It seems counterintuitive. Yet dedicating a space for decoupling from work can actually help employees do their jobs. Distracted, stressed-out staffers aren’t performing to the best of their abilities. They often waste time trying to manage their own anxiety. There’s a better way. By creating a safe place for them where they can escape work for a few minutes, you’re actually freeing them to be their best selves. Here’s why I think meditation rooms in the workplace are a great idea.
Distraction is the enemy of production. In fact, one study suggests it takes over 20 minutes to refocus on a task after we are distracted, explaining that we “compensate for interruptions by working faster, but this comes at a price: experiencing more stress, higher frustration, time pressure and effort.” Sometimes our co-workers interrupt us, but often we are our own worst enemy. Our anxiety-filled minds wander, thinking about what can go wrong.
Meditation is about mindfulness. It’s all about being present with your thoughts. Instead of thinking about yesterday or tomorrow, you dwell in the present –– fully aware of your surroundings. After just a few minutes in a meditation room, staffers can return to work with the ability to concentrate on the task at hand. Encouraging mindfulness is an awesome way to encourage focus. In fact, one study using MRI data suggested that just spending just five minutes being present every day not only improves memory and focus but actually changes the brain of depressed patients.
Open office plans don’t just increase noise and viral spread, they decrease privacy. Yet everyone needs a bit of alone time. In fact, when one supplier of office furnishings asked workers if they valued privacy, an unsurprising 95% said they did. Yet in the modern office it’s an increasingly rare commodity. One way to get the most out of meditation rooms in the workplace is by offering them as an escape from elbow-to-elbow coworkers. A few minutes of solitary can recharge a worker’s batteries.
This is a big one. Studies show that workplace absences and poor performance tied to anxiety and stress cost companies around $300 billion a year. It’s also a factor in 40% of job turnover. In the U.S., most men and women work more than the 40-hour work week despite the fact that our productivity has risen 400% since the 1950s. This should mean it takes Americans a quarter of the time to accomplish the same tasks –– yet every year we work more hours than the Japanese, the British or the Germans. Only in India do people work more than we do.
Meditation reduces stress and anxiety. By offering meditation rooms in the workplace, employers demonstrate their interest in employee’s well being. Not to mention reducing anxiety can improve your bottom line.
As we slowly emerge from a respiratory pandemic, it’s worth noting how meditation and breathing are connected. Meditation exercises often focus on improving how we breathe –– whether it’s inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth or by practicing belly breathing. A study of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients revealed that the ones who meditated felt better and breathed easier than the ones who didn’t.
The COVID-19 pandemic drastically reduced the number of people working in offices. Even as remote work declines, many may never return to full time, in-office work. Although some companies may renegotiate leases, many will be left paying for unused space. Transforming an empty office into a meditation room is fairly simple. Ventilation is vital, as is plenty of room to stretch. Minimal furniture and a decent carpet are also helpful. Resist the urge to make it a multipurpose room. If someone who wanted to meditate encounters a colleague on a business call, they might not come back. When your meditation room is ready, consider hiring a coach who can guide your staff through meditation exercises. You can also implement an online scheduling system.
If you’re a staffer who wants a meditation room, there are lots of arguments to support you. Bring the idea to your boss. Many companies find meditation rooms improve employee retention –– one reason successful firms like Google, Apple and HBO have them. Even fictional billionaire Bobby “Axe” Axelrod has one. Shouldn’t you?
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