“Our findings suggest that four days of
meditation training can enhance the
ability to sustain attention; benefits that
have previously been reported with
Training the mind to focus and concen-
Mindfulness at work
trate is becoming more critical than ever
in this 24/7 world where our attention
is pulled in one hundred different direc-
tions at once. In a 2011 Harvard study,
researchers reported that “brain cells use
particular frequencies, or waves, to regu-
late the flow of information in much the
same way that radio stations broadcast
at specific frequencies. One frequency,
the alpha rhythm, is particularly active
in the cells that process touch, sight, and
sound in the brain’s outermost layer,
called the cortex, where it helps to sup-
press irrelevant or distracting sensations
and regulate the flow of sensory infor-
mation between brain regions.”
In this study, participants went
through an eight-week mindfulness
training program. At the conclusion
of the eight-week program, those who
completed the mindfulness meditation
training “made faster and significantly
more pronounced attention-based
adjustments to the alpha rhythm” than
those in the control group.
According to a 2015 New York Times
article, Aetna has reaped significant
benefits by offering mindfulness and
yoga programs to its employees. More
than 25 percent of the company’s
workforce of 50,000 participated in at
least one class. Particpants reported, on
average, a 28 percent reduction in their
stress levels, a 20 percent improvement
in sleep quality, and a 19 percent reduc-
tion in pain. They also become more
effective on the job, gaining an average
of 62 minutes per week of productiv-
ity each, which Aetna estimates is
worth US$3,000 per employee per year.
Demand for the programs continues to
rise; every class is overbooked.
At Google, its mindfulness program,
known as “Search Inside Yourself,”
has been so successful that it is now a
stand-alone program offering three core
benefits. First, it expands leadership
capacity through increased effectiveness, decision-making capacity, and the
ability to create positive culture. Second,
it improves performance and collaboration through greater empathy and ease
in relationships. Finally, it promotes
greater emotional resilience, stress management, happiness, and job satisfaction
— leading to fewer stress symptoms and
While extensive research has been
done on the many positive benefits of
mindfulness practice, studies regarding
how such practices impact the company
as a whole are still in their early stages.
programs at work
Mindfulness programs can be implemented in variety of ways within a
company. It’s important to start with the
end goal in mind.
Many hospitals and universities offer an eight-week Mindfulness Based
Stress Reduction (MBSR) program.
Such programs may qualify for health
savings account (HSA) spending. If your
company has HSA or similar flex spending account, mindfulness programs
can be one option. This can be part of a
more comprehensive wellness program,
as Aetna offers, which includes other
benefits like yoga.
Starting a meditation practice
As with physical exercise, you’ll gain the many benefits of
meditation through regular and consistent practice. It is best to
meditate daily, if even for five minutes, than to sit for an hour
once a month. Here is a quick guide to get you started.
Commit to meditating daily. Choose a timeframe that you can easily fit into your
schedule. Start with five to 10 minutes per day and evaluate after a week.
Set a timer. There are many apps with different settings, bell sounds,
and other features. One app is Insight Timer (
You can also use your kitchen timer or the timer on your phone.
Find a comfortable position. You do not need to sit on the floor,
or sit cross-legged. Simply sit on a chair, with both feet firmly on
the ground, with your back comfortably erect. Once you’ve found
a position, commit to it for the duration of the practice.
Close the eyes. You may choose to close your eyes, or gaze at
a spot approximately three to four feet in front of you.
Bring your attention to the breath. Find a place in the body
where you can notice the breath. This may be in the nostrils,
in the back of the throat, in the chest, or in the belly.
Rest your attention. Once you’ve found an area where you can most
notice the breath, place your attention on that part of the body.
Return your attention. Your mind will inevitably wander — to thoughts,
worries, planning, daydreaming, etc. This is normal! When you notice
your attention has drifted away, simply return to your breath.
54 ASSOCIATION OF CORPORATE COUNSEL
CREATING A MINDFUL WORKPLACE