The Stress Epidemic

Stress has become a global epidemic—one that’s profoundly indicative of the fact that we need to rethink the relationship between work and life. 

North American workers are among the most stressed in the entire world. And while routine stress is inevitable, the type of chronic stress plaguing the workforce today is a serious mental and physical health risk that can become as harmful as smoking or a lack of exercise.

For employers, helping to manage the stress of their employees is of paramount importance. 

We spoke with Jonathan Marcoschamer, Founder and SEO of OpenSeed, to learn how businesses can mitigate stress-related risks among employees by incorporating mindfulness and meditation into their workplaces—and why they should consider it a top-tier priority. 

CANOPY: Mindfulness and meditation have become buzzwords in professional settings. What do you believe is the catalyst of this? 

Jonathan Marcoschamer: It’s common knowledge that stress is a large-scale issue. Today, mental health is no longer a taboo subject and it’s getting significantly more attention. 

We have many solutions at our disposal for dealing with stress, including mindfulness and meditation. While we can and should use them in every aspect of our lives, this is especially relevant at work since that’s where the majority of us spend most of our time. 

Employers are beginning to recognize this as their responsibility. 

CANOPY: How did you come to recognize the power of meditation? 

This realization really came to me during a 10-day silent meditation retreat. It was a very powerful and transformative experience. I began to recognize that meditation is a powerful tool that everyone should have access to.

I personally experienced the healing and stress-relieving properties of meditation when I was able to use it to wean myself off of medication. I found that it provided the same relief as the medication did but without the unwanted side effects.

While it’s much easier to pop a pill than it is to meditate for an hour, the medication never feels the same as meditation does. With meditation, you tap into this natural energy and clarity that you have within you. 

CANOPY: Why should businesses be cognizant of the stress epidemic and take steps to support their employees’ well-being?

Fundamentally, a healthy workforce creates healthy businesses. 

Meditation helps reduce stress, but it also keeps people happier and more productive, helps us to stay calm and patient, supports emotional intelligence, and allows for better communication. 

All of these factors have a trickle-down effect from employees to customers, creating stronger business outcomes as a result. 

At this point, every company that cares about their people and their bottom line should prioritize wellness in their culture.

CANOPY: How can businesses justify their investment in supporting mindfulness and meditation at work?  

There’s a definite ROI to incorporating mindfulness and meditation into workplace culture. 

A study conducted by Aetna Insurance found that mindfulness training resulted in 62 extra minutes of productivity per week and a $3,000 gain in value per employee as well as a 7% reduction in healthcare costs. 

The best way to quantify the benefits of this investment is to understand that stress has implications on your body and mind: decreased immune function and mental wellbeing, increased anxiety, fatigue, and burnout.

Since meditation and mindfulness reduce the symptoms of these ailments, they also increase productivity and reduce absenteeism—both of which have a direct correlation to a company’s success. 

CANOPY: Getting started with meditation and mindfulness can be daunting. What type of mindset and scheduling shifts can one use to incorporate these practices into their life? 

Meditation is one of the major pillars of overall wellness. 

It’s never just one thing, but one of the biggest components of meditation is cultivating awareness: the ability to identify the toxic habits that you need to let go of and to be cognizant of when you fall into them. That’s the starting point.

The process of beginning to cultivate awareness is relatively simple. If you’re pursuing meditation, just sit quietly somewhere and observe what’s going on around you without judgment—only curiosity. 

It’s important to understand that meditation is not the process of calming yourself, it’s the process of observing your mind and achieving higher states of awareness in doing so.

Once you’ve become comfortable with this, you can try a guided meditation to go deeper.

Another fact to be mindful of is that meditation is a practice, just like going to the gym. You won’t see drastic results on the first day. Although, if you sit for thirty or forty minutes, you will notice an immediate sense of calm. The longer you do it, the easier it is to tap into a higher state of awareness and consciousness.

My number one tip, even to skeptics, is that getting started can be as basic as dedicating five or ten minutes a day to meditation. 

I personally meditate for an hour in the morning. This may seem like a long time but it pays off immediately and throughout the rest of the day. 

CANOPY: Are there mindfulness and meditation exercises that one can easily implement into their workdays? 

Meditation is a very personal process, so it depends on the individual. There is an abundance of options available. 

When I meditate, I do so in silence. But some people prefer to do guided meditations using apps. Many people do yoga. Others practice transcendental meditation, which involves repeating a mantra in your head. 

Then there’s breathwork—breathing-based meditation. This is a great place to start. Try taking ten deep breaths at a steady cadence: 

Inhale for four seconds. Hold it for four seconds. Release. 

Many people are completely unaware of the power of breathing, but if you do this exercise for five minutes, I guarantee you’ll feel better. 

CANOPY: Are there common triggers that one may experience that indicate they would benefit from a moment of meditation?

Anytime someone feels agitated, stressed, or overwhelmed, they’re better off taking a quick break. People usually try to plow through problems and it rarely ends well.

If you’re aware that you’ve been triggered, taking a pause to meditate and regroup is always a good idea.

CANOPY: It can be challenging for employees to feel safe in creating space for themselves to meditate or practice mindfulness at work. What can businesses do to empower them?

These days, many companies are deciding on how to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into their culture and workspaces. 

They’re looking at options like free app subscriptions, access to mental health counselors, meditation classes, wellness spaces, and corporate retreats. 

I think that it can be a combination of all of these things. It really just depends on the company and its resources. 

But whatever they choose, empowering employees to focus on their well-being starts from the top down. Companies need to create safe environments for people to get centered by whatever means works best for them. 

At this point, post-pandemic, the number of people suffering from depression and anxiety is so prevalent that it’s a problem that needs to be addressed. 

CANOPY: What are some of the most common challenges businesses face when trying to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into their company cultures and workspaces? 

A significant portion of the workforce lacks access to quiet rooms, including meditation spaces, meaning employees lack the facilities required for meditation and mindfulness. Much of this is attributable to a lack of budget. 

The reality is that, unless you’re Google, most companies struggle with the resources required to provide this for their employees.

Some have more budget allocated towards it and some embrace it more than others. But at the end of the day, it’s essential to encourage people to take breaks, meditate, and care for their well-being.

CANOPY: How is OpenSeed helping organizations to address these challenges?

The idea for OpenSeed came from the challenge of addressing mindfulness at work. 

We offer microenvironments that are conducive to mindfulness. Our Meditation Pods—the kind that CANOPY will be bringing into its spaces for its members—are self-contained environments that integrate guided meditations, music, lighting, and aromatherapy.

Beyond just the physical structures, though, we’re creating a platform that powers a network of meditation pods, whether it’s at CANOPY, in airport lounges, or in any number of other accessible locations. 

In the longer term, we envision a network that allows people to connect with others in the pod and to use that for other applications like telemedicine.

Ultimately, we know that meditation and bringing your mind back to a state of homeostasis is never a one-size-fits-all formula. So, in developing this technology platform, we’ll be able to offer different content and experiences based on what resonates most with individual people. 

CANOPY: We’re proud to be unveiling OpenSeed Meditation Pods in our spaces. How do you envision them benefitting our members? 

Offering Meditation Pods in a flexible office space like CANOPY makes mindfulness and meditation accessible to all. It also allows smaller businesses to provide their people with the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, even if they might not otherwise have had the resources to tackle these initiatives independently. 

OpenSeed partnered with Yves Béhar, the design mind behind CANOPY, and his team at fuseproject to design our brand new Meditation Podthe same pods we’ll be installing at CANOPY. 

The entire engagement is very synergistic. 

For CANOPY’s members, these pods could be their portal into the world of meditation. They’re the intersection of art, mindfulness, design, and technology, and they’ll benefit both individual members as well as the companies that operate at CANOPY.

Ultimately, the more organizations, HR directors, employers, and wellness directors understand the benefits of mindfulness and meditation at work, the more it’ll be implemented into the workplace as a means to counteract the stress epidemic.

We’re doing our part to expedite this learning curve. 

If you’re interested in finding a workspace that focuses on enhancing the health and well-being of its members, we invite you to take a tour of your local CANOPY location and learn more about how we do it.