By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Toxic emotions disrupt the workplace, and mindfulness increases your awareness of these destructive patterns, helping you recognize them before they run rampant. It’s a way of reprogramming your mind to think in healthier, less stressful, ways.” – Drew Hanson
Work is very important for our health and well-being. We spend approximately 25% of our adult lives at work. How we spend that time is immensely important for our psychological and physical health. Indeed, the work environment has even become an important part of our social lives, with friendships and leisure time activities often attached to the work environment. But, more than half of employees in the U.S. and nearly 2/3 worldwide are unhappy at work. This is partially due to work-related stress which is epidemic in the western workplace. Almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. This stress can result in impaired health and can result in burnout; producing fatigue, cynicism, and professional inefficacy.
To help overcome unhappiness, stress, and burnout, mindfulness practices have been implemented in the workplace. In fact, it has become very trendy for business to incorporate meditation into the workday to help improve productivity. For example, Google offers “Search Inside Yourself” classes to teach mindfulness at work. But, although there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of meditation improving work performance, there is actually very little systematic research on its effectiveness.
In today’s Research News article “Systematic review: complementary therapies and employee well-being.” See:
or see summary below. Ravalier and colleagues reviewed the published research literature on the effects of mindfulness practices implemented in the work environment. They included only full-length peer-reviewed journal articles published since 2000. They found that mindfulness practices produced significant reductions in perceived stress and improvements in vigor, psychological health, and resilience in the employees. In other words, they found very promising research findings, suggesting marked improvements in employee psychological well-being produced by mindfulness practices. They point out, however, that there is a need for longer-term follow-up studies to ascertain whether mindfulness practices have lasting effects in the workplace.
These results complement the research findings of mindfulness effects in many other contexts. It has been shown in general to reduce the psychological and physical responses to stress and to improve mental and physical health. This suggests that mindfulness practices may improve health and productivity and reduce burnout in modern workers. Beyond overcoming the negative effects of the work environment, the workplace has been postulated to be an excellent environment to practice the Buddha’s Eightfold Path for spiritual development and the relief of suffering.
So, improve employee well-being with mindfulness.
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
“By improving the way people relate to one another, ideally it can change corporate culture for the better, creating a more supportive, friendlier workplace with better relationships. In many organizations, there are bigger, systemic changes that need to be made, but I don’t think that instituting a mindfulness program will prevent those changes from happening. At the least, a mindfulness program provides workers with some relief from stress and anxiety while they campaign for systemic changes; at best, it helps to catalyze those bigger systemic changes.” – Jason Marsh
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- M. Ravalier, P. Wegrzynek and S. Lawton Systematic review: complementary therapies and employee well-being. Occup Med (Lond) April 4, 2016, doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqw047
Background A variety of workplace-based interventions exist to reduce stress and increase productivity. However, the efficacy of these interventions is sometimes unclear.
Aims To determine whether complementary therapies offered in the workplace improve employee well-being.
Methods We performed a systematic literature review which involved an electronic search of articles published between January 2000 and July 2015 from the databases Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, PsycINFO, MEDLINE, AMED, CINAHL Plus, EMBASE and PubMed. We also undertook a manual search of all applicable article reference lists to ensure that no relevant studies were missed. We only selected published, full-length, English-language, peer-reviewed journal articles. Articles had to address the research objective using valid and reliable measures. We excluded articles concerning return to work or whose populations had been adversely affected by work resulting in the development of health issues.
Results We included 10 articles in the review from 131 identified. Mindfulness and meditation-based interventions were most effective in improving workplace health and work performance; the latter demonstrating some evidence of maintaining gains up to 3 months later. The evidence for relaxation interventions was inconclusive.
Conclusions Mindfulness and meditation interventions may be helpful in improving both psychosocial workplace health and work performance, but long-term efficacy has yet to be fully determined.