Another trap many organizations fall into is believing that the introduction of a mindfulness program can make up for significant underinvestment or inattention to employees’ actual working conditions, Dr. Worline said.
She recalled visiting a “major hospital system” to help with a unit of doctors who were dealing with an increasing error rate in their work. After she ran a session for the team focused on compassion and “restoring meaning to medicine,” she discovered that the unit was short seven staffers and many employees were working double shifts.
“They very rightly said to me, ‘You could sit here and talk to us about compassion all day long, it’s not going to make a difference in our stress levels,’” Dr. Worline said. “No wellness management is going to work until you fix the working conditions for people there. In that case, wellness programs were a Band-Aid over a gaping wound.”
Still, Mr. Israel, the meditation expert, is confident that as stress levels in the workplace increase, so will the demand for this kind of programming. Last year, at a hospitality design conference in Hollywood, Fla., he presented in front of hundreds of people from the industry.
“Ninety-five percent of the people in the room had never meditated or done any of this before, and it was risky for the organizer to book me, but people loved it,” he said. “In these more traditional spaces where people are not in New York or Los Angeles, they’re starting to open up to this stuff.”
And through these sessions, some of them are finding practices they can replicate on a more regular basis. Mr. Santulli, the office manager at WayUp, said he would look into hosting a weekly mindfulness session for the whole staff.
“Stress and anxiety has been a big part of our life, and everything gets overwhelming sometimes,” he said. “This was the first time in a long time that I let go of this list of things I have to do, even for a moment.”