Does Meditation at Work…Work?

When I walked into SimplePractice on my first day a few months ago, I instantly felt that this place was not your average software company. Yes, the walls are filled with whiteboards and post-it notes about plans for feature releases and marketing. Yes, it’s an open office bursting with light and lined with desks and monitors. Yes, there are dogs cuddled up at their owners’ feet, and a refrigerator stocked with La Croix. It looked like a normal software company, but something felt different.

This place had good vibes. Like really good vibes. And even though it was busy and bustling, everyone still seemed sort of calm about the work they were doing. But why? A growing software company in Southern California seems like it should be an incredibly stressful place to work. Laptops should be on fire! People should be aggressively whiteboarding things! The desks should be littered with Red Bull cans! But that wasn’t the case. Everyone seemed—dare I say—happy to be there?

I figured I was just first day on the job starry-eyed, so I sat down at my desk and started to work. After getting my accounts set up and answering a few emails, a bell rang from the office speaker that was playing soft jazz. Tricia, our spirited Inspiration Architect started bouncing around from desk to desk.

“It’s 10 am! Meditation time! Anyone want to meditate!? We’ll just do 20 minutes today! If you feel too busy to meditate that means you should meditate!”

Mostly everyone, including me, shut their laptops and walked into a carpeted room lined with red couches and pillows. Some of us sat down, others laid on the floor, some sat on the ground with their backs against the wall. I had no idea what was happening, but I just went with it.

Tricia shut the door, dimmed the lights, and pressed play on a guided meditation. We all closed our eyes and listened.

Soft music began to play, and a deep voice told me to concentrate on my breath. My nerves went away, and I started to feel relaxed.

Suddenly, it clicked. Is meditation why all of these people seem so happy? Is meditation the solution to creating an incredible work environment? Wait, what exactly is meditation? I decided to find out.
Four SimplePractice employees in meditation

Sooooo… What’s Meditation?

Honestly, when I joined SimplePractice, I had no idea. I often listened to those hour-long guided meditation journeys on YouTube to fall asleep, but I didn’t really understand what meditation was, and why it was important.

First of all, if you’re actually going to benefit from meditation, you should probably stay awake. Meditation isn’t about drifting off to sleep, though there are specific meditations for sleep that can certainly serve that purpose. Meditation is defined differently by everyone, and it should be because meditation is a personal experience.

Our co-founder and CEO, Howard Spector, has been studying mental health and wellness pretty much his whole life. He has stories from studying Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute, doing MBSR training sessions with the Center for Mindfulness and Jon Kabat-Zinn, and going on silent retreats at Spirit Rock in Northern California. He’s been practicing meditation for a while, and when he started SimplePractice it was important to him to instill that value in his company.

I asked Howard how he defined meditation. He said,

Meditation is the practice of bringing attention to the present moment. Because when you think about it, if you are not present now, how can you expect to experience what is happening in your life?

Clinical mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn explains in a panel how he defines meditation and being mindful as “the awareness that arises by paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”

To me, a 25-year-old Content Strategist from the Midwest, meditation means simply pausing the chaos around you and taking a moment to stop, think, and breathe.

Phillip, our Product Communication Manager, sees it in a similar way, “We’re constantly busy and active and it’s easy to get caught up in a day’s events without taking time for self-care. Meditation is a way to stop and take a breath, gain some perspective, and allow your thoughts to pass without allowing them to define you.” It’s different for everyone, and that’s the beauty of it.

Meditation used to have a sort of hippie-dippie stigma attached to it, but people and companies are noticing that it’s extremely beneficial to your health. Meditation is proven help you pay attention, improve your ability to multitask, and enhance your ability to stay alert—just to name a few. All of these are scientifically proven benefits that directly affect the way you work.

SImplePractice employees meditating in a room with a zig-zag carpet and a red couch

Meditation in the Workplace

Meditation can be transformative in your life because it trains you to be present. For most people—especially now with social media and email and Slack—it’s really hard to stay present in what you’re doing. Learning how to do that allows you to focus more and get more done in less time. You can elevate the work that you’re doing.

At SimplePractice, we create multiple opportunities per day to meditate. That way, each person has an opportunity to pick a time that works for them.

How do we meditate?  

  • Set a reminder. Do what’s best for you. At our office, we found that having a reminder to meditate is key to making sure you get at least one practice in per day.
  • Find a space. Whether it’s a quiet room with the door closed (our favorite), a bench outside, or even at your desk, find a space where you are able to concentrate and avoid interruptions.
  • Turn on a guided meditation. If you’re a beginner, try out lots of different guides (I;cw listed our favorites below). There are tons of different styles and voices to choose from, just pick one you like!
  • Close your eyes. To get the full benefits of meditation, you should be sitting or lying in a comfortable position with your eyes closed.
  • Pay attention. It’s easy to start thinking about your next meeting or a deliverable that you have due in a few hours. Guided meditations are great because they provide you with a guiding voice so you can stay focused on the meditation.

When do we meditate?

  • Morning / 10:00am. Mornings work great for people who thrive off of finding balance early in the day. We usually arrive to work a little before 9:00 am, so meditating at 10:00 gives us time to check our emails and see what’s happening in our day before we meditate.
  • Afternoon / 4:00pm. Late afternoon works best for those who generally start to feel stress wearing on them after they’ve put in most of the day’s work. We usually leave around 6:00 pm, so a 4:00 meditation helps lots of us make it through the rest of the afternoon.
  • Before Meetings. Reminding yourself to simply take a few deep breaths and center in before you go into a meeting is so helpful. You’ll be focused and your meeting will be more productive because you won’t be thinking about other things.
  • Literally anytime. We have an open door policy on our meditation room, where we can go and meditate anytime throughout the day. Sometimes after a stressful meeting, a few people will go in and do a quick five-minute meditation. The only thing that matters is deciding to take the time to do it!

Three SimplePractice employees meditating outside on a couch

Making Each Day More Meaningful

Howard recently held a “Lunch and Learn” about mindfulness, and what he said really stuck with me.

You life is made up of moments. Why not be presents for those? Most people are thinking about something else—missing important things in their life that are unfolding—because they aren’t present.

Meditation used to be something that felt unattainable for someone like me.  But I’ve learned there are no right or wrong answers. If you meditate in any way, shape, or form for any length of time, you’re benefiting yourself.  

Laurel, our Head of Partnerships and weekend pro bono yoga instructor gave me some beginner advice,  “Give it time. Not a week goes by that I don’t experience something fairly uncomfortable in my mediation. Most people never take the time to sit in silence sans all distractions, and it opens the opportunity for topics you have been avoiding or having difficulty dealing with to come up. The most rewarding part of meditation is after the actual process of confronting what’s going on in your head, you feel more content in your daily life without as much baggage—both conscious or subconscious—taking up your brainwaves.”

Tricia gave me some helpful advice as well, “Listen to your instincts. If you’re thinking about trying to meditate, and it’s scientifically proven to be one of the best things you can do for yourself, you should just do it and don’t stop! Like anything else new—it’s not easy, but there are lots of ways to do it and your way might not be the same as mine.  For me, it’s been life changing.”

If you’re considering implementing a daily meditation in your workplace, the benefits are clear. Science aside, rallying your team to meditate together creates a sense of camaraderie and is a real benefit to company culture. I love working at SimplePractice, and in just a few short months I’ve become an advocate for meditation at work. If you’re not in a place to lead a meditation at your workplace just do it for yourself! Once you get the hang of it, all you need is you.

Helpful Resources for Meditation:

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