You already know that the biggest causes of absence from work are stress related, but did you know this costs the UK economy a whopping £7 billion per year? Aside from the cost, stress is a tricky area to manage, often occurring with little warning and no instant remedy. Over recent years individuals have become more open about personal struggles with mental health, but are businesses ready to do the same?
For a number of years HR teams have looked to Employee Assistance Programmes or counseling services for support but these interventions focus on fixing a problem that has already impacted the business. We are now starting to see a trend for more proactive measures, like Mindfulness, being introduced in large corporations such as Google, TFL and GSK.
The practice of mindfulness combines meditation techniques with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to retrain the brain to increase moment-to-moment awareness. This awareness helps us snap out of autopilot and stop future forecasting, making it easier to identify true thoughts and feelings. Once we can do this we can begin to control what enters our mind and when, which amongst other benefits enables the self-management of feelings of anxiety and stress. The technique is facilitated in a group setting, mixing meditation with enquiry and feedback. It is interactive and builds openness and communication about thoughts and feelings with colleagues, without becoming intrusive.
Does it work? MRI scans show that after 8 weeks of Mindfulness training, the brain’s fight or flight centre starts to shrink. Research has also shown that people who meditate live for 10 years longer on average because the practice of meditation repairs and strengthens DNA, which otherwise is damaged by age and stress. TFL also reported a 71 percent reduction in stress related absence after the introduction of Mindfulness.
This article was written by Sonya Russo and Sarah Beane. Sonya worked in advertising and media for 15 years before establishing waves mindfulness, working with businesses across the UK to implement mindfulness. Sarah established People Management Partners to support business in implementing high quality and forward thinking HR initiatives across the people management lifecycle.