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Should you try mindfulness at work?

Research review finds mindfulness at work may reduce anxiety, burnout and distress. But is that enough?

More and more businesses are dealing with the effects of employee burnout. Lost work days, low motivation and gaps in productivity can create big financial challenges, particularly for smaller organizations. A review of the research finds that mindfulness may help to reduce workplace stress and improve health.

Researchers looked at 35 randomized controlled studies including over 3,000 people where mindfulness-based interventions, or MBI's, were used to deal with stress-related factors such as anxiety, depression, burnout, distress and life satisfaction. They also looked for signs of resilience like emotion-regulation, mindfulness, compassion and job performance.

Participants included a wide range of professions such as social workers, factory employees, civil servants, administrators, office personnel and even professional athletes. What they found was that mindfulness-based instruction yielded generally positive results. Compared to people in control groups, those receiving mindfulness training had lower rates of anxiety, distress and burnout, and greater mindfulness, compassion, empathy, health and job performance. No differences were found for depression or emotion regulation.

In this day and age when more and more people are dealing with workplace stressors like long hours, lack of control and empowerment, job insecurity, a non-living wage and lack of health insurance, mindfulness may be one skill that can ease the burden.

"...mindfulness may be one skill that can ease the burden of stress."

Unfortunately, it will likely not be enough. Until we address the systemic problems underlying why workers and leaders are facing high levels of stress, such as corporate cultures that prioritize profits over people and do little to support people's health and wellbeing, strategies like this may serve as a temporary stop gap, but not solve the overarching ethos that creates unhealthy work environments for millions each day.


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