The research on mindfulness at work

Why would mindfulness training be even considered in the workplace? Aren't there more relevant initiatives organizations should focus on? With $93.6 billion being spent in 2017 in the US alone on talent development initiatives such as process-based improvements, strategic planning and change management, mindfulness can seem like a "nice-to-have" and not an essential component of corporate culture. When we look at the research and the reality, nothing could be farther from the truth.

We've asked the question "do you know how your mind functions?" to thousands of executives with the same response - no. For us, this response is shocking. We know our role in an organization and how it functions, but the mind that dictates and influences 100% of our interactions, is somehow left unknown.  

Mindfulness and neuroscience research

A core component of mindfulness is getting familiar with how your mind functions. Training in mindfulness is not providing you with another tool, concept or process - it is optimizing the basic human ability that impacts everything you do professionally and personally. It is an essential component of any people strategy initiative and provides employees and leaders with the ability to use the tools an organization provides them more effectively.

An essential part of making workplace mindfulness relevant is presenting the data supporting the training introduced into the workplace. Mindfulness works - over 5500 research studies have examined the impact of mindfulness practice. Research on our programs at Mindful Gateway is a crucial component in the success of workplace training. For example, in a 2017 study on an MGC Workplace Resiliency Training program, it was found that mindfulness training decreased employee stress, increased levels of mindfulness, and enhanced the willingness of employees to admit to an error - a key performance attribute for patient safety. These findings came from a randomized control study on 252 healthcare workers deployed at a leading Healthcare institution. In supporting the organizational adoption of mindfulness, this kind of research can be presented to key decision-makers within the organization to support further training in different departments.

The studies we've provided below are select mindfulness and meditation research articles evaluating workplace programs or have findings that are relevant for the workplace. Many gold-standard studies are available for reference.

When it comes to workplace relevant mindfulness research, the findings centre primarily on individual self-care and optimal performance, interpersonal effectiveness, and collective (team/organization) functioning.

Individual self-care and optimal performance:
Resilience (Jha et al., 2010)
Decision making  (Hafenbrack et al., 2014)
Productivity (Wolever et al., 2012)
Performance and well-being (Reb, Narayan, Chaturvedi, 2014)
Increased mental and physical health (Davis, D, and Hayes, JA, 2011)

Interpersonal effectiveness:
Communication (Beach et al., 2013)
Negotiation (Awaida, 2013)

Collective functioning:
Decreased team conflict and enhanced communication (Yu & Zellmer-Bruhn, 2017)
Improved group, team and organizational performance (King & Haar 2017)

Mindfulness research 2017.jpg

The research emerging around mindfulness is growing at an exponential pace and is supporting a public health movement towards mind-training as a standard in every workplace. Hundreds of peer-reviewed meditation research articles are published every year with thousands more in peripheral research Journals. Also, academic centres and their researchers are producing pioneering neuroscience mindfulness research; such as Harvard's Sara Lazar PhD, UMass Medical School's Judson Brewer MD PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison's Richard Davidson PhD, and the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences Tania Singer PhD  in Germany. These distinguished researchers are but just a few of a worldwide network for researchers establishing credibility and global adoption of mind-training.

Which studies have you come across? Does the workplace mindfulness research move you from a skeptic to being interested in practicing mindfulness?  Share why (why not!) in the comments.