new service or product.
 
Firms could find that changing the way they run creative meetings leads to better ideas too. Research has shown that giving staff the chance to come up with creative solutions privately and submit them in writing can result in more useful ideas than traditional group sessions. It is easier to focus on thinking creatively when reflecting quietly, while introverts are able to share great ideas that they wouldn’t have been able to voice in a big meeting.
 
Digital detox
At the very least, businesses should be mindful that staff should be granted a life outside work. Some organisations are now introducing evening and weekend email curfews, giving employees permission to switch off when away from the office.  
 
One such example is car manufacturer Daimler, which temporarily disables its staff’s email accounts when they go on annual leave. Even high-powered executives in tech corporations appreciate the benefits of time away from the screen. For instance, Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior turns her smartphone off for one day every week. 
  
Much of this feels counter-intuitive but, rather than taking time out of a busy schedule, having a break and being more calm actually increases productivity. Just as the benefits of exercise were realised 50 years ago and changed how we look after our bodies, I am confident mindfulness will change the way businesses and employees approach work.

Michael Acton Smith is co-founder of Calm, an organisation that provides tools and advice on meditation and mindfulness

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