The Power of Employee Well-Being

Guest Blogger: Marcy Westcott, CMMI,

Meditation & Mindfulness Instructor

Blanco, Texas


Image of a hand holding a clock

It is time to do work differently

Today’s workplace can be a minefield of mental and psychological challenges. Businesses struggle with employee issues like absenteeism, turnover, burnout, and rising health care costs. These challenges are compounded when business leaders have a “crack the whip” mentality. 

The old way of doing business focused on numbers and statistics with little regard for the human element. Most business leaders don’t understand what causes employees to burn out and leave. They don’t focus on innovative approaches to working with people. 

For too long, working fast and furiously and multitasking all the way has been the goal in the workplace. Employees often covet their prowess at multitasking, and wear that ability like a badge of honor. But the reality is it simply isn’t efficient or productive. Worse yet it is a fast track to burnout.

Workplace stress and anxiety has reached epidemic proportions and it’s no wonder. On average people spend at least a third of their lives at work, and research shows it can be the least happy third. Unhappy, unhealthy employees create a toxic work culture, which has a negative impact on the bottom line. When people don’t feel supported, they are less productive, efficient, and resilient. 

But things are looking up. There is a new way of doing business that focuses on fostering a culture of employee engagement, vitality, and creativity. The new way of doing business is with MINDFULNESS.

Mindfulness training that is specifically architected for the business environment is proven to increase employee well-being. Evidence shows that mindfulness practices cultivate improved productivity and efficiency. People make better decisions and become more creative. When people practice mindfulness in the workplace, management teams are better equipped to communicate well and are more able to work together to find creative solutions to problems. 

The practice of Mindfulness has a direct correlation with improved focus and attention.  As wellness improves within an organization, the culture shifts to one of efficiency, engagement, vitality, and resiliency. Healthcare costs are reduced, resulting in increased bottom line profits.

The whiplash effect that occurs when businesses focus strictly on numbers not only causes burnout but can also cause a recently discovered phenomena known as presenteeism. Presenteeism occurs when someone is physically at work but isn’t really there emotionally and/or mentally.

An example of the effects of presenteeism and burnout was seen several years ago at General Mills while the company was going through a difficult buyout of Pillsbury. The process was taking three times as long as expected with thousands of jobs at stake if the deal didn’t go through. 

Vice President Janice Marturano and her team were working twelve hours a day, seven days a week. During this time, she lost her mother and her father, and she still had her own family, a husband and two small children to help care for. 

After the buyout was finalized, Marturano realized she was just going through the motions in life. She was struggling with burnout from her job and grief from losing her parents. She was emotionally exhausted, couldn’t produce at the level she was used to, and was facing health issues. Her doctor recommended she go on a mindfulness retreat. 

Marturano was highly skeptical, but she went on the retreat. She almost left after the second day, but then decided to stay. After the retreat, she realized everything had changed. Her focus had improved, and she was able to stay calm in work situations. In her words, the retreat transformed her. 

The mindfulness program Marturano attended was so impactful for her that she decided to offer mindfulness programs to employees at General Mills’ headquarters in Minneapolis. The results were eye-opening. Employee productivity improved 83%, with 82% of participants noting they were able to eliminate tasks that weren’t productive. Decision making improved for 80%, and 89% of senior leaders said they were better listeners.

As General Mills’ experience shows, reducing or eliminating issues such as burnout and presenteeism can help employees at every level of an organization become more resilient and engaged. This is one more example of how improving employee well-being and shifting the company culture pays huge dividends.

Scientific evidence continues to show that practicing mindfulness results in more productivity and efficiency, better decision making, increased creativity and overall improvement in employee performance. Creating a healthy work environment has a direct, positive impact on bottom line profitability. Business expert Tom Peters sums it up perfectly:

The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.”