There is a growing push towards a new approach of dealing with stress management that many believe should be incorporated into the work environment, with company well being initiatives getting behind the movement. The approach, known as Mindfulness is a meditation based approach to stress management and many are backing the technique through a growing number of peer review papers highlighting a number of benefits.
As well as the growing number of papers published around the topic, there is also an increasing interest from businesses, with a number of major international corporations including Google and PricewaterhouseCoopers, as well as the NHS and London Business School, recently launching mindfulness programs. It is thought however that those introducing mindfulness into the corporate setting are not those involved in well being and health strategy, but those in senior management positions who have experienced the benefits first-hand elsewhere.
Mindfulness in the workplace
One of those senior managers is Kenneth Egelund Schmidt, vice-president and chief information officer of the IT division at Carlsberg. Schmidt is now offering mindfulness training to the 400 employees in his division; personally he has been using mindfulness techniques for two years and believes it helps him to deal with the continuous pressure associated with his job.
Schmidt believes that mindfulness is an excellent way to escape all the noise around you and in your head and offers a great technique for letting go. By introducing each employee to mindfulness it means he is giving them the responsibility for coping with their issues rather than Schmidt having to manage by himself. The biggest challenge he faced was managing expectations of the program – he needed to show his workers it isn’t all about ‘religion, hippies and sitting in the lotus position and chanting’. Schmidt approached his 400 employees offering them all the scientific research reinforcing mindfulness and advised them to look it over and then decide if they want to take a course – the result being along all 400 employees signed up straight away and so far it has yielded positive results.
Improved Well Being and Reduced Signs of Burnout
According to a growing body of research, mindfulness is not something that needs to be practiced for a long period of time to begin showing positive results. It has been shown that people can do as little as 10 minutes of meditation per day to help improve overall well being and reduce signs of burnout and other stress related problems. Other studies have shown that the same period of time can also help to positively alter parts of the brain that are linked to learning and memory, as well as the ability to better regulate their emotions.
While there is an ever growing body of research to support the practice of mindfulness, critics have pointed to the type of studies conducted as well as the limited sample sizes with each. The studies also look at what positive effects meditation has on people and the potential effects that would occur if introduced to the working environment; however there is limited corporate data around the process.
At present there are a limited number of examples pertaining to the use of mindfulness practices within the working environment. As the movement becomes further incorporated into workplace cultures it is believed that this situation will change over time. Those working as part of an organizations health and well being strategy need to be as informed as possible if this does occur and be prepared and be prepared to move on this if it continues to show strong potential for enhancing workplace well being.