Building a case for mindfulness and working from home.
Mindfulness at Work in the pre COVID-19 era
Past studies into mindfulness at work all showed positive benefits. (Mindfulness Initiative 2017):
- Reduced levels of stress, worry and emotional outbursts
- Improved to emotional intelligence
- More engagement and communication
- Better decision making and problem solving
- Greater ability to switch off after work
- Boosting the immune system
The National Institute of Health UK and the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Harvard University suggested very similar benefits:
- Reduces employee absenteeism and turnover
- Improves cognitive function
- Increases productivity
- Enhances work relationship
- Improves job satisfaction
Even with all these positive outcomes for mindfulness-based training, many employers were and still are not convinced that training staff how to switch off or to be in the moment and breath can have any benefit at all. It can seem to be the opposite of what business is trying to do.
Before COVID-19, worrying statistics about workplace wellbeing were already in the public domain. Research into the mental health of UK organizations by MIND, CIPD, HSE, and the Centre for Mental Health:
45% of all sickness absences due to stress, anxiety, and depression.
41% of those surveyed feels stressed or very stressed at work.
£1,035 per employee was the average cost of mental ill-health each year.
£26Bn Cost to the UK economy of mental ill-health at work.
For many it was perceived we were already in the middle of a poor mental health epidemic here in the UK.
The Blurring Boundaries of Work and Home.
The challenges staff now face in the workplace have radically changed for those that are working from home. For the employer, it can be hard to manage productivity and protect the wellbeing and mental health of home workers at the same time.
Working from home for many means improvised workspaces such as kitchen tables become desk areas, family spaces become workspaces. The additional distractions of easier to access social media, household chores, childcare, and ambient sounds make it hard to concentrate on a specific task. The inability of many to separate themselves from the job and switch off can lead to lower productivity and motivation alongside increasing levels of stress and deteriorating mental health. (American Psychiatric Association)
Benefits of Mindfulness while working from home.
Staff facing the challenge of working from home may benefit from the practice of mindfulness:
- Ability to focus on tasks without excess distraction.
- Improve attention to work tasks, increasing performance.
- Manage screen fatigue.
- Help disconnect or switch off from work mode.
- More awareness of emotions and feelings.
At break times, the more a person can make full benefit when they are off the clock or in downtime, the more a person can rest and recover, leading to a greater sense of wellbeing. Mindfulness makes better use of our downtime and can positively affect our work time. (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007; Steed et al., 2019)
Learning these skills while working from home, with a well trained and experienced mindfulness teacher can create more engagement with the subject and an opportunity to learn skills for wellbeing. Even when time is limited smaller doses of mindfulness can have a positive effect on wellbeing with decreased emotional exhaustion and increased job satisfaction (Hulsheger et al., 2012).
Building resilience and reducing stress for employees is not just a nice thing to do, it can directly impact the bottom line. mindfulness can be part of the solution when you are deciding how to support the mental health and wellbeing of staff that work from home.