Improve Employee Mental Health with Internet-Based Mindfulness Training
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Mindfulness can only attain sustainable success in the business world if its benefits are optimized and its risks minimized. Participants in mindfulness practices in the workplace must engage voluntarily and proactively if their endeavors are to bear fruit.” – David Brendel
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 physical and mental 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. Indeed, mindfulness practices have been shown to markedly reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. As a result, it has become very trendy for business to incorporate meditation into the workday to help improve employee well-being, health, and productivity. Devoting time during the busy workday can be difficult. Mindfulness training over the internet is an alternative training for people who find face-to-face training difficult and inconvenient. Online mindfulness training has shown great promise with effectiveness equivalent to face-to-face training.
In today’s Research News article “Effectiveness of eHealth interventions for reducing mental health conditions in employees: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5739441/ ), Stratton and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of employee health mental programs implemented over the internet (E-Health Programs) to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and/or stress. They identified 22 randomized controlled trials, with 11 employing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), 6 employing stress reduction programs, and 6 employing mindfulness-based interventions.
They found that the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and the stress reduction programs were significantly effective in improving depression, anxiety, and/or stress in the workers, but the effect sizes were small to moderate. On the other hand, the mindfulness-based interventions produced large significant reductions in depression, anxiety, and/or stress. The effect sizes for mindfulness-based interventions were significantly larger than those for CBT or stress reduction programs.
The results suggest that programs implemented over the internet and designed to improve mental health in workers are effective in improving depression, anxiety, and/or stress. The results further suggest that mindfulness-based programs are significantly more effective. Mindfulness training has been frequently demonstrated to reduce depression, anxiety, and/or stress in general or clinical populations. So, it’s ability to do so here is not surprising but suggests that it is also effective when delivered over the internet. This is important as internet delivery does not detract from workplace time, is convenient for the employees, and is relatively inexpensive for the employer to implement.
So, improve employee mental health with internet-based mindfulness training.
“injecting a corporate culture of mindfulness not only improves focus, but the ability to manage stress and how employees work together.” – Science Daily
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Elizabeth Stratton, Amit Lampit, Isabella Choi, Rafael A. Calvo, Samuel B. Harvey, Nicholas Glozier. Effectiveness of eHealth interventions for reducing mental health conditions in employees: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2017; 12(12): e0189904. Published online 2017 Dec 21. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0189904
Many organisations promote eHealth applications as a feasible, low-cost method of addressing mental ill-health and stress amongst their employees. However, there are good reasons why the efficacy identified in clinical or other samples may not generalize to employees, and many Apps are being developed specifically for this group. The aim of this paper is to conduct the first comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis evaluating the evidence for the effectiveness and examine the relative efficacy of different types of eHealth interventions for employees.
Systematic searches were conducted for relevant articles published from 1975 until November 17, 2016, of trials of eHealth mental health interventions (App or web-based) focused on the mental health of employees. The quality and bias of all identified studies was assessed. We extracted means and standard deviations from published reports, comparing the difference in effect sizes (Hedge’s g) in standardized mental health outcomes. We meta-analysed these using a random effects model, stratified by length of follow up, intervention type, and whether the intervention was universal (unselected) or targeted to selected groups e.g. “stressed”.
23 controlled trials of eHealth interventions were identified which overall suggested a small positive effect at both post intervention (g = 0.24, 95% CI 0.13 to 0.35) and follow up (g = 0.23, 95% CI 0.03 to 0.42). There were differential short term effects seen between the intervention types whereby Mindfulness based interventions (g = 0.60, 95% CI 0.34 to 0.85, n = 6) showed larger effects than the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) based (g = 0.15, 95% CI 0.02 to 0.29, n = 11) and Stress Management based (g = 0.17, 95%CI -0.01 to 0.34, n = 6) interventions. The Stress Management interventions however differed by whether delivered to universal or targeted groups with a moderately large effect size at both post-intervention (g = 0.64, 95% CI 0.54 to 0.85) and follow-up (g = 0.69, 95% CI 0.06 to 1.33) in targeted groups, but no effect in unselected groups.
There is reasonable evidence that eHealth interventions delivered to employees may reduce mental health and stress symptoms post intervention and still have a benefit, although reduced at follow-up. Despite the enthusiasm in the corporate world for such approaches, employers and other organisations should be aware not all such interventions are equal, many lack evidence, and achieving the best outcomes depends upon providing the right type of intervention to the correct population.