Companies around the world are implementing large-scale mindfulness programs in increasing numbers. The benefits of mindfulness have been touted for quite some time already. It is proven to reduce stress, to improve focus, to help manage emotions, to increase productivity, and so much more.
The practice of mindful meditation, once seen as way too “out there” for the corporate world, is now a vital employee development component in many Fortune 500 companies, including Google, Nike, General Mills, Aetna, Apple and Fidelity.
In his book entitled Mindful Work, David Gelles explains that, since the implementation of the mindfulness program at Aetna, they have seen productivity improvements valued at approximately $3,000 per employee. That alone represents an 11 to 1 return on investment. Additionally, they experienced a marked decrease in healthcare costs and reduced employee stress.
The Mindfulness Programs at SAP
In 2013, SAP, a leading enterprise software company, implemented mindfulness training classes. In an ever-changing industry with many unforeseeable challenges, the company seized on the opportunity to help employees improve their well-being, manage stress, and meet new situations with an open mind.
The course has now evolved into a 2-day seminar available in 48 of the company’s locations worldwide aimed at improving employees’ productivity, leadership skills, and well-being. According to SAP’s article published Sept. 3, 2018, over 7,000 of its employees have attended the seminar that is augmented by other activities such as mindfulness afternoons, online sessions, and lunches.
How Mindfulness Works
Mindful training helps people put their focus on the present moment and become aware of the sensations, emotions, and thoughts they are experiencing without passing judgment. The meditation helps manage stress and allows people to organize their thoughts so they can respond to a situation appropriately. Mindfulness also helps boost energy, to think more clearly, and to be more creative.
As SAP’s company website states: “If you do too many things at once, you don’t do any of them properly, and you end up feeling bogged down and fed up. So what can you do when it feels as if a tsunami is crashing in on you? Stop for five seconds, close your eyes, breathe in deeply, and concentrate on breathing out again slowly.”
One of the most significant benefits is that mindfulness training builds emotional intelligence, which is a critical factor for collaboration and diversity.
Harvard scientists have even concluded that meditation positively changes the brain’s structure. A Harvard Business Review report explains that mindfulness training alters the operating system in the mind. Instead of sending brain activity to the ancient reactionary parts of the brain, like the limbic system, it favors the prefrontal cortex, which is the more rational part of the brain.
The Evidence at SAP
To quantify its impact at the company, SAP initiated a survey of 650 of its employees who went through the mindfulness program. Four weeks after completing the seminar, respondents reported a 6.5% increase in overall happiness and well-being, a 7.7% improvement in the sense of meaning and satisfaction, a 10% improvement in focus, and a 7.4% improvement in mental clarity and creativity. They also reported a 5.2% reduction in feelings of stress. And those figures improved after only 6 months following the seminar.
The results experienced by employees correlated with improvements in business performance and the bottom line. Peter Bostelmann, director of the Global Mindfulness Practice at SAP reports that the company has seen a drop in employee absenteeism and an increase in the Employee Engagement Index adding that the company can experience an increase between €50 and €60 million for every percentage point increase on the index. Furthermore, a single percentage point increase in its business health index can boost profits by €85 to €95 million.
Money is Not the Motivation
“Our goal is crystal clear: Improve employee well-being in the workplace,” says Bostelmann, “SAP benefits most when everyone is fully present at work.” With a program that helps people to feel good, improve their concentration, and become more empathetic, everybody wins.
That even extends to some of SAP’s clients who are also dealing with an increase in sensory overload brought about by technology. Seeing the company’s success with the program, some clients have adopted their best-practices. As a result, SAP now provides mindfulness advisors to their customers who wish to start their own employee training program. It’s an opportunity for SAP to serve as a role model for other companies while also strengthening its relationships with clients and improving the lives of people far and wide.
If you’re interested in the kinds of results that SAP has experienced with the Search Inside Yourself program developed at Google and you would like to find out more about implementing a mindfulness program in your company, sign up for our free 30-minute consultation today.
For more valuable articles like this one, visit our Guide to Mindful Leadership.
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