There have been few articles in HBR recently on the aspects of meditation and its positive influence at the workplace and overall well-being (Mindfulness helps you a become better leader and If You’re Too Busy to Meditate, Read This). Firstly it’s heartening to see prestigious, widely read and respected magazines like the HBR talk about meditation. Reading this takes me back to a time many years ago, when I worked in a software company run by executives with very high spiritual inclinations. It was a regular software company with the common problems and challenges that any software company has. They had a unique process which made them different from any other company I know.
Every afternoon, before lunch, the employees (around 20-25) would gather together and do a group meditation for 20 minutes. After that they would all go and have their lunch. It was interesting to see the discussions on the lunch. Many of them would actually have a quiet introspective lunch and quickly resume work – smiling. For those who did talk, it would be about things not related to work and towards the positive aspects of life. The point to note here is that the lunch break was a relaxing affair and the employees came back to work with full stomach and happy hearts – a smile on their faces.
Contrast this to most of our lunches in the regular workplace. I am not saying all do it, but many times, lunch is the perfect place for us to catch up on gossip, discuss office politics, the new processes and initiatives that are making our lives miserable and the like. How many times do we really discuss things which will take us forward professionally or personally ? Lunch break for its positioning in the scheme of things is an important time slot because after that, most if not all people get bulk of their work done. The first part of the day is mainly gone catching up yesterday’s backlog and answering emails and prioritizing for today. So when an employee comes back truly refreshed after this break, s/he is more likely to get things done faster and achieve the holy grail that we all look after from our employees – be more productive – do more for less.
Another reason for the significance of lunch time is that, with all the complexities of life (long commutes, dropping and picking kids/spouses from schools/other places etc), most people practically find it hard to find time for themselves at home in mornings and evenings – unless of course they get up at 5 am and not many get up that early. Some people do that and they do experience the benefits. But for most of us, just before or after lunch break would be really ideal.
Now this was one example of a company which gave its employees the right to have the thing that relaxes them most before lunch break – meditation in this case since most employees were spiritually inclined. But meditation might not be the recipe for all. Different things motivate different people. For some it could be going to the gym, some a reading break or some just a walk in the park close-by with friends talking stuff that matters and uplifts their spirit. It’s essentially that personal time – doing what you like – that makes you refreshed.
Companies as part of their human resource engagements can also promote such things by having rooms marked for meditation or having good libraries (most already do). They need to encourage employees to give this time to themselves to help them truly relax and create conducive conditions for it. There is no correct recipe and each one need to find what would work for them. A happy employee is a great asset to have and this could be one way to achieve that. Also even if a company may not formally promote such things for variety of reasons, still an employee can do it themselves. Most companies already have a 1 hour lunch break and so even for us it’s easier to do this ourselves – without company sponsorship. If you have a shorter one, maybe still you can manage your work in a way to squeeze those extra 20 mins for this.
Bill George in his feature article Mindfulness helps you a become better leader in the November 2012 issue of HBR sums it up really well – To keep your equilibrium, practice meditation — or something like it — every day.
It’s an investment on one’s own self and definitely rewarding – guaranteed to bring true ROI.
Its an investment for a Smiling and Efficient You !!! Keep Smiling 🙂