‘Mindfulness’: Corporate America’s Strange New Gospel
@Andy Lee has an interesting job title: He is his company’s “chief #mindfulness officer,” and he is not employed at some voguish Silicon Valley start-up or by a chain of organic-food co-ops — he works for Aetna, as old-fashioned a corporate giant as you could ever hope to find. In an interview with Healthy Workplace author Leigh Stringer, Aetna’s mindfulness program was described in familiar terms: “Participants are regaining 62 minutes per week of productivity,” Stringer wrote. “They are seeing an approximate dollar return, in terms of productivity alone, of more than $3,000 per person per year.” Never mind karma — this is a bottom-line issue. ￼ “Mindfulness,” a meditation practice that is in essence Buddhism without Buddha, is everywhere in corporate America and celebrity culture. (The two are no longer entirely distinguishable: @Bill Gates is a celebrity, and @Oprah is a vertically integrated global conglomerate.) @Google offered a course under engineer-guru @Chade Meng Tan (employee No. 107) that at one point had a six-month waiting period; Meng has since gone off on his own. @Goldman Sachs has caught the mindfulness bug and uses a mindfulness app to keep its employees mindful. Intel is on board, and a study undertaken by the National Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investments found that one in five of the companies surveyed offered mindfulness training, with another 21 percent planning to do so — at a cost of up to ten grand per session. When they aren’t pushing Häagen-Dazs out the door, General Mills employees and executives have access to a seven-week mindfulness program. After completing the program, 80 percent of executives reported that their decision-making skills had improved. One wonders about that datum: Were these executives going to tell their superiors that their decision-making skills had been degraded, or that they’d wasted their time? Bear in mind that Häagen-Dazs doesn’t actually mean anything in any language — the guy who founded the company just thought it sounded cool and that people would buy it. There may be a bit of that at work here, too.