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Does Mindfulness Training Enhance Workplace Productivity or Wellness?

CoAdvantage – Workplace wellness has taken on renewed importance in a world continuing to deal with a pandemic and its aftermath. It makes sense: wellness programs can genuinely work to increase employee wellness, productivity, and engagement all at once! A Gallup study into the relationship between employee mental well-being and business results suggests “a strong positive correlation between employee well-being, productivity, and firm performance.”

As a result, more employers than ever are beginning to offer wellness programs that include initiatives like resiliency training, mindfulness training, and other stress management programs. Interest in mindfulness programs, for example, has jumped by 29 points (from 59% to 88% of organizations) just since 2020, according to one survey of employers. Companies ranging from Microsoft and Apple to Facebook and LinkedIn to Goldman Sachs and IKEA all offer some form of mindfulness, yoga, or meditation courses to employees.

But here’s a key question: does mindfulness training in the workplace actually do anything?

As with many complicated topics, the answer is yes but. It’s clear that mindfulness training may have indirect benefits, but evidence of direct benefits on workplace issues like productivity, burnout, turnover, etc. is inconclusive. Overall, the research seems to say that mindfulness training definitely doesn’t hurt, and probably helps (if only indirectly), but outcomes are highly variable and depend on the situation.

For example, one review of 23 studies on mindfulness-based interventions published in The Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found statistically significant benefits for stress, anxiety, psychological distress, and sleep. However, they had insufficient data to draw any conclusions about work performance.

On the other hand, another meta-analysis of 28 studies published in the European Journal of Training and Development, found “that mindfulness-based training is an effective intervention for organizations to improve mental health, wellbeing, and performance of employees.”

It’s important to recognize that part of the reason this evidence can vary or seems inconclusive is that individual work environments can differ from each other a great deal, and mindfulness training simply won’t be equally effective in all situations.

For example, the authors of one study note that some settings – like healthcare or technology – are more favorable for mindfulness-based wellness interventions. Others don’t work as well. As that study’s authors write, “A less favorable climate might prevail in the context of ‘tough, male’-oriented occupations, such as police officers or firefighters, including social norms, attitudes, and expectations that possibly lower the acceptance and effects of [mindfulness-based programs].”

Thus, mindfulness practice in the workplace might thus be best viewed as a sort of employee wellness perk that likely has some benefits. If such practice fits into the company’s culture and brand, or if it helps to attract new hires who might be attracted to this kind of benefit, then it’s a great wellness offering. Just don’t necessarily expect it to suddenly solve turnover, burnout, or productivity problems. 

For more information, read “Helping Employees to Cope with Workplace Stress” and “5 Strategies to Improve Stress Management in the Workplace.”

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about our ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.