Submitted by: Mara Wai, Associate Director, Penn Program for Mindfulness @PennMedicine

Workplace stress is one of the most significant sources of stress for American adults today and is associated with enormous health care costs per year for employers.[1],[2] Data from a recent poll revealed that “80% of working people reported feeling stress on the job and that half of them need help in managing stress.”  Stress was found to more negatively impact job performance and productivity in worksites when there are less supports and resources for employees.[3]

Michael Baime MD, Director of the Penn Program for Mindfulness, shares insights below about how mindfulness can benefit employees.

What is mindfulness?
“Mindfulness is a particular way of paying attention that helps you to be more fully present. It enhances decision-making, emotional balance, and relationships. Although it’s popularized as a tool for stress management, it’s really much more than that.”

Why has mindfulness become so popular?
“One reason that mindfulness has become popular is that there’s been a tremendous amount of research to demonstrate that it works. It’s been shown to enhance essential cognitive capacities like working memory and cognitive function, and to support emotional balance in a way that helps people to feel and function better. A worksite program we delivered at the University of Pennsylvania found decreases in employee depression, anxiety, and anger ranging from 30 to 50%. Participants also felt more vigor and less fatigue. We believe that these changes occur because mindfulness practice results in changes in brain regions that manage thinking and mood.”

How does mindfulness benefit employees?
“Employees experience less stress and become less reactive. As their ability to remain balanced and steady during very difficult moments increases, they do everything better. They make better choices, collaborate more effectively, and are happier at work.”

How are worksites employing mindfulness?
“Mindfulness training is most effective when it is tailored to meet the needs and culture of a particular worksite. It can be thought of as applied meditation that is adapted to meet the needs of a particular situation, so a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t necessarily work. Many worksites begin with an overall training that offers employees a chance to practice mindfulness-based approaches in situations similar to the ones faced at work. Training includes formal mindfulness practice, which is a contemplative or meditation-based exercise. This practice helps employees to slow down, manage stress, and remain more engaged at work. More comprehensive training programs include a series of workshops or classes over multiple, consecutive weeks to reinforce practice and its application.”

The Penn Program for Mindfulness provides innovative mindfulness-based stress management solutions for worksites and community organizations. Learn more here.