Work-related stress accounts for 40% of all work-related illnesses. This is fuelled by staff who are workaholics and research shows that 10% of staff fit into this category. But learning mindfulness strategies can really help to improve the mental health of employees with an overall increase in productivity at a very small cost to the business.
This post presents the findings of a UK study conducted in 2014 that investgated the impact of mindfulness training to reduce workplace stress in high performing individuals.
Work Can be Addictive
For some employees, work can become an addiction. They display the classic addiction symptoms of wanting to be seen as important, a tendency to conflict with others, they experience mood swings, have lower tolerance and display withdrawal symptoms. Work addiction can lead to serious detrimental health consequences including where people experience:
- Extreme anxiety about pain or fatigue,
- Chemical and behavioural addiction,
- Higher rates of work-related injury,
- Reduced productivity,
- Increased absenteeism and presenteeism,
- Unsafe driving,
- Burnout, and
- Work-family conflict.
Can Mindfulness Training Help?
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that 72% of UK-based general practitioners believe can improve mental health. Mindfulness is:
- Fundamentally concerned with becoming more aware of the present moment,
- Can (and should) be practiced during everyday activities and not just when seated in meditation,
- Is cultivated more easily by using a ‘meditative anchor’ (e.g. focusing on your breathing),
- Is a practice that requires deliberate effort, and
- Is concerned with observing both sensory and cognitive-affective processes.
Mindfulness can lead to a greater awareness of your own psychological issues and this helps to embed a greater awareness of the suffering of others. Greater levels of compassion and self-compassion are thought to lead to improvements in and interpersonal skills and the levels of tolerance and cooperation when dealing with colleagues as well as senior management.
Workaholism, is associated with avoidance strategies when trying to escape from negative feelings such as guilt, depression, and anxiety. Mental urges are a conscious or sub-conscious wish to modify mood and receive gratification. Mindfulness helps to instill an understanding that mental conditions are transient and generally not permanent. By understanding that mental urges come and go, compulsive responses are no longer a driver of behaviour.
Mindfulness training helps employees to focus attention on the tasks they are engaged in without becoming so immersed in their situational awareness where their thinking is compromised.
Why Include in Your Workplace Mental Health Programmes?
The key strengths of mindfulness training as part of work-related mental health interventions is that they are:
- Cost-effective (e.g. an eight-week group training programme for 16 employees, corresponds to just one instructor hour per employee),
- Not invasive to the organization (the practice does not necessitate changes to HRM infrastructure),
- Not invasive to the employee (i.e., there are few reports of adverse effects associated with the training),
- Acceptable to employees from diverse cultural, religious, and educational backgrounds,
- Functional as ‘on the job’ practices (i.e., it can be practiced whilst engaging in work tasks), and
- Potentially able to facilitate improvements in both work-related mental health and job performance.
The research, although somewhat limited, appears to support the effectiveness of mindfulness training as part of a workplace well-being programme. This training, along with other interactive and engaging training can improve productivity and reduced absenteeism and presenteeism. Where it appears to be the most useful is for high performance ‘workaholics’ who are at risk of burnout and declining mental health. To determine if your staff are experiencing declining mental health why not try a free trial Tap into Safety’s mental health solution?