Is mindfulness relevant in work?

With the overabundance of initiatives and training programs in organizations, it is essential to make sure that any new initiatives (including workplace mindfulness ones) have a foundation in research, are accessible and most of all, relevant.

The relevance of workplace mindfulness rests mainly within the domains of self-care and optimizing individual and collective performance. Work can be a space where we continually focus on everyone else’s needs and end up forgetting our own.  To take care of others, we need to take care of ourselves first. A workplace environment that does not nurture the most important asset (it's employees) may be promoting burnout, mental health challenges and disengagement.

According to the World Health Organization, as of 2018 depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and the economic burden of mental illness in the US alone is $210 billion per year according to a recent study. According to a report released by The Conference Board of Canada in 2016, depression costs the Canadian economy at least $32.3 billion annually, while anxiety costs another $17.3 billion a year. In comparison, a recent study by Mental Health America stress costs the US economy an estimated $500 billion per year. Moreover, these metrics are only rising. Mindfulness research is portraying mindfulness as an effective means of self-care training that delivers at scale with practices that are workplace-ready and accessible to anyone.  If you or your organization is facing increased stress, change or mental health challenges, workplace mindfulness training can provide the self-care skills required to sustain the cyclical nature of business, and pressures faced within workplace environments.

At the University Health Network, a global leading research and healthcare institution, the organization saw an opportunity to support the impact of work on employee well-being by introducing a mindfulness-based resiliency training program. MGC delivered the training and partnered with the Richard Ivey School of Business to study its effect in the workplace. Findings showed that not only did the training increase mindfulness and reduce stress, but it also enhanced the willingness for staff to admit that they made an error and to feel that they had the resources to stay resilient in the errors they committed. General interest from the 17,000 employees led to over 754 completing the training for self-care and professional development.

A Leadership 2030 study out of Hay Group presents self-awareness, self-control, empathy, influence and teamwork as the most anticipated workplace skills required in today's highly connected and knowledge-work dominant workplace. In light of this Talent Development and Human Resource initiatives are incorporating new training approaches to develop these emerging and relevant skills. In the US alone $93.6 billion was spent in 2017 on talent development, up from $70.6 billion from the year before. With research showing that mindfulness training enhances self-awareness, interpersonal skills and the capacity to regulate emotions and attention, it is becoming more and more relevant in the workplace. Workplace mindfulness training may be a relevant conversation to have if optimizing your own or your employees social and emotional intelligence is of interest.

In 2017, the Talent Development team at a leading Financial Institutions (FI), was searching for solutions to develop resilience, interpersonal skills and self-care capacity of call centre workers. The FI chose workplace mindfulness because of the research-base supporting the impact of the training and its potential to sustain. MGC trained 87 employees across the selected department in customized multi-week training focused on the departments' needs, with post-evaluations showing a beneficial impact on the employee, team and client experience. One year post training the employee mindfulness at work exercises and practice continue to sustain department-wide, further supporting the organizations' performance, engagement and well-being goals.

Establishing relevance requires choosing a consultant/trainer or team of trainers that is the right fit and second; delivering workplace mindfulness gold-standard programs backed by research, based in workplace context and in a language that addresses all audiences. Another aspect of bringing mindfulness to your organization is determining if your workplace is mindfulness ready - we'll cover what's needed for this in an upcoming article!

Could mindfulness be relevant in your work today?  Share why (why not!) in the comments.