Sanctioned Mindfulness In The Workplace

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, 
live in the moment, live in the breath.” 

Attaining nirvana and exceeding in the world of business might not seem like they go hand in hand, but that is precisely the message your employer may be pushing.

Over the last twenty years we have seen a huge rise in the popularity of traditional eastern practices in the west. Meditation and yoga are now firmly part of the modern lexicon and inevitably businesses have been quick to capitalise on this burgeoning market. Initially, creating products to cater to adherents, and more recently applying it internally, as a way of boosting productivity amongst employees.

So, what is mindfulness? It is quite simply, the state of being ‘mindful’. Being fully aware of the moment, living in the moment, and accepting one’s feelings and emotions without judgement or resistance. Now, you may be thinking that sounds like some wishy-washy new age gobbledygook, but there are numerous studies showing the benefits of both meditation and yoga.

Meditation has been shown (even in small amounts) to improve focus, reduce anxiety, improve memory, promote creativity and feelings of compassion. These effects aren’t short lived either, persisting long after a meditation session. Yoga has similar advantages, also benefiting the immune system, improving quality of sleep and several other health benefits.

A whole host of companies have attempted to leverage these ancient practices. New Balance, Procter & Gamble, General Mills and Unilver have all encouraged employees to roll out the yoga mats and adopt the lotus position. Increasing numbers of business leaders are proponents of meditation and its numerous benefits, too.

The pertinent question here is, does practising mindfulness benefit your work? I think it’s safe to say the answer is ‘Yes.’ In fact, it’s hard to think of any downsides to either meditation or yoga. The science speaks for itself.

That is all well and good, but something seems fundamentally disingenuous, sinister even about being prescribed meditation by your employer. It just doesn’t sit right in the corporate setting. Teachings of acceptance and placidity translate to not questioning your position or surroundings, not to ask too many questions, not to think too much about the future, or the past, but to simply get on with your work in an efficient manner.

Maybe I’m being cynical, maybe your employer really does have you best interests at heart, but is it really their place to be offering such advice? Practising meditation and yoga and being more mindful are things all of us could benefit from, but it really needs to be discovered and explored on your own terms, and you need to be open to the idea.
Let us also consider that the root cause of your anxieties and stress is likely your job, and it becomes even more perverse that your employer should be suggesting remedies to these symptoms. Rather than offer spiritual guidance under the guise of self improvement, it is more fitting for employers to address the environmental conditions that contribute to these negative feelings in the first place.
The Procurement Group

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