TM in the Workplace


Many business commentators are saying that workplace stress has reached epidemic proportions and should be considered the “Black Plague of the 21st Century”. The problem has become so bad that stress is now a more common cause of long-term sick leave than stroke, heart attack, cancer and back problems … according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in the USA.

Stress takes its toll on both body and mind. It is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease and predisposes to anxiety and depression. Published meta-analyses of studies of many meditation and relaxation techniques have found that the TM technique produces deeper rest than other practices and is more effective for reducing anxiety, depression and drug use. At the same time it improves psychological health and assists the development of mental potential.

How TM Reduces Workplace Stress and Increases Productivity

  1. Increased brain coherence that is associated with increased levels of accomplishment.
  2. Reduced stress responses producing more clarity and better decision-making.
  3. Enhanced creativity, even with ageing.
  4. Better physical health, more energy, improved sleeping etc.
  5. Greater harmony among co-workers and associates.
In recent decades many businesses have incorporated the TM programme into their staff-training regimes. Below is an account of how this was achieved by well-known media personality, Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah’s Gift To Her Workforce

Late last year, the New Zealand public enjoyed a first-ever visit by the pioneering queen of TV talk shows, Oprah Winfrey, who came to do a sold-out show in Auckland. Sometimes referred to as the most influential woman in the world, Oprah is also an icon of ‘church-free spirituality’ with her empathic insights into humanity, and her outright philanthropy.

Very much a self-made woman, Oprah was born in rural Mississippi in 1954 and started radio work while she was still in High School, moving into TV news at the age of 19. Eventually given the opportunity to create her own programme, The Oprah Winfrey Show, she built up a huge following and the show became the highest-rated programme of its kind in history. Her company Harpo Productions was formed in 1986 and it is now based in Los Angeles covering a wide range of radio, print and cable TV output.

Oprah’s image is that of a warm compassionate person, always giving away free gifts to the studio audience and seeming like someone you would happily turn to in time of emotional need. Behind closed doors however, for her hundreds of employees, what is she like as a boss? One indication of her in-house generosity was seen several years ago when she made available to them all a self-development programme that not only brought more productivity but improved the quality of their personal lives as well. A truly win-win situation.

Her gift was the TM programme – Transcendental Meditation as founded by Vedic scholar, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late 1950s. Oprah had heard about it for many years and so finally got around to learning the TM technique herself. In an interview with fellow talk show host, Dr Oz, she described that the most important goal for herself had always been to be connected to that which is greater than oneself and felt that this was now being achieved through her meditation practice.

Oprah told Dr Oz that based on her own benefits she decided to bring TM into Harpo Studios where first of all there was a group of 7 involved, which increased to 70, then to 270 and ultimately to everyone in the company. TM is practised for 20 minutes twice a day and Oprah structured these sessions into company time at 9.00 in the morning and 4.30 in the afternoon. She said that no matter what is going on “we stop and we meditate. In this way of being still with ourselves, coming back to the centre and recognising that something is more important than yourself and the work you are doing … it brings a kind of energy and intention that we have never had before.” All the employees needed was a place to sit comfortably and close their eyes.

The results were immediately obvious to Oprah … in her words: ” You can’t imagine what’s happened in the company. People who used to have migraines don’t. People are sleeping better. People have better relationships. People interact with other people better. It’s been fantastic!” For herself she added that she gives her twice-daily TM practice top priority because “I am 1,000 percent better when I do that … 1,000 percent when I take myself back to something bigger then myself.”

This is definitely not mood-making as for many years scientific researchers have been noting the objective results of TM on health and wellbeing. A major study in the USA found that people who practised TM for five years or more had reduction of ill-health in all categories (when compared to the average population): 53% fewer inpatient hospital admissions for all age groups combined and 68% fewer inpatient hospital admissions for adults 40 years and over. Psychosomatic Medicine 1987; 49: 493-507. Incredibly the study found an 87% less incidence of both heart disease and neurological disease in TM practitioners and since that time the American Heart Association has made a formal recommendation to its members for the referral of TM in clinical practice.

The TM technique is unique and fundamentally different from any other self-development system. For 20 minutes twice a day it gives the body a level of rest much deeper than sleep allowing the self-repair mechanisms to carry out repairs and adjustments mainly in the central nervous system that are not possible at any other time. The general term for this is ‘release of stress’, or alleviation of the wear and tear that accumulates on a daily basis. To most people the results are obvious within even the first few days of undergoing the basic course of instruction. Fortunately this natural technique is easy to learn and enjoyable to practice, requiring no effort or change in lifestyle therefore making it easy to install en masse in any workplace.

The TM process also enlivens the functioning of the whole brain which is why people think more clearly and creatively. One of our own top entrepreneurs Sir Michael Hill is quoted as saying: “Before I started Transcendental Meditation my mind was a clutter of self-talk. Very repetitive and doubting my ability. Through regular practice of TM I am now able to daily erase this self-talk and think effortlessly through a clear mind.”

Oprah is not the only showbiz celebrity to speak about how much TM helps them cope with life in the public spotlight … there are many of them! However her initiative to share it with her loyal employees could well indicate what will become a standard feature of progressive businesses in the future. Interestingly, back in the ‘old days’ employers at first resisted the idea of morning and afternoon tea breaks as they thought it was lost work output time. Then they discovered that workers were all the more productive through having had that time to refresh, so the ‘meditation breaks’ at the start and end of each working day could well be standard fare for future generations of workers to enjoy and businesses to profit from. Oprah’s initiative was not the first in the business world, but based on the results it is certainly unlikely to be the last.

The author of this article, Stephen Benner, has been a qualified TM instructor since 1975, having previously worked as a journalist with the NZBC. The TM programme is administered in New Zealand by the Maharishi Foundation Inc., a non-profit educational organisation. ( )