In 2020, the Indiana Chamber’s BizVoice® magazine will feature a yearlong series on workplace wellness, including a variety of mental health topics. The Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan offers these insights:

Companies have been turning to mindfulness practices for years to help employees reduce stress and work more effectively. But recently, researchers have started to wonder if mindfulness offers interpersonal benefits as well.

In a new paper, Michigan Ross Professor Gretchen Spreitzer and colleagues find that engaging in mindfulness exercises at work – even a simple seven-minute meditation each morning – leads to more helpful and generous behavior.

“Mindfulness is being in the present moment – not being distracted thinking about what just happened or being concerned about what’s coming next. It’s being aware of how you are feeling and behaving in the present moment, without judgment,” Spreitzer explained. 

Seeing the value in the concept, many companies now offer guided meditation, breathing exercises, or yoga classes, with promising results reported on health and stress levels. Spreitzer and her colleagues, however, wanted to know if engaging in mindful practices also affects behavior toward others.

“When you are more present in the moment, does that also allow you to be a better colleague, to be more helpful, to be more compassionate? And, indeed, that’s what we found: People were more helpful,” Spreitzer said. 

Spreitzer and her colleagues conducted several different studies, in different settings, all of which supported the core finding that mindfulness practices lead to more generous or helpful behavior.

In one study, some employees of an insurance company’s call center were asked to do a slightly different mindfulness exercise each day for a week. The researchers found that employees who engaged in mindfulness exercises were more helpful to callers. “They actually spent more time on the calls as a result of being more mindful. They were asking more questions, really trying to understand the situation, and addressing the purpose of the call,” Spreitzer said.

Another study conducted at an IT consulting company found that employees who engaged in a brief, focused breathing meditation were judged by their colleagues to be more helpful than those who did not meditate. A third study found that people randomly assigned to meditate for a few minutes were more financially generous afterward. 

Tom Schuman is the senior vice president of communications & operations for the Indiana Chamber. He is also the editor of the Chamber’s award-winning BizVoice magazine and has been with the organization for 21 years.