Is Workplace Meditation the Answer to Pandemic Panic?

It’s easy to get panicky and anxious if you watch the news too much with its daily ticker of people in the world, the U.S., and your city, who have succumbed to the dreaded COVID-19. You start getting the feeling that the virus is a predator zeroing in ever closer to you.

Whether working from home or the office, companies will have to keep in mind the high level of anxiety many of their employees are laboring under. Anxiety can hamper productivity, impacting the ability of employees to serve your customers.

Can you help employees reduce that anxiety by offering online instruction on meditation? I found this article on Inc42 by Shawn Johal on the value of meditation in the workplace. Johal especially sees meditation as being a great way to avoid or resolve the kind of conflict that can arise between stressed-out people: “One of the main benefits of meditation is realizing much faster that the large majority of conflicts can be resolved. Although studies may not prove that meditation directly decreases impatience, it does increase our awareness levels and thus allows us to see situations for what they are. Have you ever heard of waiting 24 hours before answering an infuriating e-mail? With meditation, this time can be reduced to 6, 4 or even 2 hours. Clarity of mind comes much faster.”

Johal also notes meditation’s ability to increase deep work ability: “Study after study has shown that meditation greatly improves cognitive abilities. Improved focus is one of the immediate benefits of meditation—and with laser sharp focus, important projects move forward. Sustained success in a company comes by first achieving sustained focus and clarity of mind. By teaching employees how to achieve a state of flow, mountains can be moved.”

Meditation could be such an effective stress-reducer that it could even lessen the sick days employee take. Not only may there be less need with meditation for “mental health days,” but physical suffering also may be reduced, according to Johal. “Researchers from the University of Washington, Seattle, randomly assigned 342 people ages 20 to 70, who had chronic back pain, to two groups. For one year, the first group received standard care for lower back pain. Participants in the second group used either mindfulness-based stress reduction or cognitive-behavioral therapy to ease their pain. The second group practiced these strategies for two hours every week. At 26 and 52 weeks, members of the second group reported greater improvement in muscle function and reduced back pain compared to the first group.”

I find this information about the benefits of meditation interesting, but I realize from firsthand experience that it isn’t for everyone. I find meditation itself to be anxiety inducing. I got a taste of it when I took a yoga class in which we were instructed to focus on our breathing. That instruction ran in direct contrast to the help I was given as a child by my mother to get over my hypochondriac fear that I would forget to breathe. She assured me that breathing was an automatic function in the body that wasn’t dependent on my ability to remember. Ever since then, I’ve happily checked “breathing” off my to-do list.

Whenever anyone talks about deep-breathing exercises, and paying attention to how I breathe, the old anxieties of bodily function fixation return to me. For reasons like this, and others, some of your employees won’t be interested in meditating, but for a significant number of others, meditation resources will be a powerful tool to advance relaxation and focus.

Business as usual—let alone business amid a pandemic—is stressful. Now is the time to explore all resources, including meditation, that can bring relief to employees, and as a result, improved service to customers.

What mental health and psychological resources are you bringing to your employees during this time? How do you think you can best help everyone in your company, including yourself, manage anxiety during this unprecedented time?

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