Reducing workplace stress with mindfulness. What's the best approach?

There is an ever-increasing awareness that mental health-related health issues are rising. The pandemic-related spike in stress has been linked to a variety of issues. For example, increased levels of stress, anxiety, lack of social interactions and other mental health problems. For businesses, it is crucial to look after their staff and help maintain their mental health. This is for both their long-term sustainability but also their bottom line. Mental health-related sick days and loss of productivity are one of the major business costs to UK businesses [1]. Before the pandemic, in the UK unexplained mental health sick days cost SMEs an estimated £1.4 billion [2]. Can we use mindfulness to address this issue?

What is mindfulness?

One of the approaches many businesses are taking is to use mindfulness. According to the NHS mindfulness “is paying more attention to the present moment. To your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you…it can improve your mental well-being.”  Professor Williams says that “Mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience, and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful.” Within the workplace, employers are increasingly using mindfulness training to address these issues. But until recently there has not been much research on the most effective way to reduce stress through mindfulness at work.

As the practice of mindfulness continues to rise, there has been a parallel emergence of online mindfulness programs. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it is estimated that 60% of the mid-to-large-sized companies in America offered mindfulness programs for their employees. The market size for related services reached one billion dollars. Nevertheless, there is a lack of evidence to suggest that using apps to guide mindfulness is actually effective in the workplace.

What does the research say?

Researchers found that live mindfulness sessions, supplemented by recorded sessions were the most effective at reducing stress at work. They found that live sessions alone conferred a smaller but significant reduction in stress. But when used in conjunction with recorded lessons stress was reduced the most significantly. However, interestingly when used alone recorded sessions did not have a significant effect on stress reduction. They also found that regular long-term practicing of mindfulness had the greatest effect on reducing stress [3].

We know from previous research that blended learning is more effective than traditional approaches [4]. So, it is not surprising that a combination of live and pre-recorded sessions was most effective. It suggests that humans respond well to the multi-modal approach.

Online learning and mindfulness

How does online mindfulness training fit into this? Mindfulness training can help give you and your employees the tools to be able to take advantage of both live and recorded mindfulness sessions. We have CPD-approved courses on our site that explore the benefits of mindfulness and living in the moment. They use practical techniques and exercises to help you discover how mindfulness can help you stay positive and resilient to setbacks and challenges. Equipping you and your team with the skills and then facilitating a blended approach is likely to be the most effective way of helping to reduce stress at work and maintain a sustainable working environment.

You can view a selection of online mindfulness courses here.

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[3] Wolever RQ, Finn MTM, Shields D 2022, The Relative Contributions of Live and Recorded Online Mindfulness Training Programs to Lower Stress in the Workplace: Longitudinal Observational Study J Med Internet Res 2022;24(1):e31935 doi: 10.2196/31935

[4] Means B, Toyama Y, Murphy R, Baki M. The Effectiveness of Online and Blended Learning: A Meta-Analysis of the Empirical Literature. Teachers College Record. 2013;115(3):1-47. doi:10.1177/016146811311500307

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