July 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 reports on global employee engagement and wellbeing as well as on workplace empathy. Then, we review two studies using MBSR for clinical treatment, the first in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), and the second in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Lastly, we consider the efficacy of brief, self-administered mindfulness techniques in reducing stress. We have summarized the main ideas and key takeaways below with links to the full articles and sources.

State of the Global Workplace

The annual Gallup State of the Global Workplace report highlights key trends in employee engagement and wellbeing. The findings come from survey data and follow-up interviews with workers from throughout the work. In 2023, global employee engagement stagnated and overall well-being declined, directly impacting organizational productivity. According to the report, 22% of employees experience daily loneliness, with fully remote workers having the highest amount of loneliness. Employee engagement, the report notes, is a significant factor in overall life experiences and is associated with hope for the future. In countries where job opportunities are high, workers tend to have less active disengagement since they do not feel as trapped in a bad work environment. Managers also seem to have a significant effect on employee engagement; when managers are engaged, employees are more likely to also be engaged, and this is true across countries. However, managers are more likely than non-managers to report negative daily experiences and to be looking for a new job. 

Key Findings:

  • 23% of employees are engaged, 34% are thriving in wellbeing, 41% experience daily stress, and 52% are seeking new jobs.
  • Low engagement costs the global economy an estimated $8.9 trillion annually.
  • A greater number of engaged employees leads to improved organizational outcomes, including increased profit, higher retention rates, and better customer service.

Read the full article on Gallup.

2024 State of Workplace Empathy, Part 1

The 2024 State of Workplace Empathy Study by Businessolver surveyed over 3,000 employees, HR leaders, and CEOs, revealing significant mental health and workplace toxicity issues. While 50% of employees reported experiencing a mental health issue in the past year, 55% of CEOs reported the same, a notable 24-point increase from last year. The majority of employees, HR leaders, and CEOs (90%) agree that it is important for CEOs and upper leadership to openly discuss mental health issues. However, despite this, most either ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that companies tend to view someone with mental health issues as weak and/or a burden (81% of CEOs, 72% of HR leaders, and 67% of employees). On a positive note, there may be an increase in empathy in senior leadership; 73% of employees said they believe their manager emphasizes the importance of mental health, which is up 11% from last year. The second part of the study is expected to be published later this month.

Key Points:

  • Toxic workplaces are identified by 52% of CEOs and Gen Z employees; these employees are 47% more likely to report a mental health issue.
  • Gen Z participants were twice as likely to report a mental health issue than Boomers (65% vs. 38%).
  • Notably, there are improvements in empathy perception gaps and employee motivation.

Read the full article on Business Solver.

A single-arm, open-label pilot study of neuroimaging, behavioral, and peripheral inflammatory correlates of mindfulness-based stress reduction in multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic neurological disease often associated with significant fatigue, anxiety, depression, and stress. These “silent” symptoms are difficult to treat and substantially contribute to the decreased quality of life observed in MS patients. This observational study evaluated an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program in 23 people with MS. ​​The study hypothesized that MBSR would reduce perceived stress and Conserved Transcriptional Response to Adversity (CTRA) through top-down modulation of the sympathetic nervous system via the hypothalamus. Although no significant changes in CTRA were observed, the study noted structural changes in the hippocampus, which has been linked to stress regulation. MBSR significantly improved symptoms like stress, anxiety, and fatigue, the common "silent" symptoms of MS. The study also noted a relationship between fatigue and reduced hippocampal size, in accordance with other studies.

Key Points:

  • MBSR is a promising non-pharmacological strategy for alleviating the "silent symptoms" of MS, like fatigue, anxiety, stress, and depression.
  • While the mechanism of how MBSR reduces these symptoms still remains somewhat unclear, the researchers did observe structural changes in the hippocampus. More research is needed to fully understand the process, though. 

Read the full article on Nature.

MBSR / Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) to Improve Patient-Related Outcomes (PROs) in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis in Clinical Remission but Elevated Negative PROs: A Pragmatic Pilot Study

This study sought to improve outcomes for patients with controlled rheumatoid arthritis (RA) reporting high levels of disease activity and negative patient-related outcomes (PROs) like depression and anxiety with an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. Patients were recruited based on elevated depression scores or significant differences between patient and physician assessments of disease activity and were evaluated in the first four weeks before MBSR as well as at 6 and 12 months post-MBSR. From the 28 participants who completed evaluations, results showed significant improvements in depression, anxiety, emotional coping, sleep, and function, but not in patient-reported disease activity (PGA). Initially, PGA correlated with function but not with depression or anxiety; after 6 months, it showed higher correlations with all three.

Key Points:

  • MBSR significantly improved emotional coping, which is crucial for quality of life of RA patients.
  • Interviews with patients indicated persistent benefits from the MBSR program, including the integration of mindfulness techniques into daily life.
  • MBSR is feasible and beneficial for RA patients with negative patient-related outcomes, like depression and anxiety, even though it does not seem to significantly improve patient-reported disease activity.

Read the full article at ACR.

Self-administered mindfulness interventions reduce stress in a large, randomized controlled multi-site study

While mindfulness has become well-researched, there has been little inquiry into the effectiveness of brief, self-administered mindfulness techniques for reducing stress. This study aimed to assess the efficacy of four mindfulness exercises of this kind – body scan, mindful breathing, mindful walking, and loving kindness. The researchers measured how effective each mindfulness technique was in reducing stress as compared to participants in an active control condition, who instead listened to story excerpts. The study was conducted across 37 sites with 2,239 participants, but it relied heavily on self-reported data. Notably, all four mindfulness exercises did lead to slight, but significant, reductions in stress levels reported by participants.

Key Points:

  • All four mindfulness exercises led to a reduction in self-reported stress levels, as compared to the active control group (who only listened to story excerpts).
  • The study highlights the potential utility of short mindfulness practices for immediate stress relief in situations like exams or stressful encounters, but future studies are needed to validate these findings with physiological evidence, too.

Read the full article on Nature.


There are no comments yet. Be the first one to leave a comment!

Leave a comment