The Business Case
Office Coffee Break

Mental and Emotional Skills

In 2016, the Secretariat to the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group sponsored extensive research into business performance — and concluded in part, that:  

 

We spend more of our time working than doing anything else, and research has found that these hours are, on average, the least happy of our lives. Endemic stress in knowledge-based industries is resulting in disengagement, absenteeism and a huge loss of national productivity It’s increasingly clear that the quality of cognitive and emotional resources in the workforce determines the health, resilience, and future performance of the organization.

 

This is only one of many recent studies that point to a critical shortage of social and emotional competencies in our leadership, workforce, and workplace. Evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL), and mindfulness are just beginning to be taught in our public education system, and will not fully reach the workplace for another generation or two.

 

In the interim, we have an opportunity to create a significant competitive advantage by retro-fitting our leaders, educating our workforce, and adopting these human performance programs into our organizational, leadership and talent development curricula.

Colleagues Working Together

A Shift in Perspective

 

It’s increasingly important to up-skill our leaders and workforce with mental and emotional capabilities — and equally important to shift our perspective at the organizational level.

 

To quote John Taylor, President and CEO, SHRM:  

 

We’ve reached a cultural tipping point in the workplace, driven by public attitude shifts on employment policies, blurred lines between work and home life, and generational differences in the expectations of work itself.  As working Americans challenge organizations to manage and lead differently, those that don’t will find themselves left behind.

 

Progressive leaders and organizations are questioning their fealty to shareholder value and embracing the notion that the organization must equally serve its employees and community stakeholders in order to thrive. 

 

This insight, along with recent breakthroughs in brain science, are creating the conditions for a revolution in how we develop our leaders and talent — and how we solve what have long been intractable workplace challenges. 

 

We owe it to our people (and will benefit as an organization) if we can step beyond simple behavioral rewards, to help our people develop the intrinsic mental and emotional skills  to find their purpose and drive their own performance — in ways that serve them and their families, as well as the workplace. We now have the science, process and tools to do just that. 

The Problems on Our Desk

Drive Down Healthcare Costs

Companies are caught between increasingly overwhelmed, exhausted employees on one hand, and the escalating costs of treating stress-related chronic illness, on the other. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the cost of workplace burnout is more than $300 billion a year, and employers spend up to three times the direct cost in the form of absenteeism, sick days and lower productivity.

 

Today, the most common reason that employers cite for adopting a mindfulness program is simple — It is a remarkably effective intervention that drives health care costs down. Progressive employers are routinely reporting dramatic decreases in chronic stress levels and burnout, and double-digit increases in regained productivity.

Turn Around a Toxic Workplace

Over 50% of American workers report quitting an otherwise good job, just to escape an ineffective, incompetent or abusive manager. Tens of millions more struggle every day with the stress of overwork, lack of appreciation, and negativity in the workplace. Whatever the cause, destructive attitudes and behaviors (coming from leaders and co-workers alike) are destroying loyalty and motivation, eroding engagement, and driving down productivity.

 

Mindfulness is the mental exercise program that develops emotional intelligence. It’s proven to develop and strengthen self-awareness, emotional control, empathy and compassion — the fundamental building blocks of effective interpersonal skills. At the same time, by dampening signals of fear and anxiety from the amygdala, in favor of calm and rationality from the pre-frontal cortex, mindfulness sets the conditions for better communication, collaboration and teamwork.

Develop More Effective Leaders

Great leaders and managers are able to connect authentically and compassionately with individuals at a human level. This is a mindful trait at the core of emotional intelligence, and is the foundation for trust, motivation and loyalty. According to Bill George, Harvard Senior Fellow and former CEO, Medtronics: “The main business case for mindfulness is that if you’re fully present on the job, you will be a more effective leader, you will make better decisions, and you will work better with other people.

Mindfulness also enables the self-actualization, self-awareness and self-regulation that drive clarity of vision, strategic awareness, critical thinking, decision making and other measures of leadership performance. It is a force-multiplier for management and leadership development.

Engage the Workforce

For three decades, American workers have been stuck at a 65-70% “disengagement” rate, including the 20% who self-report as “actively disengaged.” “actively disengaged” (Which translates as not just disinterested, but angry).

Disengagement is highly correlated with poor business performance, which is further degraded by chronic stress and other toxic factors in the workplace. A culture of disengagement

erodes product quality, workforce productivity, and customer satisfaction. Mindfulness creates  the mental strength and resilience to combat negativity and burnout. It trains non-judgmental observation that lowers stress and enables us to approach our work with renewed interest and curiosity. It provides the mental space to become re-interested, re-engaged and re-committed to the purpose of the organization.

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Pay Attention to What Matters

Technology saturation and information overload are creating a distracted, attention-deficit workforce, overwhelmed with competing stimuli and demands. The mass and velocity of input are stripping leaders of the bandwidth needed to think critically, creatively, and deeply. Workers are increasingly frustrated, exhausted, and locked into the shallow work of responding to texts, email, and social media.

A 2016 study showed that the average attention span is now below 8 seconds (down from 12 seconds in 2012), yet concentration is the baseline requirement for deep work. Mindfulness is basic training for attention and focus and is proven to strengthen the neural pathways associated with concentration, cognition, and working memory. Focus and the ability to resist distraction are also solidly linked to our abilities to control impulses, emotions and achieve long-term goals.

Build Innovation into the Culture

Competition is increasingly driven by disruptive innovation across technologies, supply chains, and business models. Through this lens, the ability to continually innovate becomes a critical organizational capability. Insight and ideation are crucial to the process, as is access to creative and divergent thinking. All are dramatically improved through mindful meditation.

 

Mindfulness strengthens engagement, fluid intelligence, and the ability to process and respond to novel information, patterns, and relationships. It is a state of flow that can unlock inspiration, strengthen intuition, and help us embrace the risk of new ideas. 

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Reduce Turnover

The velocity of business change results in a constant talent shortage. Even with disruption in the markets, in a time of furloughs and layoffs — we’re constantly at the edge of a retention crisis for top talent in key positions. These top performers are our most vulnerable resource.  

 

Turnover costs American business hundreds of billions of dollars every year in direct costs and lost productivity. Mindfulness is a proven intervention that reduces the overload, anxiety, distraction, workplace toxicity, conflict, and burnout that drive our best talent into the arms of our competitors.

Early Results

Casual Work Meeting

Over the past decade, progressive employers have been experimenting with mindfulness for health and wellbeing, cognitive performance and emotional intelligence. It’s estimated that over 40% of Fortune 500 companies now provide mindfulness training for some portion of their leadership or workforce. 

Many of these early adopters have published assessments, experiential results and other measures of effectiveness that offer a clear consensus across a growing number of common markers. Here’s a smattering of representative data:

25%

reduction in stress

18%

increase in memory

11%

increase in focus

30%

reduction in stress

15%

increase in engagement

$22,000

annual productivity gain

/employee

90%

reported improved awareness

80%

reported stress reduction

63%

reported improved life-balance

28%

reduction in stress

4 hrs

increase in monthly productivity

/employee

$3,000

savings in annual healthcare

/employee

37%

reduction in stress

19%

increase in focus

11%

increase in mental agility

30%

increase in focus

25%

decrease in multi-tasking

17%

decrease in distraction

32%

increase in focus

19%

decrease in multi-tasking

32%

increase in efficiency

93%

reported improved innovation

89%

reported improved self-awareness

70%

reported improvement in cognition

[Mindfulness] helps employees be more productive and make better decisions, both of which improve the bottom line.

 

Mark Bertolini, CEO, Aetna

Have a Question? Call or Text Us @ 702-483-1306

Institute for Organizational Mindfulness

712 H Street NE Suite 1518

Washington,DC 20002  

Phone: +1-702-483-1306

Email: iomteam@iomindfulness.org

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