June Mindfulness and Workplace Wellness Research Round-Up

BL00 - Mindfulness and Workplace Wellness Research Round-Up

By The Mindful Leader Team

This month, we first look at survey findings on mental health among the US workforce and a new model for better understanding flow in the workplace. Then, we’ll turn to empirical findings regarding the profound impact of intensive meditation as well as those concerning mindfulness, attentional awareness, and job performance. Lastly, we explore the positive health benefits of trauma-informed yoga among vulnerable populations. We have summarized the main ideas and key takeaways below with links to the full articles.

Survey: Mental Health Worsens for 34% of US Workers    

Over 1,100 US workers shared their thoughts about mental health, engagement levels, and job security in the Conference Board’s latest survey. Over one-third of workers (34%) said their mental health has gotten worse over the last six months and 37% feel a lower sense of belonging. So, what’s responsible for this decline in mental health, and is there anything workplaces can do about it? Top of the list for many respondents was burnout from long hours and excessive workloads. Indeed, nearly half of the workers who reported decreased mental health (48%) worked 50+ hours a week, but poor workplace communication and the struggle to strike adequate work-life balance were also commonly reported contributing factors. As might be expected, many who reported lower mental health also said they had decreased levels of engagement (70%). When it comes to discussing such issues with employers, workers feel less comfortable talking about mental health concerns with their manager compared to a year ago; twice as many workers now report feeling this way.

Key Points:

  • According to workers, flexibility and work-life balance would help the most when it comes to improving their mental health. Popular changes workers would like to see include being able to take “no work” or “mental health” PTO days (55%), flexible/hybrid work schedule (52%), remote work opportunities (42%), and training managers to promote a healthy work-life balance (47%).
  • For the workers who felt a decreased desire to stay at their company during the past six months, nearly half confirm that policies promoting flexibility and work-life balance would help to positively impact their intent to stay.
  • Even though mental health concerns are increasing among workers, 73% of workers overall remain secure (or very secure) about keeping their jobs.

Read the full article on The Conference Board.

The Cognitive Control Model of Work-related Flow  

Flow, as a cognitive state, is generally understood as the holistic sensation in which one becomes totally absorbed in what they are doing, acting with total, focused involvement. Much previous research has been dedicated to trying to understand how individual and environmental (i.e., workplace) factors work to promote or hinder flow. This paper expands upon the cognitive control model of work-related flow (CCMWF) and proposes that flow metacognition (the belief and conscious acknowledgment that flow will improve job performance), grit, and mindfulness indirectly influence work outcomes (specifically work performance, engagement, and burnout) through their effect on promoting flow state. Beyond just offering a further developed theoretical model, this paper provides empirical evidence from a series of three studies to support this model. In the first experiment, researchers observed variance in flow metacognition among workers and found that the more a worker believed in the positive utility of flow, the more often they reported experiencing flow. The second study then explored how individual grit, trait mindfulness, and flow metacognition contribute to flow and work outcomes, with results indicating that these three factors each mediate, or explain, the relationship between flow and job performance, engagement, and burnout. Lastly, the final experiment looked at state mindfulness and led the researchers to slightly modify the model where state mindfulness is understood as directly affecting grit, which then subsequently determines state flow.

Key Points:

  • The CCMWF offers a cohesive model that integrates flow metacognition, grit, and mindfulness as factors contributing to flow, where flow level then determines work outcomes of job performance, engagement, and burnout. Therefore, manipulating flow metacognition, grit, and/or mindfulness can all have downstream effects on work outcomes.
  • Most importantly for employers, these findings would suggest that flow might be best promoted through developing flow-inducing competencies in individual employees (i.e., grit, mindfulness, and flow metacognition) rather than attempting to shape the workplace environment to be more flow-inducing.

Read the full article on Frontiers in Psychology.

Study finds meditation retreats can lead to profound changes in consciousness

According to a new study published in the journal Mindfulness, “intensive” meditation may be a pathway to eliciting a profound, mystical experience during which one feels a sense of unity with all things, a loss of self-identity, and a feeling of transcendence. While these types of meaningful spiritual experiences are well linked to the use of certain psychedelics, less is known about the potential for meditation to induce similar states of being. In this study, 32 experienced meditators were randomly assigned to participate in an intensive meditation retreat or simply continue with their daily meditation routine. Participants completed the States of Consciousness Questionnaire and the Mysticism Scale before and after the three-week retreat to qualitatively assess their meditation-related experiences.

Key Points:

  • Those who participated in the intensive meditation retreat reported significantly higher levels of profound, meaningful, and mystical experiences than those who continued with their normal routine.
  • Further analysis of the data indicates that the factors most responsible for this difference between groups were altered time perception, unity with others/nature, and feelings of peace and joyfulness.
  • Although this study had a small sample size, the findings suggest that intensive meditation techniques and practices have the capability to cause profound changes in consciousness/conscious experience among practiced meditators.

Read the full article on PsyPost.

An Empirical Study to Evaluate the Impact of Mindfulness on Helpdesk Employees  

A new study offers empirical evidence in support of the positive effects of mindfulness meditation, most specifically its ability to improve concentration and attention in the workplace. 56 help-desk employees (29 managers and 27 phone operator agents) were recruited from a consulting and information technology company with roughly half (26) assigned to receive a 15-minute mindfulness training at the start of each work day for six weeks while the other half (30) received no mindfulness training until after the study had concluded. Job performance was measured for four weeks prior to treatment to establish baseline levels, as well as after the six-week treatment period. The researchers measured both attention awareness and a set of key performance indicators provided by the company, including number of answered phone calls, percentage of resting time, number of errors, percentage of waiting for calls time, and percentage of problems solved.

Key Points:

  • After six weeks of mindfulness practice, both help-desk managers and employees demonstrated significantly improved attentional awareness as compared to the control group of employees who received no mindfulness training.
  • However, there was no difference regarding key performance indicators, other than those in the mindfulness group having answered fewer phone calls (likely because they stayed on the phone with customers for longer periods of time due to higher levels of focused and deliberate attention).
  • While six weeks of mindfulness positively benefits attention awareness in the workplace, more research is needed to examine the effects of mindfulness on workplace productivity.

Read the full article on Science Direct.

Exploring the Impact of a Trauma-informed Yoga and Mindfulness Curriculum for Multiple Populations: A Pilot Study 

A new pilot study indicates that mindfulness-based trauma-informed yoga offers a positive therapeutic value on both mood and well-being for trauma-impacted populations. This study examined the impact of class participation in Yoga 4 Change’s trauma-informed yoga class, which incorporates a mindfulness curriculum alongside the strength-based physical yoga practice, among four distinct groups of vulnerable individuals: incarcerated adults, veterans (including active, reserve, and inactive), individuals attempting recovery or recovered from substance use disorders, and youth aged 8-18, with a total of 925 participants overall. Each participant self-reported stress and mood levels before and after each class. Additionally, for those in the substance use disorders treatment group, blood pressure and heart rate were also recorded at the beginning and end of class to measure changes in physical well-being. After just one session, there was a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure and a small decrease in heart rate among this group, but more research is needed to determine if this is a long-term effect or merely resulting from the period of relaxation at the end of the yoga class.

Key Points:

  • Across all four vulnerable populations (incarcerated adults, veterans, people in treatment for substance use disorders, and youth), stress decreased and mood improved after a trauma-informed yoga class.
  • For those who participated in more than one yoga session, the greatest change in well-being occurred after the first session, but interestingly, pre-session stress levels appeared to decrease over time.
  • Trauma-informed yoga also appears to improve physical well-being, as heart rate and systolic blood pressure decreased after the yoga class for the substance use disorders treatment group.

Read the full article on Science Direct.


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