December Mindfulness and Workplace Wellness Research Round-Up

BL00 - Mindfulness and Workplace Wellness Research Round-Up

This month, we first look at how mindfulness helps people stick to a heart-healthy diet before considering how mindfulness works to reduce technostress in the workplace. Then, we look at survey results highlighting the importance of an inclusive and safe workplace environment as well as insights from the Workplace Stress Index. Lastly, we turn our attention to optimism about workplace wellness initiatives. We have summarized the main ideas and key takeaways below with links to the full articles.

Mindfulness training can boost heart-healthy eating  

The benefits of the heart-healthy eating plan known as DASH, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, are well proven, but nonetheless, adherence to the diet is often fairly low. The DASH diet places an emphasis on eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while avoiding saturated fats, but some researchers want to add something more to the diet: mindfulness training. Dr. Eric Loucks and his research colleagues at Brown wanted to see if incorporating mindfulness training would encourage people to follow the DASH diet and therefore reduce hypertension. To test this, they recruited roughly 200 people with high blood pressure, with the average age being 60 years old. Half of the group received enhanced usual care, including a blood pressure device and training to use it, informational brochures on hypertension management, and even doctor referrals. The other half of participants attended weekly mindfulness classes and were asked to engage in mindfulness practices (yoga,  meditation, self-awareness) for at least 45 minutes each day. The researchers measured DASH diet adherence, blood pressure levels, and interoceptive awareness (i.e. how aware one is of their body’s internal signals, like hunger) at the beginning of the study and after six months.

Key Points:

  • After six months, those who were engaging in mindfulness practice showed a significant 4.5 mm HG reduction in blood pressure compared to the control group not practicing mindfulness.
  • Mindfulness increased interoceptive awareness, making people more aware of their own internal bodily cues.
  • Confirming the researchers’ hypothesis, those in the mindfulness group increased DASH diet adherence, where participants moved from two to three servings of vegetables a day to four or more. This effect was even greater for those who entered the study with low DASH diet adherence.

Read the full article on NIH.

Mindfulness and technostress in the workplace: a qualitative approach  

Although Information Technology (IT) is an extremely valuable tool for individuals and organizations, it also comes with some harmful drawbacks. The extended use of information communication technologies such as computers and other digital devices can lead to stress in the workplace, including symptoms of fatigue, loss of motivation, inability to concentrate, dissatisfaction at work, and reduced productivity. This technostress then translates into significant monetary costs for businesses. This study explored the role of mindfulness in lowering technostress conditions that arise in the work environment by interviewing 10 “knowledge workers” (defined as employees involved with tasks that are more mental than physical, usually working in the high technology, business, and information services sector) about their experiences with technology usage and stress at work. The researchers measured levels of general mindfulness and IT-specific mindfulness, as well. Collectively, the study findings suggest that fostering mindfulness, both general and IT-specific, can serve as a valuable strategy for organizations to enhance employee wellbeing and reduce the negative impact of technostress.

Key Points:

  • Both general and IT-specific mindfulness are linked to more effective coping strategies in response to stress induced by information and communication technology (ICT) use at work.
    • Acceptance of situations, reduced negative emotions, and a positive perception of challenges contribute to the stress-buffering effect of mindfulness in technostress situations.
  • Mindful individuals tend to prioritize tasks, focus on one task at a time, and take a step back before reacting to ICT-related stressors. 
  • IT mindfulness is associated with adaptability, novelty-seeking behavior, and a willingness to experiment with technology, leading to innovative solutions and better coping during technostress situations.

 Read the full article on NCBI.  

2023 workplace wellness research  

Results from the 2023 Mind the Workplace survey clearly show that workers thrive in an environment where their identities are acknowledged, represented, valued, and trusted, particularly by leadership and management. The annual work health survey, conducted by Mental Health America, collected data from 25,948 workers across 17 U.S. industries, specifically concerning their perceptions of workplace experiences relating to their identity. The survey asked about workplace mental health in relation to identity and microaggressions as well as looking at what kind of employer interventions might contribute to a more inclusive workplace. Overall, the findings demonstrate that equity statement(s) and corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies are not enough; A workplace culture will only be truly inclusive and safe for all when organizational leadership and management actively work to address issues such as discrimination, microaggressions, and implicit bias and promote representation.

Key Points:

  • Workers who feel that their identity and perspectives are valued by leadership are more likely to feel emotionally and mentally safe in their workplace.
  • Conversely, workers who do not feel that their identity is valued by leadership perceive their organization as complicit or harmful when it comes to cultivating a psychological safe work environment.
  • A majority (81%) of those who feel psychologically safe at work  say that workplace stress does not impact their mental health. Workers in unhealthy, non-safe work environments report greater rates of psychological distress and mental health challenges.

Read the full article on MHA National

Cross-National Analysis of Employee Mental Health

The Workplace Stress Index is an interactive and proactive data tool developed by Workplace Options that lets organizations explore employee health and wellness trends across both localized and national levels. Specifically, the tool collected and analyzed data from April 2021 to May 2023 concerning personal and work-related stress in employees and employers around the world. Globally, only about a third of workers feel they are “thriving” in their wellbeing, with many worried about finances, job security, or seeking treatment for illness. In the U.S., less than half of workers report living “comfortably” on their current income, and financial wellness levels have hit a five-year low. While most U.S. employees (91%) say they care deeply about their wellness levels, a majority (83%) also say they have struggled with significant challenges in achieving such goals.

Key Points:

  • 81% of workers now say that an employer’s commitment to mental health and wellness is their number one consideration when searching for a new job.
  • The most dominating workplace symptom reported by employees is workplace stress (71%), which seems to stem from the following four top work-related issues: problems with daily work activities (33%), challenges with work-life balance (26%), tension or conflict with manager (18%) and job performance issues (18%).

 Read the full article on Workplace Options.

American Workers Optimistic About Impact of Wellness Initiatives

Only half (51%) of U.S. adults classified themselves as “thriving”, according to Gallup’s Life Evaluation Index. Unsurprisingly, more workers are actively seeking employers who prioritize their mental health and overall wellbeing. Data from this year’s Bentley University-Gallup survey indicates Americans have a strong sense of optimism regarding workplace initiatives that could positively impact 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. Respondents overwhelmingly believe that a four-day work week would have a positive impact on wellbeing, with only 20% expecting a neutral effect and a mere 3% anticipating a negative effect. Younger workers, in particular, are notably hopeful about the wellness benefits of a shorter work week. Given that only a quarter of employees strongly agree that their employer cares about their overall wellbeing, organizations may want to seriously consider these survey findings as they decide how best to support and promote wellness in the workplace.

Key Points:

  • There is a widespread desire for workplace initiatives that prioritize wellbeing, with a notable preference for the option of a four-day work week and an emphasis on mental health support.
    • The most highly rated initiatives include 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%).
  • Despite on-site workers with four-day work weeks reporting higher rates of wellbeing, their engagement with work does not necessarily surpass that of employees working five or six days a week.
  • Burnout rates are slightly higher for individuals working four days a week as compared to five days.

Read the full article on Gallup.


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