In the high-tech world, innovators are increasingly turning towards meditation and mindfulness to cope with the ever-changing and stressful environment. Employees at firms such as Facebook and Google congregate at conferences like Wisdom 2.0 to learn about the latest mindfulness techniques. However, the wisdom from meditation and mindfulness techniques does not only appeal to the innovators of our time. Increasingly, the incredible, measureable benefits from these techniques are being heard from other companies as well.
It is possible to say that Chade Meng Tan has revolutionized Google: every year, thousands of employees take his mindfulness course Search Inside Yourself. The waiting time for enrolling in the course is over six months. The huge success of the initiative is clear. Tan has managed to convince the scientists and techies at Google, previously suspicious of “hippie stuff”, to completely embrace the practices by explaining the neuroscience behind them. The Search Inside Yourself approach is today considered as one of the reasons why Google is the highest rated employer in the world (Confino, 2014).
2. General Mills
General Mills, the food company behind products such as Old El Paso, Häagen-Dazs and Cheerios, have welcomed the mindfulness revolution and seen their company grow as a result. This is a review of their 7-week mindfulness and meditation program: 83% of participants said they took time every day to optimize their productivity, up 23% from before the course, 80% of senior executives reported that they had improved their decision-making process after the course, and 89% said they had become better listeners. (Gelles, 2013). In 2011, the Leadership Excellence Magazine ranked General Mills the best for developing leaders in 2011, up from 14th in 2010.
Intel is a company that battles with stress. Lindsey Van Driel commented: “Across the board, every single person we talk to (at Intel) experiences stress (…) if they weren’t stressed it would mean they’re not working hard enough” (Intel, 2013). However, inspired by Chade Meng Tan’s initiatives at Google, Van Driel decided to do something about it. Today, thousands of Intel employees have participated in the Awake@Intel programme, which includes yoga and mindfulness practices. Similarly to Google, many of the participants were hard-core scientists, initially reporting skepticism towards the benefits of the course. However, after the course the participants reported improved creativity, well-being and focus, decreased levels of stress and stronger enthusiasm in projects and meetings.
Aetna is a medical insurance company and one of the 100 largest firms in the U.S. by revenue. After a near-fatal accident, 58-year old CEO Mark T. Bertolini decided to drastically transform his company. His measures included a 33% salary increase for the lowest paid employees, and the establishment of free yoga and meditation classes. These measures have had a huge impact: after the first year, the company reported a whopping $9 million saving in health care costs! Moreover, the employee who participated in the classes reported a 28% decrease in stress levels and an increase in productivity levels. These improvements were estimated to be adding a value of circa $3,000/employee a year (Gelles, 2015)
5. Goldman Sachs
Perhaps the most surprising name on the list, the investment bank Goldman Sachs is now warming towards mindfulness practices. Although maybe not fully widespread in the firm (yet), the firm does use mindfulness in wellbeing seminars and also promotes the use of the meditation app Headspace. Sally Boyle, head of human capital management at Goldman, comments: “In years to come we’ll be talking about mindfulness as we talk about exercise now” (in Agnew, 2014).
Agnew, H. (2014). ‘Mindfulness’ gives stressed-out bankers something to think about. Available online from http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/331b85d0-d20d-11e3-8b5b-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3iUsm8nwS
Confino, J. (2014). Google’s head of mindfulness: ‘goodness is good for business’. Available online from http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/google-meditation-mindfulness-technology
Gelles, D. (2012). The mind business. Available online from:http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/d9cb7940-ebea-11e1-985a-00144feab49a.html#axzz2ApW2UUXh
Gelles, D. (2015). At Aetna, a C.E.O.’s Management by Mantra. Available online from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/01/business/at-aetna-a-ceos-management-by-mantra.html?_r=0
Intel Press, (2013). Better Engineering through Meditation? Available online from http://www.intelfreepress.com/news/better-engineering-through-meditation-mindfulness/7021/
Stephen McKenzie, quoted in Fisher, A. (2014). Is ‘mindfulness’ just another management fad? Available online fromhttp://fortune.com/2014/09/26/mindfulness-management/