I recently came across a debate raging on LinkedIn regarding mindfulness in the workplace and meditation apps, and whether such practices and techniques can genuinely help employees.

With almost 800 comments on the discussion thread, a range of pros and cons of such apps were shared. Many claimed that the apps enabled them to find some much-needed harmony and a pleasant departure for 20 minutes during typically stressful days. Others made the point that they add to the amount of time spent on smartphones and in the digital world, which can be to the detriment of mental health.

One thing that can’t be questioned about these apps is their current success – Headspace, arguably the best known, now has 25 million users, while Calm claims it provides ‘meditation to relax, sleep, relieve anxiety and lower stress’ and has a 4.7 rating on the app store.


Mindfulness – a key to business success?

Many businesses are embracing mindfulness in the workplace and offer it to staff to reduce stress and boost productivity. Notable examples include Google, GlaxoSmithKline and KPMG. Research from INSEAD Business School revealed that just 15 minutes of mindfulness-based meditation, such as concentrating on breathing, can lead to more rational thinking regarding business decisions.

So, it’s perhaps little surprise that a host of firms are looking to use mindfulness – from the big boys down to start-ups. At a recent local business breakfast I attended, an MD of a software firm told me she was struggling, much to her dismay, to get her staff to attend mindfulness sessions she’d signed up for and wanted employees to attend.

It seemed to me that she took mindfulness to be a silver bullet – one which would instantly boost productivity and happiness among her staff. I don’t know exactly how she was promoting its benefits to her staff, but I hope it was to subtle promotion rather than a firm push.

When it comes to any wellbeing in the workplace, particularly where a primary objective is to have a positive effect on mental health, workers shouldn’t feel forced into anything. Doing so could actually have an adverse effect on productivity and morale.


One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to wellbeing

Meditation apps may work for some but it won’t work for everyone. I turned to one when I was going through a stressful period and it didn’t work for me. Employees have their own stress relievers and wellbeing techniques. Some will already know what they are – thankfully I now know mine is any form of physical exercise, which boosts my outlook and productivity considerably.

So any company that cares about its employees’ wellbeing should offer a range of options to their staff to help them to relieve stress OR to discover what their individual stress reliever may be.

Mindfulness in the workplace and meditation apps may help many, just as yoga, a lunchtime walk, or a vigorous workout may benefit others. Where necessary, inform staff about the advantages of a range of wellbeing activities, but don’t force them into participating.