The Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG) commissioned a report titled, Mindful Nation UK. The report covers the role of mindfulness in health, in education, in the criminal justice system and in the workplace. It draws on research and shared experience of the benefits of mindfulness in these sectors.
Mental Illness in the Workplace
In relation to mindfulness in the workplace, Mindful Nation expressed concern at the rising costs to industry and government (estimated to be in the billions of pounds) resulting from absenteeism, unemployment and “presenteeism” caused by mental illness. The causes of the mental illness are identified as stress leading to depression and anxiety. The challenges of the normal working environment are also compounded by structural change brought on by the advance of information technology and robotics.
Benefits of Mindfulness in the Workplace
MAPPG was impressed by the wide range of research that has been conducted and the adoption of mindfulness in many large companies in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors throughout the UK. However, the report highlighted the need for more in-depth research into mindfulness in the workplace and its benefits – noting that reported benefits include:
- positive impacts on burnout, wellbeing and stress
- improved focus and cognitive skills
- improved creative problem-solving skills
- better comprehension and decision making
- improved reaction time.
Research results in specific workplaces were reported as:
- School teachers – improved emotional skills and greater sensitivity and positivity
- First responders (e.g. police and fire services) – quicker recovery, more sleep, less emotional reactivity and better memory utilisation and immune response
- US companies – improvements in emotional intelligence giving rise to better decision making
- Judiciary (US intervention) – reduced bias and assumptions along with enhanced focus, attention and reflection
- Health professional – increase in the quality of care through improved empathy and compassion.
The 2015 Mindful Nation UK report recommended strongly that The National Institute of Health Research seek funding and undertake research to close the gap in quality research support for the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace. The report, however, concludes from two reported studies that:
Even brief periods of mindfulness practice can lead to objectively measured higher cognitive skills such as improved reaction times, comprehension scores, working memory functioning and decision-making. (p.41)
As managers and leaders grow in mindfulness through a diversity of mindfulness practices in the workplace we should see a reduction in workplace mental illness and in the flow-on organisational and social costs. The research needs to identify what mindfulness activities best produce specific positive individual and organisational outcomes.
By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)
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