Workplace meditation saves lives

Wendy Quan, founder of the calm monkey, in the classroom. | Photo by Chung Chow

As a certified organizational change manager and global speaker, Wendy Quan combines workplace mindfulness meditation and change management techniques to build employee resiliency to company change.

Mindfulness meditation is about hitting the pause button on your busy day to be present in the moment through meditation,” says Quan.

Research data provided by HealthyFamiliesBC suggest that 21.4 percent of the working population in Canada experience mental health issues such as fatigue, insomnia and depression, which have the greatest impact on workplace productivity. Approximately 530,500 people in B.C. are affected by mental health issues in the workplace every year. The economic cost of mental health in B.C. is at least $6.65 billion per year.

While Quan believes that employees should take ownership of their health, she also thinks that organizations should support employees through health and wellness programs to help reduce mental health issues.

“Companies that are forward thinking – [the one’s that] really care about the well-being of their staff – recognize that they can contribute to the well-being of their employees by offering health and wellness programs,” says Quan.

Meditation improves employee engagement

In Quan’s white paper, Meditation: A powerful change management tool, she shares results from the program she developed for Pacific Blue Cross while working as an organizational change manager. The program began in 2011 with 12 employees interested in meditation practices, but in 2014 when the Pacific Blue Cross transformed their business operations with the adoption of new technology, the numbers of participants jumped to 190.

“It was a Goliath project for Pacific Blue Cross, but throughout the very difficult and bumpy start, everyone was calm and committed to achieving a successful launch,” says Quan.

10 months later, the Pacific Blue Cross conducted an employee engagement survey. One of the questions asked of employees was if they would go the extra mile for the organization. Quan and her team were surprised, but excited to share that 98 percent of respondents were still prepared to work hard to meet company goals.

“This statistic sent us through the roof.We’d been through a very difficult time, and 10 months later employees were still committed to the organization,” says Quan.

Progressive organizations like Google, the City of Vancouver and Vancity, to name just a few, have adopted mindfulness meditation practices through Quan’s business, the Calm Monkey.

“Giving employees the space to be in the present and think calmly helps them make better decisions,” says Quan. “When people are self-aware, they’re mindful of what they are saying, which reduces conflict and encourages people to work better together.”

Kulli Yee is an administrator for retirement registered savings accounts at Vancity. She’s also a workplace mindfulness meditation facilitator for the organization. Yee is one of six employees that have been trained by Quan to create three different lunchtime groups across the organization. 15 months prior to the program, Yee only practiced in the privacy of her home. Now she enjoys integrating her passion with colleagues at work. Yee currently has 35 employees attending her weekly meditation session, but attendance does fluctuate depending on people’s work schedules.

“I never thought this was something that would happen at my workplace,” she says. “It’s very empowering. I feel much more engaged with my organization because I feel I’m able to help other people.”

Meditation builds diversity and inclusion in the workplace

There are still a few misconceptions about meditation. Some people identify it as being religious or spiritual, while others see it as new-age therapy that encourages escapism. Quan explains how these ideas couldn’t be further from the truth. Workplace meditation is actually about being in the present and isn’t connected to religion. The amazing part of workplace meditation for Quan is that it creates shared experience, or what she describes as an unexpected sense of community in a diverse group of people.

“Workplace mindfulness meditation welcomes everyone regardless of their ethnicity, religious beliefs, culture or age,” says Quan.

Quan is scheduled to speak at the Project World/ Business Analysis World Conference in Vancouver on October 31. For more information, please visit