What does mindfulness have to do with digital transformation? On the surface, not much. But there are good reasons why mindfulness has taken hold in companies in recent years, especially in fast-paced sectors.

The work environment is changing rapidly, and the number of business challenges that we face is rising fast. To begin with, we all have to prepare ourselves mentally for what lies ahead and learn to approach new situations with an open mind. That is where mindfulness comes in: It teaches people how to deal with change.

Why SAP is helping its employees and customers be more mindful

Peter Bostelmann, director of the Global Mindfulness Practice at SAP, brought mindfulness training classes that draw on neuroscience to SAP in 2013, and has since turned them into a global program. Bostelmann says he fully believes in the methodology; he is convinced that the key to its success is the growing network of supporters among employees.

High Demand for Mindfulness Training at SAP

The SAP Global Mindfulness Practice team promotes mindfulness as a means of improving employee leadership skills, productivity, and well-being. SAP offers its own mindfulness training as a two-day seminar called “Search Inside Yourself,” which is now available at 48 company locations worldwide.

It is run completely by SAP employees, 43 of whom have since qualified as course instructors. Andreas Mohr became an instructor in 2014: “I hope to teach my colleagues how to live and work with a clearer mind and more consciously. For many of us, mindfulness is a chance to take a break from our non-stop schedules and the innate pressure to achieve.”

Since its launch in 2013, around 7,000 colleagues have taken the Search Inside Yourself course. But these seminars aren’t the only way to become more mindful at SAP. There are also numerous other activities on offer, such as mindful lunches, mindfulness afternoons, and online sessions.

Relax as You Leave Your Comfort Zone

Mindfulness training courses teach you to focus on the moment and tune into sensations, feelings, and thoughts without judging them. This enables you to organize your ideas and not be overwhelmed by them, which makes it easier to deal with the “now” and determine the best way to act.

It is a type of meditation that helps you manage stress better. By freeing yourself from the pressure that comes with having to react quickly, you have more energy to reflect and be creative. Stress reduction, however, is just a nice side effect. It also strengthens your emotional intelligence, which is an important foundation for diversity and working well with others — qualities that SAP values.

The Search Inside Yourself course features meditation sessions and group exercises that teach participants about self-perception, regulation of emotions, resilience, and empathy. “Participants often tell us that the program helped them improve their well-being and be more genuine. You need both to be respectful and kind to yourself and others, and build trust with coworkers,” says Andreas.

Scientists generally agree that practicing mindfulness is good for our professional lives. In their recent book “Altered Traits”, Daniel Goleman, a Harvard psychologist, and Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist, state three proven benefits of mindfulness that allow people to act more effectively in unpredictable environments: staying calm and open-minded, improved cognitive ability, better focus and clarity of thinking.

Not everyone agrees, however. One critical study reported recently that meditation could restrict motivation. The study argues that if you accept a situation as it is, then you will be less motivated to change it.

Motivation is discussed in its own unit on the Search Inside Yourself course. Bostelmann explains: “Mindfulness helps you focus on the things you enjoy doing at work, and on how you can bring these tasks to the fore. You then accept problems more readily because what you are working on is important to you. At the same time, you are equally able to recognize where change is needed.”

No Hidden Agendas

If you are healthy and feel good, you are more productive. Is this extra productivity the real reason why companies are offering mindfulness training courses?

“Our goal is crystal clear: Improve employee well-being in the workplace,” says Bostelmann. “SAP benefits most when everyone is fully present at work. The Search Inside Yourself course is not about feeling more spiritual. It is designed to help people improve their concentration, become compassionate and empathetic, and stay true to themselves.”

Help the World Run Better and Improve People’s Lives

According to Bostelmann, teaching employees to be mindful pays off.

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He puts the return on investment at 200 percent, measurable not only through participant feedback (see image), but also through the increase in the Employee Engagement Index and the reduction in staff sick leave. These values affect business results: SAP’s operating profit increases by €50 million to €60 million for every percentage point increase in the Employee Engagement Index, he says.

One percentage point increase on the Business Health Culture Index, which, like the Employee Engagement Index, is also measured annually in the People Survey, raises profit by €85 million to €95 million, he adds.

This success also benefits SAP customers and partners. Bostelmann explains: “Other companies are also aware of the increasing sensory overload caused by technology.” SAP’s extension of its mindfulness program has been well covered by the media. “Many customers, such as Siemens and Deutsche Telekom want to learn from our best-practices,” he says proudly.

In response to that, SAP now sends its mindfulness instructors out to customers to act as strategic advisors who help create a mindfulness training program for customers’ employees. They give Search Inside Yourself courses there and even train customers’ employees to become instructors.

Bostelmann believes that this is a chance for SAP to strengthen its customer relationships. “It also means that SAP can act as a role model for others and help the world run better and improve people’s lives,” he says.