Though meditation is a respected and ancient practice, how frequently is it applied in the workplace? Chances are you’re likely taking part in it more than you think. Have you ever stopped to sit, breathe deeply, and quietly reflect on personal thoughts? If so, you’ve participated in a form of meditation. It’s true! Though personal experiences vary, credible research indicates the many positive benefits of hopping on the meditation bandwagon.
Misconceptions and opinions are forever present, but insight into meditational practices can be pleasantly surprising. Meditation isn’t solely segregated to the spiritual, nor does it stimulate psychic abilities. And it’s not just about sitting in a quiet place solo, either. Meditation increases self-awareness and battles stress; one study found that its participants felt fewer effects of depression or emotional exhaustion. The practice also reduces anger through a variety of methods, some of which were recently shared at The Motley Fool by a local instructor.
Some will say that implementing meditation in the workplace is “too new age,” but let’s face it – we are in 2014. One executive remembered from years ago that, “If you talked about meditation then, they thought you were either captured by a cult or something was wrong with you.” However, with Gallup reporting last year that only 58% of employees are thriving, it’s worth considering if meditation could add to the happiness and satisfaction within America’s workforce. The idea of corporate culture is changing and, in a stressful world, we all need to take a moment for ourselves sometimes.
One of the best things about meditating in the workplace is that it’s relatively easy to do. Whether it’s closing your eyes and focusing on one issue or practicing a tranquil breathing cycle, meditation is possible even at your desk. Simple breathing techniques can save you from allowing anxiety to take over, or letting an interpersonal conflict further decline.
In addition to weekly yoga classes, The Motley Fool is beginning to offer monthly meditation and movement seminars. Our Employee Wellness Fool encourages meditation in empty conference rooms and quiet corners, boasting that it can improve work/life balance and foster proactive stress reduction. Numerous Fools, including our CEO, participate in mindfulness meditation and awareness retreats around the world. One Fool mentioned that meditation helps to sharpen his focus and improve his attitude, while another practices at night to help regulate his sleeping cycle.
The meditation movement is already popular in Asia, where the WSJ notes that “yoga, laughing exercises, meditation and ‘spiritual intelligence’ are rapidly gaining fans in boardrooms and corner offices.” Google has long offered a popular course called “Search Inside Yourself,” which typically holds a six-month waiting list. The class is branded as “a workout for your emotional intelligence,” with its ultimate goal being to help people relate better to others. Isn’t positive collaboration alone at least one key to success?
From Def Jam Founder Russell Simmons to Oprah Winfrey, Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company Bill Ford, and CTO of Cisco Systems Padmasree Warrior, many successful businesspeople practice some type of meditation. Between research and personal confessions, it’s clear that this practice is beneficial. Take some quiet time and we think you’ll eventually reap its benefits. You may find yourself not only a better person, but also a more valuable – and happier – employee.
The Motley Fool isn’t the only company that has built a fantastic culture, but sadly there aren’t enough of us. Countless studies show that employees are lacking engaging and healthy work environments. An interesting New York Times piece, Why You Hate Work, digs deeper into these disadvantages, mentioning faults that stem from the rise in digital technology, increased competitiveness, and our post-recession economy.
Author Tony Schwartz argues simple solutions that, if introduced, could make a huge difference in corporate environments. His suggestions ring true during a time when workplaces actually have the opportunity to evolve. It’s not necessarily a world of suits, ties, and strict regulations anymore.
In Schwartz’s opinion, companies should measure employees not hourly but by the value that they create. He explains, “To the extent possible, let them decide where to do their work, and when to do it, as long as they meet deadlines.” Trust is a huge component, and The Fool’s flexible scheduling speaks to Schwartz’s point. We throw traditional 9-5 calendars to the wind by allowing our employees to manage their own time. With this flexibility comes the expectation that employees are striving to produce their highest quality of work. Because everyone has different work styles, we also offer quiet spaces that offer a break from our open office, as well as the tools to work from home.
We believe in transparency, a point that Schwartz addresses in his column. He notes, “…seek to define all jobs in ways that feel meaningful and significant to people.” Fools are encouraged to establish honest relationships with their managers, making it easy to communicate about goals, projects, and ideas. If a Fool isn’t happy, our People Team wants to help. We organize feedback sessions to connect with Fools about their job path and progress, and recently implemented an internal reward service that allows Fools to publicly recognize others with “gold” for a job well done. Gold can be spent on gift cards for a variety of stores, and the entire process makes receiving Fools feel happy and valued.
However, it’s an unfortunate fact that all workplaces can’t — or will not try — to implement a progressive culture for employees. In addition to cynicism and anger, decreased energy is a common symptom of workplace unhappiness. To combat these signs, Schwartz suggests using 15-25 minutes for rest or an outdoor walk to increase productivity and alertness. The warmer weather has inspired a Fool Walking Group, which takes 30-minute outdoor strolls twice a week. We also have the Reading Room, a quiet space for better concentration that doubles as a place to take a power nap. Our culture encourages Fools to be comfortable enough to always take the necessary time for rest.
Schwartz’s article is one of many that shows how corporate cultures are changing. The Fool is on top of preserving Foolishness, from showing appreciation to our employees to trying out new, fun ideas in the office. Hating your job is the last thing The Fool would ever want, and we’re constantly on the search for ways to top the happiness scale.
The Motley Fool Wellness Program has been in place for about 2.5 years now and has created quite a culture shift within our organization. We have always been a “relaxed” atmosphere with amazing benefits (unlimited vacation, no dress code, mobile workstations, etc.) and the addition of our Wellness Program has been another staple to our fantastic environment. We have had tremendous support from our leadership team, specifically our CEO Tom Gardner. With his 100% backing, we’ve been able to grow this program.
However, our wellness program is measured to a different standard as it was not set in place to lower health care costs, reduce absenteeism, encourage presenteeism, or any general wellness metric; our program was created as an additional benefit because it was intuitive to push for a healthier and happier workforce. All the aforementioned benefits will automatically occur, but none are our driving metric to promote a healthy and well workplace.
The Motley Fool encourages a well-rounded path toward wellness, offering physical, nutritional, and spiritual benefits. We offer weekly boot-camp, yoga, meditation, and Zumba classes, while also providing on-site massage and chiropractic care. We gather three times a week to play basketball, soccer, and floor hockey at a nearby gym and Fools can buy a heavily discounted membership to said gym. The Fool also has a free on-site gym, locker room, and showers for those that need a quick exercise break, and we recently added standing desks and a treadmill desk in the office to help combat sedentary lifestyles. We’ve removed soda from vending machines, replacing unhealthy items with healthier options, while also providing free fresh food from local vendors twice weekly. We also provide health seminars on topics like stress management, healthy smoothie workshops, and body inflammation.
At our annual health fair, we bring in a wide array of vendors, ranging from acupuncturists, to physical therapists, to local farmers’ market vendors selling their nutrient-dense food. At the fair, The Fool also provides free biometric screenings and immunizations to all employees and their spouses. Lastly, The Fool employs a personal trainer that helps create individualized plans for any employee that wants one. The goal of our wellness program is to provide a variety of activities to help suit our employees’ needs in the everlasting pursuit of wellness. It is NOT to enhance our bottom dollar or to “fit in” with other workplace wellness programs looking to cut health care costs.
Are you a fitness-minded person who wants to be a Fool? We’re looking for Wellness Coordinator to keep all of the above programs running. Check out the job description to find out more and apply!
One thing we’re working on at The Fool is creating a culture that supports both introverts and extroverts. While extroverts tend to be energized by spending time around other people, introverts like myself expend energy interacting and need time to recharge. With the business world trending toward open floor plans and collaborative work, many offices seem to favor extroverts. But the Fool is home to many incredible introverts, and we want them to be able to do their best work here, too. While our efforts are still in progress, here’s a list of four things that we either are doing or are trying to do that help support our introverts.
(Note: Not all of these were designed specifically for introverts and all of them have benefits for extroverts as well.)
The Meyers Briggs Profile
Education about the introversion/extroversion spectrum is very helpful in building a knowledgeable and supportive community. Our internal university recently held a very well attended class on the Meyers Briggs profile. This tool does a great job at explaining the difference between introversion and extroversion and gives everyone a vocabulary to talk about the differences between the two. Education builds awareness, which helps both introverts and extroverts work better, together.
Many introverts, including myself, prefer one-on-one or small group conversations to mingling in a large crowd. Our mentoring program creates a structured setting in which this can happen. The deep relationships that can develop through consistent one-on-one contact in the mentoring program are the type of interaction that many introverts crave.
As part of our Wellness program, we offer weekly meditation sessions and periodic longer visits by meditation specialist Jonathan Foust. For introverts this offers a regularly scheduled time away (and a dedicated Outlook calendar appointment) to re-energize and recharge. Including meditation as part of our Wellness program also is a company-wide indicator that taking time out of your day to ‘do nothing’ is not just supported, but encouraged.
This is one of the areas that we’re still working on. Our open office structure is great for collaboration and for those who gain energy by interacting with people, but it can be taxing for introverts (and for anyone who needs to get work done without interruption). Based on feedback from Fools, we’re working on creating spaces in the office that can serve as ‘concentration areas’ where people can focus without distractions or simply escape to in order to recharge.
Finding the right way to balance the needs of introverts and extroverts in an office can be tricky, and we think we’re on a good path. But we also want to hear what other organizations are doing. Are you an introvert struggling with your open office? An extrovert constantly coming up with reasons to leave your office? Do you think your organization does a great job at supporting both? We would love to hear your comments.
For more information on introverts, a great resource is Susan Cain’s TED Talk on The Power of Introverts (based on her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking). Other articles about introverts have been published by The Atlantic, Time Magazine, and Forbes.