How To Create a Culture of Mindfulness

The tech space, it turns out, has an especially acute need for the practice because, well, it isn't exactly synonymous with Zen.
How To Create a Culture of Mindfulness
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If there were a scientifically proven, free way to improve your employees' performance and sense of well-being, wouldn't you do it? Enter: meditation.

No, it is not hippy-dippy. It is not a fad. And it doesn't have to be reserved for large corporations. More businesses should take a real look at what they can gain by encouraging a workplace culture of mindfulness.

Related: 6 Ways Embracing Mindfulness Helps You Thrive at Work

Sure, it feels like every week there's a new study re-declaring the medical benefits of taking time each day to do virtually nothing. (Although anyone who meditates will tell you it is actually a challenging process that takes practice.)

But, in fact, meditation is part of a larger and equally in-vogue concept: mindfulness, meaning a state of active attention to the moment you are in. Meditation is a tool for reaching this state, but it's not the only way.

You can take a less-structured approach to being "present" and attuned to your immediate surroundings. The benefits of doing that are far-reaching and transcend whatever profession you're in, though the tech space has an especially acute need for the practice. By encouraging employees to embrace tools for improving mindfulness, organizations can improve company culture, recruitment, retention and performance.

Why tech needs it so badly

Many tech leaders are already on board, and include Apple, Google and Yahoo! When Evan Williams, cofounder of Twitter, started Medium, he put a meditation room in the middle of the office, Fast Company reported.

There was good reason: Meditation can literally change your brain, in a good way, according to the National Institutes of Health. Research shows that meditation can minimize stress and even alleviate pain.

Related: 5 Ways You Can Use Mindfulness to Fix Your Brain, Decrease Stress and Improve Performance

Meanwhile, the people who say they don't have time for meditation are often the ones who need it the most. In the highly competitive tech space, speed, not just quality, matters. There is merit in being first to market, and pressure to continually evolve and develop new iterations.

Intrigued? Here's what a culture of meditation and mindfulness can do for your business:

1. Improve your company culture.

Companies can distinguish themselves from competitors by creating an environment that is fast-paced and high-energy, without compromising people's well-being. In fact, they can make a conscious effort to improve it.

Meditation isn't just about the individual, it can also improve relationships. A meditation room isn't going to transform your entire staff into enlightened beings, but wouldn't you prefer to work with colleagues who are dedicated to self-improvement? Making mindfulness part of your company identity sends a positive message to your team.

2. Secure and retain the best talent.

Tech is a competitive space, and talent is in high demand. People are thinking long and hard about what they want from an employer. Between 20 percent and 29 percent of employees say they would change jobs for company perks like programs for wellness, professional development ,employee assistance (and free or subsidized parking!), according to Gallup's recent report, State of the American Workplace.

Making meditation and mindfulness part of a larger offering of employee benefits, therefore, can improve your recruitment process. It also helps you stay competitive. In 2016, 22 percent of employers queried in one survey said they offered mindfulness training. That number is expected to double in 2017, according to a survey from Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health.

3. Improve performance.

If your team members are happier, calmer, more motivated and focused, and creatively inspired, the business benefits. Asana's founders, Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein, told Fast Company, for example, that they believe that by creating a culture of mindfulness, they will improve productivity and work quality.

Countless high-performers, from athletes to celebrities to business moguls, swear by meditation. The benefits won't happen overnight, and it's not a magic bullet, but as your employees' experience improves, so too will your business results.

So, make it happen.

The number of companies offering wellness programs grew from 54 percent in 1996 to 72 percent in 2016, according to SHRM's 2016 Employee Benefits research report. Modern wellness is about more than physical health, and an increasing number of companies are expected to jump on the mindfulness bandwagon. Just as physical wellness programs affect the bottom line, in part by decreasing company healthcare costs and unscheduled time off, mental wellness tools like meditation will also drive tangible business results.

Here are some ideas for how tech companies -- or any business -- can improve mindfulness in the workplace:

Provide educational tools and resources, such as workshops and a meditation room. This doesn't have to be elaborate, just a quiet, peaceful and comfortable space where employees can go to unwind.

Remember that mindfulness doesn't need to mean formal meditation. For some, that is intimidating. Even coloring books can help improve focus, according to research reported by CNN.

Lead by example. Ask managers to encourage their team to use the resources, and to do so themselves.

Promote it. Internal communication is key to increasing adoption, so educate your team about the benefits of a quiet mind.

Embrace technology! A plethora exists of guided meditation apps, like Headspace and Buddhify. You might even consider reimbursing employees for any associated costs.

Related: 5 Ways to Boost Mindfulness Even on Busy Days

In sum, implementing tools for fostering mindfulness is good for employees, but it also makes good business sense, especially in the tech space, which isn't exactly synonymous with Zen.

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