It has become very trendy for business to incorporate meditation into the workday to help improve productivity. In fact, Google offers “Search Inside Yourself” classes to teach mindfulness at work. But, although there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of meditation improving work performance, there is actually very little systematic research on its effectiveness.
In today’s Research News article “The Association between Meditation Practice and Job Performance: A Cross-Sectional Study”
Shiba and colleagues take an empirical look at whether meditation improves job performance. They found that meditation practice was associated with better job performance, job satisfaction, and work engagement.
It should be noted that the study was correlational and as such does not show a causal connection. A controlled trial with manipulation of meditation is needed. Regardless, this is an important first step and suggests that meditation practice is associated with improved performance at work. This raises the question as to what does meditation do to facilitate work performance.
The most obvious possible mechanism is stress reduction. In the modern business environment stress is ever present. Stress can impair performance by decreasing the ability to concentrate, by increasing fatigue and nervousness, and by reducing wellness. Under high levels of stress people are more emotional and less rational in their behavior. Meditation has been well established to significantly reduce stress by altering both physiological and psychological responses to stress. Meditation doesn’t change the external sources of stress. Rather it improves job performance by reducing our responses to stressors.
But meditation does much more that can positively affect work. It can reduce the individual’s responsivity to “sunk costs.” People have a tendency to respond not only too what is appropriate for the present conditions but also tend to overly consider how much they have already invested in the situation, “sunk costs.” This can lead to decisions that are overly reliant upon past history rather than what is right for the present situation. Meditation by focusing the individual on the present moment can thus produce better decisions.
Meditation has been shown to improve emotional intelligence. It makes us better at understanding and responding to emotions. In other words it makes us smarter regarding our emotions. This can be a great asset in a job making the individual less apt to make rash emotional decisions and more likely to factor in but not be overly influenced by emotions.
Meditation has been shown to increase creativity. Hence, in a work environment the individual is more likely to come up with out-of-the-box solutions to problems. The individual can look at more alternative solutions and evaluate which are most likely to work the best.
Finally, meditation has been shown to improve concentration. Meditation is a practice in controlling and focusing attention. This practice pays off in increased ability to concentrate on a problem. This can improve job productivity by keeping the individual more “on task.” The ability to concentrate also improves memory by excluding inappropriate intrusive memories. This can allow for better use of information from past decisions to inform current decisions.
Hence meditation produces multiple effects that can positively affect job performance.
So meditate and work smarter.