When I am asked by businesses to introduce meditation at work, increasingly I find that they know the “why”. Gone are the days when I needed to explain how mindfulness meditation improves traits such as concentration, creativity, composure, all of which are important in a workplace; today many companies already recognise that regular meditation can bring a host of wellbeing benefits.
This is a welcome progression in our culture’s understanding of the benefits of meditation. It is also a sign that companies are finding themselves with an urgent need to address rising mental health problems in the workplace.
From fruit bowls and weekly chair massages to full blown employee assistance programmes, the majority of workplace wellbeing programmes still do not address what most boardrooms now recognise as their number one wellbeing concern: mental health.
It is unfortunate that we find ourselves here. Recent surveys have found that 1 in 5 people in the UK take a day off work due to stress, a quarter consider resigning because of it, and 70 million working days are lost each year due to ill mental health.
Why are we here? Investigating the causes is a vast endeavour, and not one I am undertaking now. However, the existing paradigm of working cultures across the world has probably not helped, where the hunt for higher profits has justified questionable means in terms of demands and expectations of people in the workplace. Only 3 months ago, 3 former top executives of Orange, a global telecommunications company, were jailed because their policies were linked to a spate of employee suicides. I used to work at that company.
Ironically, it is this same hunt for higher profitability that is driving many of the same companies to now find ways to improve their employee’s mental wellbeing. Unwell workers and high staff turnover hurts the bottom line. We’ve come full circle.
It’s commendable that companies such as SAP, recognised by Glass Door as one of 2019 Best Places to Work, are honest about this – they do not pretend that employee wellbeing is solely about making employees healthier and happier, it has to be linked to company profits. And there are others such as the certified B Corporations who are taking a different stance, of balancing profit with “people and planet”.
While I recognise why companies feel they need to justify workplace wellbeing programmes with links to profitability, at Inhere we take a different view:
We believe that workplace wellbeing is important because human wellbeing is important. Companies are created to serve people, just as people have to sustain the company.
When we offer mindfulness at work we don’t just offer it up as a productivity booster or a means to relieve stress. Yes meditation can do all that, but it offers much more: it offers an exploration, a means of self-inquiry, illumination about our nature. These are equally meaningful to an individual for their wellbeing.
Given that we spend on average a third of our lives at work (with many working significantly above this average), our wellbeing has to start in the workplace, as an end in itself.
Wellbeing is not some insurance against burnout or the latest office perk: it is humanity’s number one pursuit.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adiba Vijn-Osmani is founder and MD of Inhere, bringing meditation and wellbeing to London with meditation classes, meditation pods, and wellbeing programmes.
 “Employee Wellbeing Research 2018”, Reward and Employee Benefits Association
 “Mental Health in the Workplace” 2018, Mental Health Foundation
Thought of the day: If you’ve ever thought can you meditate lying down or is sitting better click the link to see our verdict!