Increasingly, businesses are seeing the advantages of corporate wellbeing – an umbrella term describing a variety of wellbeing initiatives designed to make workers happier, healthier and more productive. Some of the most popular programs include the introduction of meditation techniques, and huge brands like Google, Apple, Sony and Ikea have all seen the advantages of incorporating meditation into their working culture; but is corporate wellbeing relevant for small business?
What Are the Options?
The buzzword in business circles is “mindfulness”, but this isn’t necessarily the only technique businesses can use – although there’s no reason not to do so outside of personal preference. There are plenty of alternatives to mindfulness and meditation comes in many forms. For example, Vedic meditation is a technique that has been praised for its ease and suitability for the modern world. Alternatively, loving kindness meditation would be suited to small businesses in the caring profession with empathy as part of their personal brand, while fitness companies may want to promote meditation through Yoga.
Can Small Businesses Afford It?
Large businesses with thousands of employees and huge budgets have clearly seen the virtue in directing some of their money towards encouraging staff to meditate, as well as conducting mindfulness training programs for their leadership teams. But is it a good use of resources in a small business, who tend to have considerably tighter finances? In this case, it’s important to weigh expenditure against the potential savings.
Big businesses may have bigger budgets, but they also face much bigger costs in rolling out these schemes – suggesting that there must be a bottom line advantage of doing so. There have been 6,000 peer-reviewed studies on meditation and with them convincing evidence for the significant positive impact they have on people’s productivity, health and wellbeing. This translates not only into improving the lives of yourself and your workforce, but with staff accounting for up to 90% of operating costs, it can also have a direct impact on the bottom line with money saved from a reduction in sick leave and staff turnover.
Aetna healthcare insurance is a prime example when they determined that workers in its most stress-prone positions were racking up medical bills that were $2,000 a year more than the average employee. After implanting a meditation and yoga program available to all employees, their health care costs were reduced by 7%.
If a business has only 4 or 5 employees, teamwork and good relations are even more important. If people fall out in a small group and in a small space, the tension is amplified, making the upkeep of good relationships between staff a priority. Managers who practiced daily meditation were consistently found to have improved cognitive empathy that ultimately improved the expected performance from their direct employees. While money and financial incentives are undoubtedly important tools for staff retention, understanding, empathy and support are equally as valued by many employees.
Coping with SME Pressure
Small businesses face unique challenges. Business owners often find themselves having to take on multiple roles, as there is less scope to create clearly defined responsibilities within the business. One day you could find yourself raking through piles of paper work, trying to win clients and countless other small and disparate tasks that in a large business would be delegated in strictly circumscribed roles. Small business owners often exist in a state of seemingly perpetual distraction.
These distractions and the accompanying stress is arguably one of the primary benefits of meditation for those in the early stages of a business start-up. With 39% of small business owners turning to alcohol to help manage stress, meditation is being used as not only a healthier alternative for managing stress, but also one that can have tangible results on business performance.
The evidence for the various benefits of meditation are almost indisputable now, with brain scans showing that after only 8 weeks of meditation, the amygdala (responsible for the stress response in people’s brains) is reduced. This means that you and your staff will be able to complete tasks quickly and more efficiently before calmly moving on to the next item on your “to do” list.
No matter the size of your business, there is a good chance that corporate wellbeing will result in positive changes, and in comparison to the cost of new software, office space or the more traditional tools designed to improve productivity, it’s certainly something that is finding it’s way into more and more small businesses.