Work can be wickedly stressful. Avoiding that stress is one of my driving motivations for reaching FI.
I was serendipitously introduced to meditation through yoga a few years ago. We’ve been in a tumultuous relationship ever since. I’m pretty Type A by birth, and also more prone to stress than the average Jane. So yoga is a great practice for calming and focusing my mind.
If you’ve ever meditated, though, you know that the more you NEED meditation in your life, the harder it is to successfully meditate. All those nagging thoughts floating around. My mind is dying to make plans. A friend I forget to text back. Exercise I need to do. A blog I need to update. I need to update my resume…waaahhh. But I’m confident that meditation is a benefit in my life, so I continue to practice.
Enter Arianna Huffington, stage left. She recently posted an editorial on Huff Post, “Mindfulness, Meditation, Wellness and Their Connection to Corporate America’s Bottom Line”. Instead of paraphrasing her post, I’ll let her speak for herself. Some quotes:
“On the one hand, there’s the stressful world of quarterly earnings reports, beating growth expectations, hard-charging CEOs, and focusing on the bottom line… On the other hand, there’s the world populated by the growing awareness of the costs of stress, not just in the health and well-being of business leaders and employees, but on the bottom line as well.”
“…studies show that U.S. employers spend 200 to 300 percent more for the indirect costs of health care — in the form of absenteeism, sick days, and lower productivity — than they do on actual health care payments.”
“According to the World Health Organization, the cost of stress to American businesses is as high as $300 billion. And unless we change course, this will only get worse.”
<caveat> I really respect Arianna H, and more often than not overlap significantly with her political opinions. </caveat> Arianna’s post is quite long, and I kept reading it on the assumption that she would point out the irony of companies willing to spend on stress-reduction and meditation training, but not on simply hiring more employees in order to reduce per-employee workload.
Well, she never pointed that out. So let me do it: It’s ironic that the discussion amongst business leaders appears to center around helping employees reduce stress. Doing this increases productivity and creativity, and could potentially save hundreds of billions of dollars spent on health care and employee turnover. These all lead to a stronger bottom line. I have no disagreements with a healthy profit—I love that the business world has made it possible for many (though sadly not all) of us to have greater incomes and physical comfort in a way that pre- or non-capitalist societies have been unable to do.
However, HOWEVER, surely I don’t need to add that profit can’t be the only value in our society. We on earth are a diverse, weird, and wonderful mix of people who just want to live our lives, hopefully guided by the Golden Rule, according to our needs and desires.
So instead of putting yet one more task—“You must reduce your stress!”—on the To-Do list of every overworked, stressed-out employee, how about HIRING MORE EMPLOYEES? I’m just askin’. If such a mind-boggling amount of corporate and social wealth is being spent on stress-related health care, and if, due to stress, hundreds of billions of $ are lost on sick days and lower productivity, how’s about you simply hire more people?
Stress on existing employees will be reduced because right now, we all have much too much to complete. We’re all doing the work of two or three or four employees. The work of those people who were down-sized either for profiteering, or due to first the dotcom bubble in the early part of this century, and then the real estate bubble beginning in 2007.
Hire more people. This reduces the stress of all employees. It also reduces the stress of those who’ve been unemployed in recent years. Workers start to like their jobs, each other, and their company a bit more. They become more creative, loyal, and productive in the shorter hours they work. They have time to hang with their friends and families, pursue their interests, sleep more. And then come back to work even happier. Wow, another SPLENDID virtuous wheel.