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The BeingWell Stress Reduction at Work

When pressure turns to stress, productivity plummets. Over time, a stressful workplace can tip into being a toxic environment. This increases risk of high absenteeism, valuable staff leaving and damage to the company reputation and brand. Mindfulness has strong evidence for reducing stress and improving mental health.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH

HOW MINDFULNESS HELPS

THE WORKPLACE ISSUE

  • Mindfulness is a preventative intervention. This gets around the problem of the stigma of singling employees out for a mental health intervention. Mindfulness is relevant for everyone and is a great wellness skill that anyone can benefit from.  Mindfulness builds resilience ‘innoculating’ against stress and improving performance.

 

  • Mindfulness helps staff to not automatically switch to “avoidance mode” when they subjectively perceive threats.  Threats, even if imagined, leads staff to “escape” through fight or flight – they switch off, shut down or behave impulsively. These states can persist long after any threat (real or not) has passed. This generates stress. Mindfulness helps staff recognise and change habitual stress reactions to everyday events. This helps set staff in “approach mode” to respond more effectively to complex situations with more clarity. Staff react less habitually and respond with more creativity and resilience

You are unlikely to easily notice the magnitude of the problem within your organisation until it is deep rooted and difficult to manage. Less than half of employees (41%) are likely to talk openly with their line manager if suffering from stress and so the problem remains festering unseen.

 

But stress spreads. Its symptoms are most noticed in reduced productivity and competitiveness, increased absenteeism, worsening relationships with co-workers and customers, higher staff turnover, and declining corporate reputation.

  • Mindfulness slows rumination. Rumination is the tendency to over-think, dwell on and worry about difficulties. Research shows that this is a big factor in generating stress and depression.  Mindfulness reduces the tendency to ruminate by improving concentration and focus

THE EVIDENCE

  • A government review endorses mindfulness. The government established the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group to carry out an eight-month inquiry into the evidence for mindfulness training in key areas including workplaces. They recommended that public sector employers pioneer good practice by running mindfulness at work projects to combat stress.  

 

  • Mental health is recognised as a boardroom issue. The City Mental Health Alliance (CMHA), a coalition of City-based employers, recognises that fear of discrimination stops workers getting support early on. A group of Business in the Community (BITC) employers also present the business case of ensuring that mental wellbeing is a strategic boardroom issue. 

 

  • Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is approved and recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) for recurrent depression. This is a condition that one in four employees will experience at some point in their working lives.  

 

  • Transport for London (TfL) reduced by 71% the number of days off for stress, anxiety and depression among employees attending a stress reduction workshop, teaching Mindfulness. Alison Dunn, TfL’s head of treatment services, said: “We have also been able to reach people who wouldn’t want to come to counselling - this has more of a training feel to it,” as reported in The Mental Health Foundation’s Mindfulness Report. Over the following three years absences for all conditions dropped by 50%. Dunn said that 80% of participants reported improvements in their relationships, 79% improvements in their ability to relax, 64% improvements in sleep patterns and 53% improvements in happiness at work.

  • Radomised control trials (RCT, gold-standard research) of employees shows mindfulness reduces stress. For example, research at a large insurance provider found significant reductions in perceived stress and sleep difficulties. The researchers concluded that “This study demonstrates not only the effectiveness, but also the viability of integrating mind-body stress management programs into the workplace using interventions of relatively short duration (12–14 hr)”. Another RCT assessed the effects of meditation on work-related wellbeing (WRW). Office-based middle-hierarchy managers received an eight-week meditation training and showed significant and long-lasting improvements in stress as well as job satisfaction and performance. The researchers said: “Meditation can effectuate a perceptual shift in how employees experience their work and psychological environment and may thus constitute a cost-effective WRW intervention”.  

 

"You Can’t Stop The Waves, But You Can Learn To Surf."

 

 

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Wherever You Go, There You Are

 

MINDFULNESS AT WORK

"We’ve seen politicians, celebrities and sports stars talk about their psychological health. Now it’s time for heads of businesses to take to the stage and normalise this issue... Absence from work shouldn’t be the only trigger for intervention; businesses and organisations need to take steps towards developing a holistic preventative approach to employee wellbeing."

 

Patrick Watt, Corporate Director

Bupa UK and Chair of BITC Workwell Mental Health Champions Group

Mindfulness at work
  • Mental ill health at work costs UK employers £26 billion each year (estimate). This equates to an average cost of £1,035 for every employee on your workforce.

 

  • Stress, depression and anxiety resulted in 15.2 million days of lost work in 2013.

 

  • A survey of over 2,000 people found that workplace stress resulted in 7% having suicidal thoughts and that this figure rose to 10% in younger members of team (18 to 24 year olds).

 

  • Up to one in five people said that they developed symptoms of anxiety because of work pressure.

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