Meditation: Productivity Miracle or Muck?
Does mindfulness ramp up your team’s speed, quality, and motivation – or is it just a waste of time?
With all the “magic bullets” being marketed these days, it’s difficult to tell what’s effective and what’s nothing more than an expensive placebo or clickbait. Workplace productivity “cures” are no exception, bringing us to contemplate if techniques such as mindfulness and meditation actually improve job performance, or if they’ll leave us with little more than wasted hours.
Luckily, unlike most “magic” weight loss pills, meditation’s link to productivity has been thoroughly studied. So, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of mindfulness – so you can decide for yourself if such tools are right for your team.
Pros – Meditation’s link to workplace productivity
- Meditation can make employees less prone to making mistakes – According to a study run by Michigan State University, different forms of meditation have different effects on neurocognitive function, including the neural signals that occur half a second after someone has made a mental error. The study suggests that open-monitoring meditation – a form of meditation that allows participants to let thoughts flow through their mind instead of shutting them out – increases the strength of a person’s conscious error recognition if practiced regularly.
- Self-discipline is strengthened through regular meditation – The practice of regular meditation, even just a few minutes per day, can do more than bring about a cultivated sense of peace; it can strengthen a person’s self-discipline. The act of taking time out of your day to sit quietly and prevent one’s thoughts from running around like a rampant toddler provides ample practice in the development of discipline.
- With discipline comes focus – Focus is tied to self-discipline, so it makes sense that developing one would develop the other. During meditation, a person focuses on their breath, body, or specific visualization while avoiding the distractions of everyday life. In the same way, a productive employee must focus on their work tasks while avoiding the distractions of the office. Less focus on chatter, ringing phones, and the clock ticking away the seconds between lunch and the frustration of rush hour traffic means more focus on work-related tasks.
- Meditation increases patience – No employer expects any employee who wants to keep their job to sit patiently throughout the workday, and that’s not the type of patience we’re talking about. Meditation increases the kind of patience that allows a person to slow down mentally and become more detail-oriented by giving them the tools used to step away from the emotional rush of time constraints, such as deadlines or quotas.
- A decrease in stress that boosts morale – Morale has a heavy hand in productivity, and meditation increases morale by giving employees a chance to relax their bodies, clear their minds, and recharge their mental batteries.
Cons – Meditation might not be as helpful as we thought
- Meditation may lower a person’s motivation – A recent study suggests that meditation, while increasing focus and discipline, may actually lower an individual’s motivation to complete a given task. The study separated participants into a mindfulness group and a distracted group before having them complete simulated office tasks, and the mindful group reported less motivation to complete tasks than the distracted group, even after being offered a financial incentive.
- Mindfulness shifts focus from the future to the present – It’s important to live in the present, but it’s also important to plan and strive for future goals. Mindfulness meditation shifts a person’s perspective away from future rewards and advancement (major motivational factors in any workplace) and places it on the here-and-now. Whereas focusing on the present sounds great in theory, most people probably wouldn’t work as hard if they had no future goals.
- Meditation shows no net gain in productivity – In the same study that suggested lowered motivation in mindful individuals, participant performance was measured and showed that meditation provided no benefit to (or detraction from) the quality of work performed.
Overall, meditation seems to increase focus, discipline and morale without increasing individual productivity. But whether you decide to implement a meditation program or not, staffing and recruiting firms can deliver focused, motivated and productive candidates both quickly and cost effectively.