Stress Awareness Day, 4th November 2015
Employee Wellbeing as a Worthwhile Investment in Your Business
Stress Awareness Day 2015 (4th November) highlights the importance of workplace wellbeing because stress is often an unseen and overlooked risk to personal and business health. An all-party parliamentary group inquiry report launched in October* recommends the public sector leads workplace best practice by offering staff mindfulness programmes to combat stress and improve organisational effectiveness.
Not-for-profit, The BeingWell, urges employers to pay attention to the human and business cost of stress. UK workers take over 15 million days off a year due to stress, depression and anxiety. And UK employers lose £26 billion each year due to stress, an average of £1,035 for every staff member. However, research has suggested that less than half of employees would tell their manager about feeling stressed and so it can remain an invisible but severely detrimental business risk.
Prevention for all employees, rather than singling out stressed individuals, may be the answer according to Dr Sherylin Thompson, director of The BeingWell: “Stress carries stigma and is therefore suppressed, buried and difficult to get into the open to address. Rather than asking individuals to step forward for help, giving all employees the skills to keep their minds fit, toned and focused builds resilience and strengthens performance across the workforce.”
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), training the mind to focus on the present moment, has been introduced in some top firms in the UK including Credit Suisse and KPMG. And while MBSR carries the label ‘stress’ on the can, mindfulness is not just about preventing stress. Findings from the Institute of Mindful Leadership showed that 93% of leaders surveyed said mindfulness helped innovation. Around 89% said it enhanced their ability to listen to themselves and others, and nearly 70% said it helped them think strategically.
“Like what gym is to the body, mindfulness is to the mind. It builds strength, agility and flexibility. The key word is resilience, the ability to bounce back from set backs to thrive,” says Dr Thompson. Mindfulness also has international research backing from disciplines as wide ranging from education, neuroscience, medicine and psychology. “Mindfulness builds mind muscle to protect employees at risk of stress and for those who are already functioning highly, mindfulness can further develop performance,” adds Dr Thompson.
Further information on mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) can be found at www.thebeingwell.org/mbsr.
Stats and facts about mindfulness and the present moment:
- We are only fully in the present moment for 3 to 4 seconds at a time. Internationally acclaimed psychiatrist, Daniel Stern, says that it is only in these 3 to 4 seconds that we can consciously change old unwanted habits or form healthier ones.
- Research findings show that our minds wander up to 47% of our waking lives. While mind wandering is likely to have some benefits for human creativity and problem-solving, higher levels of mind wandering have been associated with a reduced level of happiness. There is evidence building that people are often happier when they can focus on their current activity.
- Mindfulness research has increased 20-fold since the millennium. There are now almost 500 mindfulness research papers published a year – a sharp increase from 21 research articles in the year 2000.
- Mindfulness can change brain function and structure.
Harvard Medical School Neuroscientists found that ordinary Western meditation practitioners had different brain structures to the general population. They concluded that meditation could slow age-related declines in cortical structure.
- Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) reduces the risk of relapse of recurrent depression by 43%.This strong finding has resulted in the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence(NICE) to recommend it for the prevention of relapse in recurrent depression on the NHS.
- Of business leaders going through a mindfulness programme, 93% surveyed said mindfulness helped them create space for innovation. In addition, around 89% said it enhanced their ability to listen to themselves and others, and nearly 70% said it helped them think strategically. Google has employed their own Head of Mindfulness, who has written a book, Search inside Yourself and the course has been taught to Google employees since 2007. Goldman Sachs, Barclays and JP Morgan are all said to have trained employees in mindfulness.