Reduce Stress and Improve Well-Being in a Workplace with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Becoming aware of what’s going on around you can make a huge difference, because we spend so much time wrapped up in our thoughts that we lose contact with the real world. That’s especially the case if you’re constantly bombarded by email, Facebook posts and Twitter. It’s not really conducive to a calm and productive work environment.“ – Danny Penman
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 people we work with. 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. 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. These programs attempt to increase the employees’ mindfulness at work and thereby reduce stress and burnout.
In today’s Research News article “A mindfulness training program based on brief practices (M-PBI) to reduce stress in the workplace: a randomised controlled pilot study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6060839/ ), Arredondo and colleagues recruited stressed employees and randomly assigned them to either be in a wait-list control group or to receive an 8-week mindfulness training program. The training occurred once a week for 1.5 hours and included daily practices. The participants were measured before and after training and 20 weeks later for mindfulness, perceived stress, self-compassion, decentering, burnout, and heart rate variability.
They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group the mindfulness trained group had significant decreases in perceived stress and the components of burnout of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment, and significant increases in mindfulness, self-compassion, and decentering. These differences were enduring as they were still significant at the 20-week follow-up. They also found an increase in heart rate variability indicative of reduced stress.
These results are very encouraging and suggest that mindfulness training can be very beneficial in reducing workplace stress levels and burnout. It also appears to improve the overall psychological well-being of the employees improving mindfulness, self-compassion, and decentering. The ability of mindfulness training to reduce stress and burnout, and to increase self-compassion and decentering have been previously observed with different participant population. The study would have been stronger had an active control group been included. But, nevertheless the findings are suggestive that mindfulness training can be quite beneficial for stressed employees.
So, reduce stress and improve well-being in a workplace with mindfulness.
“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 Hansen
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Arredondo, M., Sabaté, M., Valveny, N., Langa, M., Dosantos, R., Moreno, J., & Botella, L. (2017). A mindfulness training program based on brief practices (M-PBI) to reduce stress in the workplace: a randomised controlled pilot study. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 23(1), 40–51. http://doi.org/10.1080/10773525.2017.1386607
Work stress is a major contributor to absenteeism and reduced work productivity. A randomised and controlled study in employee-volunteers (with Perceived Stress Scale [PSS-14]>22) was performed to assess a mindfulness program based on brief integrated mindfulness practices (M-PBI) with the aim of reducing stress in the workplace. The PSS-14 of the employees before and after 8-weeks M-PBI program, as well as after a 20-week follow-up, was assessed (primary endpoint). The employees also carried the following questionnaires (secondary endpoints): Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ), Self-Compassion Scale (SCS), Experiences Questionnaire-Decentering (EQ-D), and Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey (MBI-GS). Heart Rate Variability (HRV) was measured during each session in a subgroup of employees (n = 10) of the interventional group randomly selected. A total of 40 employees (77.5% female median [SD] age of 36.6 [5.6] years) took part in this study: 21 and 19 in the intervention and control group, respectively. No differences in baseline characteristics were encountered between the groups. Results show a significant decrease in stress and increase in mindfulness over time in the intervention group (PSS-14 and FFMQ; p < 0.05 both). Additionally, an improvement in decentering (EQ-D), self-compassion (SCS) and burnout (MBI-GS) were also observed compared to the control group (p < 0.05 in all). HRV measurement also showed an improvement. In conclusion, a brief practices, 8-weeks M-BIP program is an effective tool to quickly reduce stress and improve well-being in a workplace.