New research has surfaced that revealed big benefits of meditation for employee teambuilding, especially when it comes to tackling complex tasks that require input from multiple people.

As a business owner or manager, you understand how important it is to get your team working as one harmonious unit. It’s only by fostering an agile, cross-functional team that the company is able to complete complex tasks that involve numerous employees working on different aspects of the same project.

As a manager or business owner you probably search continuously for strategies and tips to improve teamwork in the company.

New research by Boston Consulting Group and Awaris (led by Christian Greiser, Jan-Philipp Martini, Liane Stephan and Chris Tamdjidi et. el.) has revealed that a ten-week mindful program brings big benefits for your staff as a collective unit. This was based on a study of 31 teams with a total of 196 members.

Greiser [managing director, the Düsseldorf office, Boston Consulting Group] has been a meditator for more than 15 years. Martini has been practicing a specific type of Buddhist meditation called Vipassana for more than 15 years. Vipassana is essentially the practice of focusing the mind on the breath and then mentally labelling any sensory information, thoughts or feelings that occur [READ: How To Practice Vipassana]. Stephan has been practicing mindfulness for more than 35 years. And Tamdijidi has been practicing mindfulness for more than 30 years. Their collective experience in meditation totals an impressive 95 years.

We know from considerable scientific research that there are big benefits of mindfulness at work.  However, the majority of that research has studied the effects of meditation on employees as individuals, not as a team. The researchers wanted to determine whether meditation improves employee performance in teamwork. They asked the study participants to complete a ten week mindfulness training program, after which they studied the group’s collective intelligence. The research reveals that mindfulness increased collective intelligence by 13% when measured by tests created by the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.

Mindfulness is the practice of being consciously aware of the present moment without judgment, including awareness of the environment, thoughts and feelings. Many companies, such as Google and Apple, have introduced mindfulness programs for employees. This is often done with the intent of improving employee’s mental health and job satisfaction, ultimately leading to higher retention rates.

The collective intelligence that the study investigated is different to regular IQ tests. Indeed, a high individual IQ among employees is not a necessity of a high collective intelligence. Rather, it is a largely emotional aspect. It is based on emotional intelligence, trust, and the relationship between employees. Essentially, teams that have good relationships between employees are likely to enjoy higher collective intelligence. It is also about diversity, the ability of different people with different personalities and skills, and their ability to come together harmoniously.

This is why it is so imperative for a company to foster trust and harmony among its staff.

Mindfulness is just one way of accomplishing this. There are other meditation techniques that have been proven to achieve the same thing. For instance, the Buddhist method known as Loving Kindness Meditation is proven to increase empathy and trust, both of which have a positive impact on collective intelligence.

Many companies are inadequately addressing the emotions of employees. Employees are pressured into continually acting happy and mentally strong even when they are experiencing negative emotions. This is detrimental both to the employee’s mental health and to the company’ bottom line, because unaddressed emotions at work undermine collective intelligence, lowering the efficiency of the team.

Many teams bring mindfulness to employees via apps like Headspace. However, this is woefully inadequate. While these apps are cost effective and easy to scale, they do not foster the same sense of unity among a team as actual group meditation sessions, in which the team experiences a too rare moment of intimacy between its members.

It is time for companies to gain a deeper appreciation for the benefits of mindfulness at work. Not only can mindfulness benefit employees individually by improving their mental health, it can also strengthen the team as a whole, heightening collective intelligence so that the team can work more harmoniously and more effectively.

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Written by Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.