Susi disagrees with Vohs’ view that the aim of mindfulness is to be content in the present moment, and says that even if it doesn’t have an immediate positive effect on task-completion, it allows workers to better perceive the task as part of the greater goal.
“We certainly don’t teach or promote mindfulness as a way to be content in one’s current state. In fact, I would say the aim of mindfulness is the opposite. If a person finds discontent in their current state, mindfulness can help them understand why there is discontent, and ultimately, find their way out of the discontent,” he says.
He says the company doesn’t view it “as a cure-all” but rather as a key component in a programme that cares for the entirety of a person.
Gian Power is the founder of Unwind, a London-based firm that helps companies provide guided mediations for staff. His business is less shaped by science and more by personal experience: he says meditation helped him handle stressful periods in the corporate world and he now seeks to equip other people with the same skills. He believes employers feel meditation is an area they need to engage with.
“They know the trend is coming, that if they want more productivity they need to invest in wellbeing,” he says. “They know their employees work long hours, and they want to do more to support them.”
While experts will continue to study the effects of meditation in the workplace, research suggesting it may not be a panacea after all is no match for its current popularity. Vohs, meanwhile, has plans for further research into another potential downside of mindfulness – whether it dampens helpful negative emotions.
“There are many situations where negative-energetic emotions can be good,” she says.
“Parents wanting to communicate to their child that a child’s misbehaviour was wrong can benefit from feeling and displaying high-energy negative emotions, within reason, of course. Being measured and calm may not serve people’s purposes in many cases – and in those cases, being mindful should lead to worse outcomes.”
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