10 Mar

Is Mindfulness at Work Coming of Age?

  • March 10, 2017

Human resources and training professionals have an overwhelming selection of course providers and practitioners to choose from if they want to implement a mindfulness-based intervention at work. It doesn’t help that there is currently no regulation which gives a stamp of quality to these training courses (although positive testimonials and experience go a long way of course).

So what steps are being made in this area and what are some of the arguments for and against the regulation of mindfulness in the workplace?

In the mental health arena MBCT (Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy) and MSBT (Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction) have very specific and rigid standards of delivery. The “active ingredient” of both of these interventions is mindfulness and both have proven effective in clinical trials, with the National Institute for Clinical Evidence (NICE) recommending them for stress, anxiety and depression. Both MCBT and MSBT are available (very limited) via the NHS and are delivered through eight-week training courses.

Is the eight-week clinical model fit for purpose in the workplace?

Most would argue not. Workplace mindfulness has been inconsistent in its delivery, designed around organizational needs and culture, acknowledging that one size does not fit all. In its “Building the Case for Mindfulness in the Workplace” publication (2016), the Mindfulness Initiative lists out some robust guidelines for implementing mindfulness-based programmes in the workplace and also argues that more flexibility is required.

In its introduction the authors talk of the benefits of shared mindfulness practice: “When mindfulness becomes a shared social practice in an organisation, and permeates routines, processes and practices between people and across teams, then the organisation as a whole becomes more resilient and performs more sustainably”. The publication goes on to explain the approaches of diverse organisations in how they have built the business case and implemented mindfulness at work, all valuable information for HR professionals. What is very apparent though is that there isn’t a strong consensus as to what “good” looks like in terms of workplace mindfulness training and that eight-weeks is sometimes too much of a commitment.

“Good” is different in different organisations

It might be good from a ‘buyers’ perspective to regulate and accredit trainer standards but it could be bad news from an innovation perspective, as some argue that it could stifle the tailoring of courses in this nascent and growing field. 15 research studies demonstrate the positive outcomes that can be achieved by shorter programs with a shorter daily practice requirement (15 mins or less), with less taught input sessions, and shorter training durations. This is exciting news in itself, especially from time-poor executives! Currently in research is potential standards for workplace mindfulness trainers, which is a significant step forward, as most would agree that certain minimum requirements need to be in place.

What do “standards” look like in Workplace Mindfulness?

For now, whilst the jury is still out, it is worth noting how some of the great and the good of the mindfulness community, define the core elements of a mindfulness programme in a paper published in “Psychological Medicine” in 2016 by Crane et al called “What defines Mindulness-based programs? The Warp and the Weft”. It is worth quoting in full the essential ingredients of mindfulness-based practice (this can be used almost as a tick list by corporations when approaching trainers):

  1. Is informed by theories and practices that draw from a confluence of contemplative traditions, science, and the major disciplines of medicine, psychology and education
  2. Is underpinned by a model of human experience which addresses the causes of human distress and the pathways to relieving it
  3. Develops a new relationship with experience characterized by present moment focus, decentering and an approach orientation
  4. Supports the development of greater attentional, emotional and behavioral self-regulation, as well as positive qualities such as compassion, wisdom, equanimity.
  5. Engages the participant in a sustained intensive training in mindfulness meditation practice, in an experiential inquiry-based learning process and in exercises to develop insight and understanding

Hear more about this and learn the very latest research and how-to about mindfulness at work at Mind & Matter 2017, the mindfulness at work conference. April 27th & 28th, Central London. Visit www.mindandmatterevents.com to register and for more details.

Mind & Matter has been borne out of the recognition that greater purpose drives results and that organisations that effectively embed mindfulness interventions will see myriad benefits: including greater creativity, resilience, focus and employee wellbeing rates. We don’t see mindfulness as a panacea, but as part of the solution in a time of seismic disruption and ever-increasing pace in business.

As event and content experts, we see our role as facilitating better dialogue between leaders and agents of change and presenting the most compelling evidence and case studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of mindfulness in the workplace: for leaders, HR practitioners and organisational effectiveness specialists.