November 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 a study showing that most workers consider wellbeing to be equally as important as salary. Then, we examine how employees feel about wellness workplace initiatives before taking a deep dive into the paradoxes of showing compassion at work. Next, we explore holistic health and burnout in the workplace as well as just how important leisure activities are for reducing workaholism and work stress. We have summarized the main ideas and key takeaways below with links to the full articles.

Wellbeing Is Just As Valuable To Workers As Their Pay, Study Finds  

Workers don’t just care about their salary; they care just as much about their wellbeing, at least according to a recent survey conducted by Gympass, a complete corporate wellness platform. When asked about the importance of salary and wellbeing, a staggering 93% of workers said they consider the two to be equally critical, which is up by 10 points from last year. This has strong implications for employee hiring and retention; 87% of employees would consider resigning from an organization that fails to prioritize wellbeing, and 96% of job seekers said they would only consider employment at companies that emphasize employee wellbeing. The survey also points to the importance of offering a flexible work style. More than a third of workers reported that they do not currently work in their preferred environment (i.e., remote vs. in-person). There was a stark contrast in the wellbeing of these “mismatched” employees compared to their “matched” counterparts (those that work in their preferred environment).

 Key Points:

  • 93% of workers rank their wellbeing 
  • Employees who are mandated to work in their non-preferred work environment (in-person when they prefer remote or vice versa) were twice as likely to be “struggling” or “really struggling” as compared to those working in their preferred environment. 
  • Employees who have resources and tools available to support their wellbeing tend to be more engaged and more productive at work and less likely to quit their jobs.

Read the full article on Forbes. 

Bentley-Gallup Survey Reveals American Workers Optimistic About Impact of Wellness Initiatives

With only half (51%) of U.S. adults classified as “thriving” on Gallup’s Life Evaluation Index, addressing issues of wellbeing has become a top priority for the nation. Unsurprisingly, more and more workers are beginning to seek employers who prioritize their wellbeing and mental health. Data from this year’s Bentley University-Gallup survey shows a strong sense of optimism among Americans that various workplace initiatives could have a somewhat positive or extremely positive impact on wellbeing. A majority of respondents identified two initiatives as most likely to have an extremely positive impact on wellbeing: limiting the number of hours employees are expected to work outside of the business day and offering mental health days. Overall, the top initiative for a perceived positive impact was employers offering the option for a four day work week. In fact, only 20% said this would have a neutral effect and only 3% felt it would have a somewhat or extremely negative effect. Younger workers in particular are especially hopeful about the wellness benefits of a four day work week. 

Key Points:

  • The most positively rated wellness initiatives among U.S. workers are: the option for a four day work week (77%), employers offering mental health days (74%), and limiting the amount of work expected outside work hours (73%).
  • Although on-site workers with four day work weeks tend to report higher rates of wellbeing, they do not necessarily have higher engagement with their work than employees who work five or six day weeks. 
  • Burnout is slightly higher for people working four days a week as compared to five. 

 Read the full article on PRNewswire.

Uncovering paradoxes of compassion at work: a dyadic study of compassionate leader behavior

Compassion at work, particularly from leaders, does have an impact, but its exact function in the workplace context remains largely under investigated. Much of the existing research has failed to consider the multifaceted nature of workplace compassion, particularly as it intersects with inherent organizational power dynamics. However, a new study published in Frontiers specifically looks at the paradoxes induced by compassionate leader behavior within the social hierarchy of the workplace. For this exploratory study, researches conducted semi-structured interviews of six dyads of leaders and their direct subordinates. Interviewees were from small, medium, and large companies and worked in various industries. Responses collected during interviews revealed six compassion paradoxes that spring from compassion from a leader towards a member: (1) showing the vulnerable, private self versus showing the strong, professional self, (2) probing (pro-)actively but respecting boundaries, (3) compassion requiring empathy and understanding, yet leaders also needing to show discernment so as to not be exploited or manipulated, (4), the imperative for compassion to answer one person’s suffering versus the imperative for equality and fairness to other team members, (5) weakness versus courage, and (6), the impact on the leader-member relationship: distance (hierarchy) versus closeness (personal bonds).

 Key Points:

  • Overall, the findings demonstrate that social hierarchy plays a critical role regarding workplace compassion and even exacerbates certain paradoxical tensions.
  • The paradoxes caused by compassion at work must be acknowledged (via constructive dialogue) to avoid creating false expectations or increasing suffering.
  • Leadership development programs should strive to raise awareness about dealing with the tensions and paradoxical situations that arise from showing compassion at work.

Read the full article on Frontiers

Reframing employee health: Moving beyond burnout to holistic health    

New research from McKinsey Health Institute (MHI) provides key insight into how organizations can build a workplace that promotes strong holistic health, i.e., prioritizing physical, mental, social, and spiritual health. Surveying over 30,000 employees across 30 countries, MHI found that employees experiencing positive work experiences reported better holistic health levels and were more likely to indicate more innovative and improved job performance. Positive holistic health was most strongly predicted by workplace enablers, especially aspects of work that provide positive energy such as meaningful work or psychological safety. Such enablers offset workplace demands, the workplace factors that require sustained cognitive, physical, and/or emotional effort, like a toxic work environment. As you might expect, burnout is most strongly predicted by workplace demands. Crucially, burnout and holistic health can coexist. Only half of employees reported “faring well”, experiencing low rates of burnout and functioning well across the various dimensions of holistic health. The other half of employees include those who are , “stretching” (strong holistic health but high burnout), “managing” (suboptimal holistic health but low burnout), or “drowning” (low holistic health and high burnout).

 Key Points:

  • More than half of employees reported positive holistic health with those aged 18-24 having the lowest scores. Managers and employees working in larger companies (250+ employees) tended to have higher holistic health scores.
  • A complementary approach is needed to promote holistic health in the workplace. Burnout cannot be prevented just by providing workplace enablers, nor can holistic health be boosted solely by addressing workplace demands.
  • Employee holistic health can be boosted through organizational, team, job, and individual interventions, such as flexible working policies, digital programs on workplace health, and leadership trainings, and job crafting and redesign.

Read the full article on McKinsey. 

Take a break! Leisure participation moderates the workaholism–work stress relationship

Workaholism, the obsessive compulsion to work above and beyond the reasonable expectations of one’s job, often leads to higher levels of work stress. Both workaholism and work stress are associated with negative health and organization outcomes. Although workaholics are less likely to engage in leisurely activities during nonwork time, a new study published in The Career Development Quarterly indicates that they stand to benefit from increased leisurely participation. The study surveyed 367 full-time employees asking questions to measure levels of workaholism, work stress, leisure activity participation (specifically mindfulness, physical activity, and vacation), and motivation for engaging in leisure activity. The strongest motivators for engaging in mindfulness and vacation were mental health and relaxation while physical activity was primarily motivated by physical health and appearance. Regardless of the type of leisure activity, participation in a nonwork pursuit seems to improve work stress and workaholism. 

Key Points: 

  • Leisure activities (mindfulness, physical activity, and vacation) weaken the relationship between workaholism and work stress. In other words, participating in leisurely activities during nonwork time helps reduce work-related stress for workaholics. 
  • Conversely, not participating in leisure activities worsens work stress for workaholics.
  • Workplaces should encourage participation in leisure activity and consider adopting policies that promote engagement in nonwork pursuits (for example, limiting the use of company electronics and work email during vacation time).

Read the full article on Wiley.


Heather Dalal

The link for the last article is specific to provide access to users from Concordia University.
Use this link: 

Note: I'm at a university and I have access on campus. If you do not have access, email your librarian. 

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Christine Brown

I am interested in McKinsey‘s motives with this article. They appears to be priming companies to use them for consulting. That is how they make their money. 

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