OK, the free food and innovation-friendly culture make working at Google sound like a dream come true. But let's be honest, for all its perks, the company definitely doesn't sound like a low-stress place to work.
All those lush buffets are meant to keep employees at the office until all hours after all, and stories abound of everyone from executives to front-line employees putting in truly heroic amounts of work to realize the company's vision.
That kind of dedication can be inspiring, but if you happen to also be a human being constrained by basic biological needs for sleep, exercise, and downtime, it could also be a recipe for burnout. Yet Googlers on the whole are remarkably resilient despite the high-pressure environment, insist Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness in their new book Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success.
What's their secret?
In an excerpt of the book featured in Wired recently, the two authors let the cat out of the bag about how the search giant cleverly counters burnout. It won't come as a huge shock to anyone who follows productivity trends. Just like everyone else in Silicon Valley, Googlers swear by mindfulness meditation.
Stulberg and Magness explain how, in the company's early days, programmer Chade-Meng Tan recognized that, while he loved his job, he was burning the candle at both ends and was in extreme danger of burnout. A dedicated meditator, Tan thought bringing his mindfulness practice into the the office could help. It turned out he was right.
"Tan's mindfulness practice helped him to transition from the stress of intense work to a more restful state. He also found that it opened his mind to otherwise hidden insights," the authors explain. Encouraged by these results and noticing his co-workers were battling the same workaholic tendencies, Tan started teaching mindfulness meditation to his colleagues through a seven-week course called "Search Inside Yourself."
After some initial skepticism, the popularity of Tan's class exploded. "Word spread quickly through the halls of Google about Search Inside Yourself, and it wasn't long before demand for the course surpassed Tan's ability to teach it," Stulberg and Magness relate. And it wasn't just employees who were enthusiastic. Leadership noticed the benefits too.
"They approached Tan and asked him if he'd be interested in teaching mindfulness meditation full-time and leading a new department, called Personal Growth. Search Inside Yourself continued to grow," report the authors. Which is why today, even though Googlers put incredible amounts of energy into their jobs, they burnout relatively infrequently.
You don't have to work at Google to put this secret to use.
Of course, you don't have to work at Google to reap the benefits of mindfulness meditation. A slew of apps, courses, and experts are available to help you learn the simple but powerful practice. And getting benefits it's probably less time-consuming than you think too.
What are those benefits exactly? Check out the complete excerpt for a long discussion of exactly how meditation works to boost creativity as well as prevent burnout.