August Mindfulness and Workplace Wellness Research Round-Up

BL00 - Mindfulness and Workplace Wellness Research Round-Up

By The Mindful Leader Team

This month, we first cover the president’s latest action to ensure mental health insurance coverage. Then, we’ll review the APA’s 2023 survey on mental health and well-being in the workplace and TUC’s data on work intensification and burnout. Up next, we’ll dive deep into how mindfulness impacts task performance and consider the broad effectiveness of in-person mindfulness-based programmes. We have summarized the main ideas and key takeaways below with links to the full articles.

Biden pledges ‘mental health care is health care’ with new rule ensuring mental health parity in insurance coverage

On Tuesday, July 25, 2023, President Joe Biden announced a new rule that, once in effect, will help hold insurance providers accountable when it comes to providing mental health services. More specifically, the proposed rule will reinforce the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) of 2008 by requiring insurers to analyze and evaluate their mental health coverage via a variety of metrics, including the plan’s provider network, how often prior authorization is required and approved under existing plans, and the cost of out-of-network treatment. This new rule makes it easier to not only identify when health plans fail to meet the mental health parity requirements but also to hold insurers accountable and enforce compliance. According to White House officials, the Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services will be responsible for enforcing the rule. 

Key Points:

  • In line with Biden’s proposed “unity agenda”, this new rule will work to ensure that people have the same level of access to mental health services as to their other (physical) medical benefits.
  • The proposed rule will effectively close a loophole exempting federally provided insurance plans from complying with MHPAEA. Once addressed, this change is estimated to improve mental health care for 90,000 consumers.
  • The rule is currently in a 60-day public comment period but will take effect shortly thereafter.

Read the full article on CNN.

2023 Work in America Survey

In 2022, the U.S. Surgeon General released the first Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being, in which it outlines five essential categories for workplaces to consider and prioritize: protection from harm, connection and community, work-life harmony, mattering at work, and opportunity for growth. To assess the state of these five essentials, the APA (American Psychological Association) conducted its 2023 Work in America Survey, collecting data from over 2,500 adult employees across the country. In line with the Surgeon General’s Framework, psychological well-being is a top priority among workers; 92% stated it was very or somewhat important for them to work for an organization that values their emotional and psychological well-being and provides support for employee mental health. Similarly, 95% said it was very or somewhat important for them to feel respected at work and to work for an organization that respects boundaries between work and nonwork time. Importantly, those who felt satisfied with the level of control regarding their work schedule (i.e., how, when, and where they work) were significantly more likely (79%) to report their mental health as good or excellent than those who were unsatisfied (44%).

Key Points:

  • Nearly one in five respondents reported working in a toxic workplace, and this made them twice as likely to be looking for a new job and to report worse mental health. 
  • 89% of respondents feel very or somewhat satisfied with their workplace relationships, but roughly a quarter (26%) experience feelings of loneliness, and one in five workers feel they don’t belong at work.
  • Taken collectively, the survey findings show positive developments regarding workplace psychological well-being but also indicate that there are still multiple areas for improvement. The majority of workers place a high value on psychological well-being in the workplace.

Read the full article on APA.

People at increased risk of burnout due to more demanding workdays, TUC says

Recent research by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) reveals the growing problem of work intensification and points to an increasing risk of burnout. Polling data collected from over 2,000 workers across Britain and Whales found that over half (55%) said work had become more intense and demanding, with 65% feeling exhausted by the end of the workday. Compared to a year ago, more than a third of workers now spend more time working outside contracted hours, and 40% say they are required to do more work in the same amount of time. Unsurprisingly, levels of exhaustion and burnout vary by gender and profession. On average, women tend to be slightly more likely to suffer from daily workplace exhaustion, as well as those working in education, health care, or social care. This often stems from having to take on more domestic responsibilities at home and/or dealing with staff shortages and long working hours in the workplace.

Key Points:

  • The main factors contributing to greater work intensity are chronic staff shortages, poor enforcement of workers’ rights, and the use of technology and surveillance to enforce unsustainable productivity targets.
  • Levels of stress and burnout have been on the rise for the past decade and are now at an all-time high, which makes it more important than ever for employers to promote good mental health in the workplace.
  • Anyone can be affected by burnout, and if you feel you might be struggling, it’s advised that you seek help from your workplace health and wellbeing support staff or GP.

Read the full article on The Guardian.

How Service Employees’ Mindfulness Links to Task Performance through Psychological Resilience, Deep Acting, and Customer-Oriented Behavior    

A recent study published in Behavioral Sciences gives deeper insight into how mindfulness influences task performance in service industry workers. Researchers surveyed service workers in Korean companies to measure their trait level (i.e., innate) mindfulness, psychological resilience, customer-oriented behavior, and deep acting (deep acting is a cognitively-demanding emotional strategy that involves an active attempt to change internal emotions rather than just modifying external emotions). For the 359 participants who completed the survey, their supervisors were then asked to respond to a series of questions assessing their job performance. In addition to observing a direct influence of trait mindfulness on task performance, mindfulness also indirectly affected task performance through psychological resilience, customer-oriented behavior, and deep acting. More specifically, higher mindfulness led to greater psychological resilience, which then enhanced customer-oriented behavior and deep acting, thus improving task performance through an indirect pathway as well.

Key Points:

  • These findings highlight the crucial role of psychological resilience in service marketing and emotional labor contexts; psychological resilience shapes how an employee responds to customers, problem-solves, and adapts to a changing work environment.
  • Even though trait mindfulness varies by individual, service-oriented workplaces should work to cultivate mindfulness and psychological resilience among employees to boost overall job performance and customer satisfaction.

Read the full article on MDPI.

In-person mindfulness courses help improve mental health for at least six months

While individual studies often point to the promise of in-person mindfulness courses, researchers at the University of Cambridge wanted to know if such courses were beneficial more broadly, across different communities. To investigate this question, they pooled together data from 13 studies representing eight countries and analyzed the effectiveness of in-person mindfulness-based programs (MBPs) in a total of 2,371 adults. Their results indicated that adults who participated in a MBP were less likely to experience symptoms of psychological distress, such as anxiety or depression for at least six months after completion of the course. Collectively, these findings confirm that taking a mindfulness course in person, with a teacher and offered in a group setting, will typically be beneficial for the average adult in terms of reducing psychological distress and improving mental health.

Key Points:

  • Although these findings suggest in-person mindfulness courses offered in group settings are, on average, beneficial for mental health, that doesn’t necessarily mean this is better or more effective than other feel-good practices, like sports or music.
  • It’s still unclear if mindfulness apps are equally as helpful in reducing psychological distress or if there’s something uniquely effective about developing mindfulness skills in-person with an instructor and other students. 
  • Based on these findings, the researchers urge individuals and organizations to consider offering similar community-based mindfulness courses, as it’s likely to be a beneficial investment for those who participate.

Read the full article on Science Daily.


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