March Mindfulness and Workplace Wellness Research Round-Up

BL00 - Mindfulness and Workplace Wellness Research Round-Up

By The Mindful Leader Team

This month, we look at the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of workplace well-being initiatives as well as how to find the best wellness app for your employees. Then, we consider the benefits of introducing fun in the workplace before exploring why companies are sticking with a four-day work week. Lastly, we’ll review the relationship between mindfulness and problematic social media use. We have summarized the main ideas and key takeaways below with links to the full articles.

Workplace Well-Being Programs Didn’t Improve Employee Mental Health, Study Says  

In recent years, many workplaces have introduced various well-being initiatives in the hopes of improving mental health among employees, but a new study out of Industrial Relations Journal reports that such initiatives don’t seem to be working. The research team, led by Dr. William J. Fleming at the University of Oxford, analyzed data from Britain’s Healthiest Workplace Survey, which asked over 46,000 U.K.-based respondents about their participation in over 90 different types of employee well-being programs and measured well-being and life/job satisfaction. The well-being initiatives, which included mindfulness classes, wellness apps, massages, workload training, coaching, financial well-being programs, events and apps promoting healthy sleep, did not have any association with the well-being of employees – with one exception.

Key Points:

  • Of all the well-being initiatives, only those who volunteered for a charitable cause(s) offered by their workplace reported, on average, improved well-being. It’s not clear if volunteering led to better well-being or if those who had greater mental health and wellness were simply more likely to volunteer.
  • These findings suggest that employers must find better and more effective ways to improve employee well-being.
  • Employee mental health remains a top priority in the workplace, but wellness initiatives alone do not seem to be effective in addressing the root cause of these issues.

Read the full article on Forbes.

Is Your Workplace Wellness App Working?  

Although there are over 10,000 mental health and behavioral apps on the market, most have not been scientifically tested to confirm if and how effective they work, especially in the workplace context. Working to address this, a research team of scientists from the Colorado Public School of Health has completed an in-depth review of the digital mental health landscape as applied in the workplace and offers evidence-based recommendations on how organizations can find and select the best mobile apps for supporting employee mental health and well-being. Additionally, their report acknowledges a significant shortcoming of most apps when it comes to examining mental health concerns at the organizational level and/or tracking the effectiveness of interventions among employees. Overall, they advocate for a holistic approach to employee well-being, only part of which includes using technological resources to their maximum potential.

Key Points:

  • When choosing a digital health app or tool, identify and address workers’ specific needs and top priorities and conduct a thorough review of the technology before offering it to employees. 
  • Implementing the digital solution to employees involves:
    • Communication – reduce stigma and explain how the tech will mitigate workplace stress
    • Confidentiality – explain how their personal data will be stored and kept private
    • Workplace Culture – cultivate a workplace environment where employee well-being is valued by leadership
    • Evaluation – establish a plan to determine if the program is successful
    • Responsibility – acknowledge the role employers take in contributing to workplace stress

Read the full article on Colorado School of Public Health.

The Role of Fun in Workplace Health and Well-being    

Could fun in the workplace be the solution to the burnout and well-being crisis? The answer might be yes, at least according to a recently published review of the scientific literature on fun and health. Having fun can mean many things, but is most frequently associated with playfulness and humor and is associated with various psychological health benefits. Engaging in enjoyable, playful activities has been linked to greater life satisfaction, physical health, and subjective well-being and lower stress while humor has been shown to boost self-esteem and the immune system and reduce negative emotions. Similarly, incorporating fun during physical activities proves to be an effective way to motivate and encourage exercise among people of all ages. In the workplace, fun typically refers to different kinds of events, activities, and experiences that cause workers to feel positive emotions, like pleasure, enjoyment, and amusement and can be categorized as organic, managed, or task fun. Employers have the most direct control over managed fun, the fun activities arranged by the organization; games are the most dominant type of managed fun, but this approach has received both positive and negative criticism.

Key Points:

  • Employees across industries value having fun in the workplace.
  • Fun in the workplace is often associated with positive outcomes, including less stress, greater creativity, and higher feelings of inclusion or meaning.
  • Gamification can be a useful way to boost fun in the workplace, but it must be done carefully so as not to create more pressure and/or a lack of respect for the work being done.

Read the full article on Sage Journals

Four-day week continued by most trial participants  

It’s now been a full year since the end of the largest global trial of the four-day work week, and 89% of those 61 companies have opted to keep the policy in effect. Over half (55%) have made the four-day work week permanent. A follow-up survey (completed by 28 companies that participated in the trial) offers insight into how and why the four-day work week seems to be a preferred and effective choice. First and foremost, 100% of managers and CEOs reported that the four-day week had a positive or very positive impact on their employees with 82% reporting a positive impact on staff well-being specifically. Another half (50%) said it decreased staff turnover while just about a third (32%) noted that it improved recruitment. Within one of the organizations, sales went up by 15% with no increase or turnover in staff.

Key Points: 

  • Following a year-long trial, the four-day work week is still in effect by 89% of participating organizations, with most reporting a positive impact among workers.
  • While some companies report that workers feel just as productive as during a five-day week, other higher ups worry that it may lead to unrealistic workload expectations and exacerbate burnout. 
  • Employees must be offered adequate support to ensure the four-day work week does not just become an empty policy, with employees working around the clock just to stay on top of their workload.

Read the full article on HR Magazine

Lower Mindfulness is Associated with Problematic Social Media Use: A Meta-Analysis  

There have been quite a few scientific studies looking at problematic social media use, i.e., when using social media interferes with an individual’s functioning, resulting in a failure to complete tasks or to regulate social media use. In this meta-analysis, researchers analyzed the data from 14 studies that examined problematic social media in relation to trait mindfulness (the general tendency for one to be focused on present experiences, thoughts, and emotions). Across all the studies, lower trait mindfulness was associated with greater problematic social media use, with an statistical effect size that indicates a significant relationship between the two. However, it still remains unclear if lower trait mindfulness directly causes greater problematic social media use, or if a mediating factor, like poor mental health or difficult life circumstances, is responsible.

Key Points:

  • Trait mindfulness is linked to problematic social media use with evidence showing that improving mindfulness can reduce problematic social media use.
    • Both 10-day and 5-week mindfulness based intervention programs have been successful in raising mindfulness levels and lowering problematic social media use.
  • Similarly, another study has demonstrated that problematic social media use decreases mindfulness, which can then lead to even more problematic social media use.

Read the full article on Springer.


Sibongile Mhlanga

This is a very interesting topic tackling the issue of effectiveness of workplace programs.  How I wish you could do a zoom meeting to discuss this more and come up with best strategies to make this work for all.of us

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This research roundup is fascinating. The finding that only volunteering improved Buckshot Roulette employee well-being is surprising, but it sparks new questions. 

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