Mindfulness training: its scope and outcomes in the workplace

While it’s worrying to see so many people struggling with workplace stress and anxiety, it’s encouraging to see more organisations taking employee health seriously.

Here’s a brilliant article I spotted recently in the Human Resource Management Digest.  It’s a literature review that helps us understand the scale of the problem and more importantly, it demonstrates how mindfulness is helping to tackle the issue.

Avoiding responsibility for employee mental health, either intentionally or unintentionally, is considered a poor business choice these days.  Many organisations do take steps to embed individual and team mindfulness in the organisational culture but many fall way short.  If this is true for you, maybe your workplace needs you to ask for it.  If you work in HR, why not quote the article below to promote mindfulness in your workplace?  If you need some help, just drop us a line here.

 

Modern business practice is characterized by constantly changing, competitive and complex environments with the increased demands of globalization and technological development. Demanding work conditions involving high performance requirements, heavy workload, deadlines and management of work and personal roles can in some cases lead to anxiety, stress, emotional exhaustion, burnout and health issues. In turn, this has an adverse effect on the learning and performance of employees and on organizational effectiveness, therefore employee well-being is an important consideration for human resource managers. One area of increasing interest to researchers and practitioners in the promotion of physical and psychological health is the practice of mindfulness.

A research paper by Johnson et al. (2020) examines the scope of mindfulness as an intervention in the workplace and identifies the outcomes of mindfulness training at individual, job, team/group and organizational levels. A literature review of twenty eight empirical studies is carried out using Torraco (2005) and Briner and Denyer’s (2012) four steps method.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the process of training the mind to pay more attention to the present moment, specifically to your own thoughts and feelings and to the world around you. This is a skill which can be developed through training using techniques such as meditation and relaxation exercises. The practice of mindfulness has been shown to increase resilience, emotional intelligence and concentration as well as improving relationships and self- awareness. As it helps individuals manage their day-to-day wellbeing and promotes emotional balance it is considered to be an up and coming approach to supporting employees with regard to mental health issues, burnout and work-related stress. Training in mindfulness is increasingly being introduced by organizations however research into the effectiveness of this training is limited and still in its infancy in human resource development literature.

The scope of mindfulness training in the workplace

The literature review identifies features of mindfulness training in the workplace from the 28 empirical research examined. Most studies have been carried out since 2015 within a positivist research paradigm examining mindfulness as an independent variable. Common themes are anxiety, depression, stress, compassion, turnover intention and job performance and findings have included enhancing working memory and slowing the aging process.

Most studies are carried out in higher education and health care setting but other industry sectors in which mindfulness training takes place include marketing, insurance, pharmaceutical companies, restaurants and service centers. Research findings are mostly published in health care and psychology-related journals as opposed to training, business and HRD related publications.

A range of training programs are used as an intervention the most researched being the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Most programs have a similar format with an average running time of 8 weeks of 2 hour sessions. Training can involve a range of activities including formal presentations, meditation, mindful communication, mindful journaling and body awareness. The training is considered to be a cost-effective way of improving employees’ well-being and productivity. A range of measures are being introduced to measure the effectiveness of the training programs.

The outcomes of mindfulness training in the workplace

This study carries out an analysis and review of 28 empirical studies and identifies 51 significant outcomes of mindfulness training categorized at four levels individual (23), job (17), team/group (7) and organizational (4). At the individual level mindfulness training is shown to promote positive change in cognitive and emotional aspects. It contributes to increased well-being in employees through a reduction in stress, burnout, turnover intentions, anxiety, emotional exhaustion and distress. At the job related level it can increase job productivity and other job-related positive outcomes including job satisfaction, engagement and work-life balance. Group and team related outcomes include improved relationships between team members with more social support, reduced conflict, a sense of community and team cooperation and productivity. Finally, at the organizational level through mindfulness initiatives employees were more willing to engage in positive work culture and practice, leader procedural justice enactment and organizational mindfulness.

Practical Implications

The literature review shows that mindfulness training programs promote physical, psychological and productivity benefits however only a minority of organizations are putting this training in place. Leaders and managers should consider incorporating mindfulness practice as part of their professional development programs to improve performance levels within the organization.

The study’s findings demonstrate how mindfulness training can have an impact at the job level improving employee productivity and performance. As such assessment of mindfulness traits could be a valuable tool for the recruitment process.

In addition leaders could consider the design aspects with regard to physical space as they introduce the practice of mindfulness and take ideas from institutions which promote a mindful state in their members for example retreat centers.

Commentary

The review is based on “Mindfulness training in the workplace: exploring its scope and outcomes”, by Johnson et al. (2020), published in European Journal of Training and Development The purpose of this study is to carry out a literature review in order to examine the scope of mindfulness as an intervention in the workplace and identify the outcomes of mindfulness training at individual, job, team/group and organizational levels. The results find 51 significant outcomes of mindfulness training categorized at four levels individual (23), job (17), team/group (7) and organizational (4). Therefore leaders and managers should consider incorporating mindfulness practice as part of their professional development programs to improve performance levels within the organization. This paper has an original approach by providing a summary of the scope and outcomes of mindfulness training at a range of levels within the organization.

References

Briner, R. and Denyer, D. (2012), “Systematic review and evidence synthesis as a practice and scholarship tool”, in Rousseau, D. (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Evidence-Based Management, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 112-129.

Johnson, K.R., Park, S. and Chaudhuri, S. (2020), “Mindfulness training in the workplace: exploring its scope and outcomes”, European Journal of Training and Development, Vol. 44 Nos 4/5, pp. 341-354, doi: 10.1108/EJTD-09-2019-0156

Torraco, R.J. (2005), “Writing integrative literature reviews: guidelines and examples”, Human Resource Development Review, Vol. 4 No. 3, pp. 356-367.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.