The More Digital We Are, The More Mindfulness We Need

Paul Kurchina

Technology is generally adopted with the intention of making things better. Mindless tasks and activities that don’t require sophisticated answers or decision-making are being replaced with automation. Wearables and biometrics are making it possible to track unknown factors such as changes in human biological responses. And mobile devices are guiding millions of people to a safer, better future.

One would think that the more digital we become, the better our lives. However, this is not necessarily the case. According to Harvard University, people spend 47% of their time, on average, with their mind wandering. Considering that human error contributes to 91% of all workplace accidents, such disengagement is as uneconomical as it is dangerous. Even an annual injury rate as little as 2.4% can cost a business US$91,000 in direct costs (medical bills, workers’ compensation and legal costs). If you’re in a 10% profit margin business, that requires $910,000 in revenue to cover these direct costs.

During the Americas’ SAP User Group (ASUG) webcast Mindfulness: Your Key to Thriving in the Digital Age, Joe Burton, CEO of, observed, “Things are changing faster than human beings we can react, and it’s burning people out. We are stuck in a game where the pace of technology, digitization, transformation, and digital disruption are set. It’s non-stop, 24×7, on-demand mentality. As human beings, we are drawn into that, but we don’t have the coping tools and skills to adapt and be resilient through such changes.”

Digital technology is outpacing our capacity to fully embrace it

A tremendous amount of change is happening, and it’s an exciting time to be alive. But when you think about the challenges and the pace of business, it’s also an incredibly stressful time to be alive.

“The biggest issue we’re facing is that technology is improving every year, as indicated by Moore’s Law. Things are getting better and faster, and they are delivering more capabilities, which lead to more capacity and more global activity. On the other hand, because the human brain hasn’t changed in about 3,000 years, we are not equipped for the modern pace of living,” Burton noted.

Everyone is dealing with globalization, ever-evolving technology, and outsourced innovation. At the same time, things are happening across a wide array of industries that would have been considered science fiction five or ten years ago. We are living our lives in bite-sized chunks. We are training ourselves to focus in pockets of time that are mere seconds.

From mountaintops to boardrooms: Balancing the digital playing field with mindfulness

For industry giants such as Toyota, Volvo, P&G, Hitachi, and General Electric, mindfulness is about building a workplace culture that helps employees cope with the constant evolution of technology and enable further transformation success.

“In 2016, approximately 22% of companies brought mindfulness training to their employees, and that number is expected to double over the next 12 months,” Burton said. “It’s not just happening across companies in Silicon Valley, the harbinger for the latest cutting-edge techniques. It’s happening in traditional industries as well as schools, government, and the military.”

For many of these companies, increased mindfulness has not only led to high-performing, safer workplace cultures, but also tangible improvements to profitability.

Consider Aetna Insurance, for example. The managed healthcare company, which sells traditional and consumer-directed health insurance plans and related services, incorporated mindfulness training as part of its employee wellness program. With the participation of more than 25% of its 50,000 employees, the company reduced healthcare costs by $2,000 for each employee while increasing productivity an estimated $3,000 per employee.

And Aetna is not alone. By moving employees from a default state of disruption, disconnectedness, and stress to a norm of calmness, focus, and safety, businesses realize significant ROI and VOI on their mindfulness training programs. Other studies show 76% less absenteeism, 46% lower employee turnover costs, 19% reduction in sick leave costs, 12% higher productivity and performance, and 93% greater capacity to be innovative.

As a former global COO in public companies, Burton knows a bit about stress and performance. “Mindfulness is a competitive advantage. The more digital we become, the more we need it,” he observed. “As employees come to work more rested, calm, and focused, the organization, as a whole, is better equipped to deal with constant change and the need for innovation.”

Hear Joe Burton explain how mindfulness can unleash your employees’ capacity for innovation, creative thinking, and digital evolution. Check out the webcast replay and presentation, Mindfulness: Your Key to Thriving in the Digital Agehosted by ASUG.

Image credit: ©Alain Lacroix |

Paul Kurchina

About Paul Kurchina

Paul Kurchina is a community builder and evangelist with the Americas’ SAP Users Group (ASUG), responsible for developing a change management program for ASUG members.