As a student and teacher of yoga as well as a current business student, I have decided to utilize my knowledge in the two different fields collaboratively. Continue reading for my researched take on the impact of mindfulness in the workplace.
The Negative Impacts of Stress
In paying attention to what is happening in the present moment, the practice of mindfulness in the workplace holds promise for alleviating suffering caused by workplace stress. As damaged health, hindered engagement, and increased turnover rates are encouraged by many of today’s modern management commonalities, many organizations are turning to alternative methods to alleviate the negative impacts on their overall performance due to poor employee health. Overall, adopting mindfulness initiatives into the workplace has the potential to shift an entire organization’s way of thinking, feeling, being, and doing for the better.
Managers who oversee employee benefits plans and employee performance outcomes have known for decades that stress in the workplace is largely problematic. As reported by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) in 2015, the annual cost of workplace mental health programs was estimated at $51 billion per year. Furthermore, it was reported that 30% of disability claims and 70% of disability costs were attributed to mental illness. In addition to the astounding impact that employee stress has on organization-wide benefits plans and disability programs, approximately $20 billion in workplace losses stemmed from poor employee retention and reduced employee productivity through both absenteeism as well as presenteeism (coming to work despite illness, injury, anxiety, etc.) in 2015. According to the MHCC, in 2018 alone, an average of 3,500,000 Canadians missed work at least once due to mental health issues.
In addition to corporate losses due to mental health declines, another impediment to the optimal functioning of a workplace is technology-influenced distraction. The emergence of new technologies in the past decade has led to an undeniable ’phase shift’ in the way humans interface with technology. Given the fast-paced and hyper-competitive digital age we live in today, practicing mindfulness can be a powerful tool in combating the lure of digital and social distraction.
Corporations Working Towards Solutions
Most usually, organizations will be more willing to invest in employee wellness initiatives if there is a predicted positive impact on the organization’s overall bottom line. As employer health care costs continue to increase, however, many companies are invested in helping employees maintain their well‐being through workplace health promotions. In alignment with the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, many organizations are now adopting mental‐health related programs in the workplace to reduce organizational costs, improve output, enhance employee retention, and increase overall organization profitability. In a survey conducted by the MHCC in 2015, 90% of participating organizations noted that “protecting the psychological health of employees” was their top reason for implementing their new mental‐ health related programs.
Mindfulness as a Win‐Win strategy
In terms of adopting mindfulness into the workplace, initiatives including corporate yoga, mindful meditation workshops, and self‐sustaining mindfulness workplace programs have proven to provide immense results regarding employee stress with low organizational cost. There are many different ways to practice mindfulness in the workplace including meditation, body scanning, breath awareness, and yoga. With guidance, employees can begin to practice calming their minds and learning the signals that their bodies send when under duress. Reflected by a subtle shift in consciousness towards the integration of work and humanity, the simple practice of mindful meditation rewires the brain in a way that allows individuals to become more resilient to the stressors and distractions of every day life. Through patient and diligent practice, people can train their minds to mitigate the effects of stressful situations, opening themselves up to less emotional reactivity, increased stress tolerance, and fewer interruptions from intrusive, distressing, and distracting thoughts.
Most effective mindfulness‐based workplace programs involve up to 20 hours of instruction with daily home practice over an extended period of time. According to one study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), which analyzed employee well-being in the workplace through mindfulness-based yoga, it was concluded that organizations can utilize mindfulness as a cost-effective, curative, and preventive measure in controlling and combatting workplace stress with the result of improved workplace productivity. To further detail this study, the NCBI researchers divided a company of 160 employees (88 males, 72 females) into two focus groups of 80 people each; the Control Group and the Yoga Group. Each group was led through daily (5 days per week) activity for a total of 10 weeks. The Control Group was provided with 35 minutes of project management theory while simultaneously being led through physical activity such as spot jogging, loosening exercises, and strengthening exercises every day. The Yoga Group was provided with 35 minutes of mindfulness theory and yoga postures every day. Each group was also lead through 15 minutes of breathing exercises and was provided 10 minutes of daily rest.
By the end of the 10 week study, the Yoga Group, which focused largely on the practice of mindfulness, showed results of increased productivity, lower aggression, and higher overall positivity compared to the Control Group. As stated by this study’s researchers, “Yoga in the workplace enhances employee well‐being by reducing hostile work‐related behaviours and creating a more positive work environment. The strength of mindfulness is that it can be used as a self‐management technique where an individual can practice it anywhere at any time.”
As a whole, mindfulness focuses on transforming how individuals relate to stress, rather than altering the external conditions or circumstances that induce stress primitively. In other words, when done correctly, implementing mindfulness initiatives into an organization’s corporate strategy has the potential to greatly increase employee energy and productivity, without the need for drastic and costly changes related to business policy and/or strategy. As a result, organization‐wide advances such as increased workplace efficiency, higher retention rates, and lowered benefit plan costs due to mentally healthier employee are all major results with overall positive bottom-line impacts.
The much-needed adoption of mindfulness into the corporate workplace provides a considerable amount of organization-wide benefits including an increase in productivity and a decrease in the impacts that employee stress has on an organization’s bottom line. Though the individual costs of different individual costs of different mindfulness initiatives vary, it can be concluded that mindful employees are far more productive than those who feel their employers disregard their mental health. As a result, it has been shown that through mindfulness-based stress management initiatives, employers have the potential to reduce the costs of stress and overall create healthier workplace cultures for their employees. There are many different methods of workplace mindfulness for managers to adopt. Overall, a strategic mindfulness-based approach provides both flexible and low cost options for managers, with positive prospects for a high return on investment. Companies that strategically train their workforce to be more mindful are likely to have a strong competitive advantage through lower health care expenditures and higher employee productivity.
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Mental Health Commission of Canada, MHCC (2019). Beaty and Wilson: Get Mental Health at Work up to Standard. Retrieved from
Mental Health Commission of Canada, MHCC (2015). Case Study Research Project: Early Findings Interim Report. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/sites/default/files/mhcc_casestudyinterimresult
O’Donnell, A. (2015). Contemplative Pedagogy and Mindfulness: Developing Creative Attention in an Age of Distraction. Journal of Philosophy and Education. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1467‐9752.12136
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