The Case for On-the-Job Mindfulness Programs

How mindfulness can help businesses be more productive

Whether it is a fiscal crisis or the state of the economy, more Puerto Ricans are suffering from work-related stress that often causes them to become distracted and unproductive.

That is why the Society for Human Resource Management wants to raise  awareness among employers on what it has called the Mindfulness Solution during its convention that started Dec. 13.

Vivian Fortuño, president, and Irma Ruiz, senior consultant at Career Transitions, recently discussed with Caribbean Businesses incorporating mindfulness programs for employees.

Ruiz defined  Mindfulness as the natural capacity, present in all people to some extent, of paying purposeful attention to our experiences, with particular attitudes such as openness and curiosity.

“That quality is often challenged by our environment and its complexities…and all of the distractions that are preventing us from making clear decisions,” she said.

The cultivation of mindfulness involves some form of the mental training to strengthen the intention to stay present and cultivate an open and allowing quality of mind that can bring benefits to the worker and become more productive, Ruiz said.

Ruiz said mindfulness has been used in the workplace for at least 10 years but the concept began to be used in the 1970s in the health field to help individuals deal with stress and anxiety. A few years ago, individuals attending the World Economic Forum began to ask themselves what was being done to improve workers’ well-being.

While it was not immediately known which local companies have mindfulness programs stateside, companies such as Google, General Mills Inc., Bank of America and Aetna Inc. are using mindfulness to help their workforces create a more positive work environment that can translate into more productive workers, according to stateside media reports.

Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini told the New York Times in 2015 he offered sessions of yoga and meditation to Aetna employees, and more than 13,000 participated. Participants reported on averages a 28 percent reduction in stress levels a 20 percent improvement in sleep quality and a 19 percent decrease in pain. The workers also gained an average of 62 minutes a week of productivity each, which Aetna estimates is worth $3,000 per employee each year.

Ruiz cautioned that mindfulness programs take time to reap results but that there were numerous studies on its benefits.

How do you teach a worker about mindfulness? She said there were different practices, some of which were formal and some informal.

The formal ones teach workers to devote minutes during their workday to pause and pay attention to their present experience, “which can be challenging because our minds are often scattered and on the go,” said Ruiz , who is certified in mindfulness for stress reduction.

Another technique is the practice of “body scanning” that teaches workers to be more connected within themselves and is guided practice to “reset the body.”

Among the informal techniques, she cited learning to listen and notice surroundings  as a way to relax.

Mindfulness, she said, gives individuals self-awareness that enables them to recognize the signs of stress and respond more effectively, recognizing the power of thoughts and finding ways to skillfully work with them, and supports a culture where relationships are valued.


“That quality is often challenged by our environment and its complexities…and all of the distractions that are preventing us from making clear decisions.”

– Irma Ruiz, senior consultant Career Transitions