A Mindful Nation and mindfulness in the workplace

The Mindful Nation UK report was launched in Parliament on 20th October as the result of a MindfulnationUK12-month inquiry by the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group into how mindfulness might be incorporated into UK services and institutions

The workplace has been one of the four policy areas examined by the inquiry that has particularly led to debate. The report makes a specific recommendation to the What Works Centre for Wellbeing in this area.

pro-picOur Director, Nancy Hey spoke at the Mindfulness in the workplace event last night to celebrate the launch of the report and look at next steps. The report looks at how we can ensure mindfulness fulfills its potential to help create a more healthy, productive and creative 21st century working culture across the UK.

Why does this matter?

There is good evidence to support mindfulness and mindfulness-based therapy.  Being mindful is part of taking notice, one of the 5 ways to wellbeing.  We know that, in general, our personal wellbeing dips, probably naturally from age 20, down to a low in the mid to late 40s and then back up to 60 and mostly continues upwards.

How can we cushion the impact of the wellbeing dip?

We know quite a few protective factors including good mental and physical health, good work, and social relationships.  Early analysis, as part of the ESRC wellbeing counts project, suggests that this age span is the time where ‘take notice’ also dips, particularly in the UK.  As this is the part of our lives where we  spend much of our time engaged in work, this suggests that mindfulness in the workplace could have a significant positive impact on our wellbeing.

I welcome the call in the Mindful Nation report to continue exploring the potential of mindfulness in an evidence based way.  To support employers in their investment decisions, there is a need to understand, in more nuanced ways, about what, how and when and for whom mindfulness practice at work can make a difference to both our wellbeing and our work.

This means evaluation – moving towards large scale trials with controls – of

  • Who its useful for and when, including monitoring over time
  • How – duration and format of training? combined with values or physical awareness? can train the trainer approaches work?
  • When – what is useful before and after e.g. do some people need physical approach first? better when combined into management training or volunteers only?
  • How often – Can it be delivered in ways to fit into the workplace and still be effective?
  • What is core and what can be adapted to context?
  • What impact does it have on other things e.g. staff wellbeing, performance or customer satisfaction?

Whilst the shift in attention to internal changes is welcome, this and similar approaches, can not be a sticking plaster for other issues that need attention. This means comparing mindfulness interventions with other things organisations can invest in for both impact and cost. Our early guide to evaluating wellbeing impact, alongside other outcomes, is here.

Want to partner or fund trials? email info@whatworkswellbeing.org

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