The Business Case for Mindfulness
Mindfulness based interventions can result in significant cost savings for companies, making the workforce more productive, engaged, and present.
Today’s “new normal” – Covid or no Covid
Scenario A: Rahul was sitting with his team in the Bangalore office designing an approach for an industrialized testing “factory”. Two minutes into the conversation, and his phone goes off. It was an Account Exec from Germany. Rahul takes the call, launching into an animated discussion about a large deal they are working on, as he makes a quick “excuse me” face to his team. After a minute he is back with the team. “Where were we?”, as his head swivels downward towards his phone, fingers feverishly typing a reply to a WhatsApp message he’d received just before.
Scenario B: We walk into the conference room for the internal review meeting in Paris. We are fifth in line for the account growth discussion, four presentations preceding ours. There are 15 people in the room, including the BU head and CFO. My colleague puts up a slide show and starts the presentation. After a few minutes, I casually glance at the audience to see at least eight people typing away on their laptops and glancing at their phones. People are physically there in the room, but they – and their minds – are not present with us.
These are real-life examples from my own work life, modified of course to protect confidentiality. You might recognize the above situations and might even see yourself in them. And the fact of the matter is that such scenarios are only becoming exaggerated in the midst of Covid-19 related WFH policies. Every mid-to-senior level working professional has too much on her plate these days – endless meetings, home life distractions, and a growing list of to-dos, all leading to stress, pressure, and distractedness. It’s a direct hit to our productivity and well-being.
Mindfulness, and managing your attention, can help
Mindfulness is the ability to pay attention to the task at hand in the present moment with focus and awareness. The mind can be trained to be relaxed, focused and alert during the workday, improving productivity, engagement, and well-being. We have found that a mere 10 mins of mind training every day for a few weeks can have a significant impact on the minds of employees and leaders, permeating throughout the entire organization.
The Growth and Research Teams at Potential Project conducted a study earlier in the year with a group of one-hundred technology professional services workers in Central and Northern Europe. The purpose of the study was to track and measure employees’ mental state with the use of an experience-sampling app. The app tracked these one-hundred employees over the course of two weeks, polling them multiple times throughout the day with questions related to their moment-to-moment levels of changing focus, stress, and task prioritization.
In addition to these self-reported emotional and behavioral states, we also assessed their reported level of mindfulness practice. Our prediction, based on previous research within Potential Project, was that the people who practiced mindfulness would be more focused and less stressed. That’s exactly what we found. At the end of two weeks, the data revealed that people with a frequent mindfulness practice were more focused (+12%) and less stressed (-10%) than their non-mindful counterparts.
From behavioral change to economic impact: the ROI for mindfulness
New research from various industries has begun to highlight how reduced focus and higher stress is associated with lost productivity in employees, manifesting itself as either absenteeism (not coming into work because of stress-induced fatigue) or presenteeism (unproductive off-task behaviours while at work). It’s been shown, for instance, that stress and off-task behavior lead to 70 days of lost productivity per employee per year.
Combining our study results and industry standards on absenteeism and presenteeism, we found that having a regular mindfulness practice can lead to a $12 a day savings in an employee through the reduction in stress and an increase in on-task productive performance in the flow of focused work. That equals out to about 2 hours gained per week in productivity.
We modeled the data in a next step to uncover estimates showing that mindfulness-based wellness programs delivered to the client would produce annual cost savings of over $300,000 for the group of 100 participating employees. The business case couldn’t be clearer.
It is a clear imperative that companies deal with lost productivity and bring in mindfulness programs into the organization to manage workplace distraction, stress, and well-being. The writing is on the wall.
(Written with inputs from Nick Hobson, PhD, Director of Behavioral and Data Sciences, Potential Project International)