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Tap into the power of mindfulness to enhance workforce well-being

Why are leading organizations — from tech giants like Google to traditional institutions like the United States Marine Corps — incorporating mindfulness into their workforce health strategies? Because it’s a simple, effective tool for managing stress, enhancing engagement, and promoting a culture of wellness at work.

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What mindfulness means — and why it matters

Mindfulness is simple. At its core, it’s a concentrated effort to be fully present in the moment in a nonjudgmental way, without dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. It can train the brain to be more focused, efficient, and better at managing stress — which is especially valuable in the workplace, where mental strain can skyrocket.

Research also suggests that practicing mindfulness brings physiological benefits, including better sleep and an improved ability to cope with pain. A 2018 study at Harvard even found that the simple act of clearing the mind for 15 minutes a day helps reduce blood pressure.1

The health and cost benefits of mindfulness: mindfulness reduces stress, improves sleep, and lowers blood pressure. Health care costs are nearly 50% higher for chronically stressed employees. Each sleep-deprived employee costs employers an extra $1,200 to $3,100 annually. Health care costs are about 30% higher for employees with high blood pressure.

 

Mindful employees have lower risk for heart disease. They’re more likely to avoid smoking, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise regularly.

A stress management skill anyone can master

It’s no surprise that stress is the number one workforce health concern for U.S. employers.2 Health care costs are nearly 50% higher for chronically stressed employees — and highly stressed workers miss more than twice as many days as their less stressed peers.3,4

Mindfulness is by no means a silver bullet — but it is a simple and effective stress management tool that can be practiced anytime, anywhere. And in addition to helping employees manage stress in the moment, it can help them become more resilient to negative effects of stress in the future.

Mindfulness in action

Good things happen when mindfulness becomes embedded in workforce culture:

Enhanced productivity and focus — Mindfulness is the perfect counterbalance to information overload, constant distractions, and competing demands in the workplace. And working mindfully is essentially the opposite of multitasking — which reduces productivity by as much as 40%.5

Openness to innovation — Mindfulness enhances creativity. It can encourage employees to explore new ideas, and help them find clever solutions to problems. Mindful employees are also more resilient to setbacks and criticism.

Healthier work relationships — One hallmark of a mindful employee is their ability to regulate emotions and display empathy for others — creating a more positive work environment for everyone.

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Consider this: Mindful employees can strengthen your bottom line

Mindfulness can help employees be fully present and truly focused at work. This is the very essence of employee engagement. Highly engaged workers are happier, healthier, and more loyal than their unengaged counterparts — and when employee engagement increases, so do company profits.
Companies with engaged employees have 21% higher profitability, 41% lower absenteeism, and 24%-59% less turnover.

Start putting mindfulness to work

Mindfulness is easy to teach and simple to practice. As Kathy Gerwig, vice president of employee safety, health, and wellness at Kaiser Permanente explains, “Employers of any size can create a plan based on an assessment of employee needs, and then structure their programs to fit available resources.” Here are some practical ways to bring mindfulness into the workplace:

  • Create time and space. A designated quiet zone is a great place to start. In a space they can use however and whenever they want, even skeptical employees might be open to giving mindfulness a try.
  • Bring mindfulness to meetings. Begin with a collective pause to take a deep breath and focus. It’s a simple way to help everyone be fully present in the meeting — and embed mindfulness into day-to-day work culture.
  • Tap into digital solutions. There are lots of apps and programs that make mindfulness easy and accessible for beginners, and many offer special rates and packages for employer groups.
  • Lead by example. Promoting mindfulness from the top down demonstrates that the bosses walk the talk — and it can also make you a better leader. 80% of senior executives at General Mills who took a mindfulness course said it helped them make better decisions, and 89% said they became better listeners.6

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Mindfulness programs can deliver lasting results. Even a year after participating, employees reported 31% lower stress levels and 28% more energy at work.

 

Mindfulness as part of your workplace wellness strategy

Research about the true benefits of organization-wide mindfulness is still in its infancy. But for many business leaders, it’s already proven to be a simple, affordable, and effective workplace wellness initiative. It’s certainly worth exploring — as one more way you can foster a resilient, mentally healthy workforce.

3 leaders making mindfulness a business priority: Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, uses the Headspace app for his daily guided meditations and explains that effective management requires slowing down. William Clay Ford Jr., Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company, incorporates mindfulness meditation sessions and yoga classes into his company’s work culture. Oprah Winfrey, celebrity media mogul, has teamed up with Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra to create mindfulness podcasts, retreats, and discussions – and credits meditation with changing her life for the better.

 

About our expert

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Amy Arnold, MS, HC, CHES, RYT 200

Amy Arnold is East Coast Director for Workforce Health at Kaiser Permanente. She holds a Master’s in Health Promotion Management, is a certified health education specialist and health coach, as well as a registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance. Before Kaiser Permanente, Amy owned a boutique health and wellness company in Virginia specializing in creating overall well-being and resilience. She also worked at AOL developing and launching online products and large-scale programs. Amy has been involved with mindfulness and meditation for over 12 years and they are an essential part of Amy’s everyday life.

 

  • 1

    Richard Knox, “Harvard Study: Clearing Your Mind Affects Your Genes and Can Lower Your Blood Pressure,” NPR News’ WBUR
    CommonHealth, April 6, 2018.

  • 2

    “Seventy-five Percent of U.S. Employers Say Stress is Their Number One Workplace Health Concern,” Willis Towers Watson press release, June 29, 2016.

  • 3

    “Stress at Work,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cdc.gov, accessed May 29, 2019.

  • 4

    David McNeice, “Is Workplace Stress Affecting Your Company’s Bottom Line?” willistowerswatson.com, July 26, 2016.

  • 5

    Tim Newman, “Multitasking Brain Mechanisms Examined,” MedicalNewsToday.org, June 23, 2017.

  • 6

    David Gelles, “The Mind Business,” Financial Times, August 24, 2012.