February 16, 2017
How to add mindfulness to your workplace wellness program
What if instead of stressed and overwhelmed, your employees spent their days feeling calm and focused?
Your employees don’t leave their emotions and mental health concerns at the door when they come to work.
And sometimes the stress comes from the work itself. 1 in 3 working Americans reports being chronically stressed on the job, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2016 Work and Well-being Survey.
Stress and common mental health issues such as depression can have serious costs: Health care costs, missed days, lost productivity, turnover. If your employees can’t concentrate, they can’t do their best work. Employees’ mindset affects how well they do their jobs, how they respond to co-workers and how productive they are (or aren’t).
Wellness programs can lead to better mental health
Effective workplace wellness programs have been shown to boost employees’ mental health.
Research from UCLA broke new ground by connecting participation in a workplace wellness program with enhanced mental health.
“This was the first study of a workplace wellness program that showed a clear link between improvement in physical health and improvements in mental health, quality of life, stress, and energy,” said study co-author Dr. David Merrill. “Participants reported improved feelings of calm, social satisfaction, ability to cope with stress, and an overall sense of well-being. They also reported improvement in their energy levels and better productivity at work.”
Yet traditional workplace wellness programs emphasize physical activity and nutrition while leaving out the mental and emotional facets of well-being — and they’re missing out on major components of wellness.
By addressing the topic from all angles, your workplace wellness program can take a comprehensive approach to employee well-being.
Include mindfulness for a comprehensive wellness program
Workplaces can build on successful physical wellness programs by incorporating a popular — and proven — technique for emotional health: mindfulness.
Mindful.org defines mindfulness as: “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
According to the research, mindfulness gets results. Numerous studies have found that mindfulness in the workplace offers tangible benefits, including:
- Improved productivity
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved interpersonal relationships
- Improved concentration
- Reduced health care costs
- Lower blood pressure
By practicing mindfulness, employees learn to focus on one thing at a time. They’re better able to handle whatever comes their way without losing their cool.
Holistic wellness program trend continues
Since David Gelles’ book “Mindful Work” came out in March 2015, mindfulness at work has taken off in popularity for companies large and small. A Fortune.com article last year reported that employers offering mindfulness training may jump from 22 percent in 2016 to twice that many in 2017.
“By understanding the mind-body connection and treating both physical and emotional health, employers can increase productivity and lower health care costs through improved health outcomes,” according to the article.
Bringing mindfulness into the workplace
How do you begin to introduce mindfulness into the workplace?
While it may seem like “doing nothing,” the act of focusing on the present moment can be harder than it appears. It may be uncomfortable for co-workers to sit silently together. They may realize how rarely they slow down their thoughts during the busy-ness of the work day. And the first few minutes of stillness can feel like much longer.
Begin with education
Alan Kohll offers tips on implementing mindfulness at work . He recommends beginning with educating employees about what mindfulness is and its many benefits.
Guided meditations can walk beginners through the steps with easy-to-follow instructions.
Mindfulness takes practice
Kohll’s next steps are offering mindfulness classes and time to practice. Someone new to mindfulness may start out trying to practice for five minutes at a time, and then build up to longer sessions. A simple one-minute breathing exercise counts as mindfulness.
Just like physical exercise, where even a few minutes of movement is better than nothing, a few minutes spent practicing mindfulness can reap rewards.