Building the business case for evidence-based mindfulness

When considering offering mindfulness training to employees, it is important to do your research. Juliet Adams explains some of the approaches, because not all are the same.

Read case studies such as those in the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IoSH) guide to introducing mindfulness within organisations (to be published shortly on the IOSH website).

Start with the outcomes in mind. What is it that you hope will be improved by staff attending mindfulness training? Is the programme standalone or part of a wider organisational initiative?

Once the desired outcomes are identified, research the evidence base to support your proposal. Mindfulness reduces stress, worry, and emotional reactivity, while increasing working memory, cognitive flexibility, self-awareness, ethical behaviour, relationship satisfaction and wellbeing (Davis et al, 2011).

In addition, there are now a number of workplace-specific papers on the effect of mindfulness on staff. For example, Hafenbrack et al (2013) found mindfulness improved decision making; Dane et al (2013) said it increased the ability to work in high-pressure environments; and in Adams (2011), that it improved work-life balance.

Select an appropriate trainer

Find a trainer who has been appropriately trained to teach mindfulness, and whose approach and experience fits well with your organisation. Consider using workplace- focused approaches to teaching mindfulness such as Corporate Based Mindfulness Training (CBMT) or WorkplaceMT.

At present, no workplace-specific guidelines exist for mindfulness teachers. Medical and generic mindfulness teacher training guidelines have been drawn up in consultation with UK teaching centres based in a number of universities including Bangor, Aberdeen and Oxford, along with smaller independent mindfulness teacher training organisations. These are known as the “Good practice guidelines” (GPG). They cover secular mindfulness-based programmes taught in the mainstream, which may also be taught in the workplace.

The latest edition of the GPG (2015) is designed to cover teachers of eight-week mindfulness-based courses that have 30 to 40 minutes daily home practice. Teachers of shorter workplace-specific courses with shorter home practice requirements are currently not covered by the GPG, but reputable workplace trainers are likely to adhere to the majority of GPG guidelines, so this is a good starting point.

Piloting and evaluation

Evaluate the outcomes, tweak and refine before rolling mindfulness programmes out further. Consider using FFMQ to measure mindfulness (Baer et al, 2006) or PSS (Cohen et al, 1983) to measure stress before and after the mindfulness intervention – both have been widely used in mindfulness research. Alternative measures to consider are DASS 21 (measuring depression, anxiety and stress) or one of the many burnout scales (Lovibond PF and Lovibond SH, 1995). Organisational metrics may also be appropriate – discuss this with your mindfulness trainer.

If the feedback from staff is favourable, it is important to think carefully about the roll-out process.

Offer mindfulness training to a wider audience with more mindfulness classes at convenient times and locations. These can be wholly in work time, partly in work time and partly in employees’ own time. If a fast roll-out is desired, ensure all trainers are suitably trained and experienced and remain on message.

Maintaining momentum

Larger organisations may offer staff a number of ways to keep the momentum going. These may include:

  • Staff drop-in sessions – opportunities to practice mindfulness for a short time together as a group.
  • Face-to-face drop-ins – typically 30 minutes, run by an experienced mindfulness teacher, or a suitably trained in-house mindfulness champion.
  • Web or phone sessions – Mindfulcall offers weekly phone-based drop-in sessions that can be accessed from anywhere you have a phone. This approach was piloted and worked well at telecoms giant BT.
  • Providing a space to practice in: a number of organisations – for example, credit card company Capital One – provide a space for staff to practise mindfulness in work time.

A note of caution:

  • Never force people to attend. Mindfulness involves changing the way you think and respond to the challenges you face. You cannot force someone to change their mind –they have to want to.
  • Mindfulness is not a quick fix or cure all, it takes time.
  • Mindfulness is not a cure for toxic or unhealthy working environments. Some people attending mindfulness training come to the realisation that they do not wish stay with their organisation, whereas others become a catalyst for organisational change.

Juliet Adams is director of A Head for Work. She is the author of “Mindfulness at work for dummies” and “Making the business case for mindfulness”. For more information on making the business case for mindfulness and the evidence base, visit the Mindfulnet website.

References

Baer RA, Smith GT, Hopkins J, Krietemeyer J, Toney AL (2006). “FFMQ: Five facet mindfulness questionnaire. Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness”. Assessment, vol.13, pp.27-45.

Cohen S, Kamarck T, Mermelstein R. PSS = Perceived stress scale (1983). “A Global Measure of Perceived Stress”. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, vol.24, pp.385-396.

Dane E, Brummel BJ (2014). “Examining workplace mindfulness and its relations to job performance and turnover intention”. Human Relations, vol.67, pp.105-128.

Davis DM, Hayes JA (2011). “What are the benefits of mindfulness? A practice review of psychotherapy-related research”. Psychotherapy, vol.48, no.2, June 2011, pp.198-208.

Hafenbrack AC, Kinias Z, Barsade Sigal G (2013). Debiasing the Mind Through Meditation – Mindfulness and the Sunk-Cost Bias, available at http://pss.sagepub.com/content/25/2/369

Lovibond PF, Lovibond SH (1995). DASS 21 = Depression, Anxiety Stress scales. “The structure of negative emotional states: Comparison of the depression anxiety stress scales (DASS) with the Beck depression and anxiety inventories”. Behaviour Research and Therapy, vol.33, pp.335-343.

UK Network for Mindfulness-Based Teachers (2015). Good practice guidelines for teaching mindfulness-based courses.

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