11th Jan, 2021 Read time 5 minutes

How mindfulness training can reduce employee stress

This article has been provided by Tap Into Safety and looks at the benefits of mindfulness training in relation to reducing stress amongst employees. 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was growing concern about workplace mental health because mental illness was on the rise. Mental ill-health is a leading cause of sickness absence and work disability in most developed countries. Academic and industry groups are now responding and developing practical solutions that enhance the mental health and psychological resilience of workers.

Training is one critical area that plays a pivotal role in the realm of public health and prevention. In particular, the role of training in protecting the long-term well-being of workers. Today, there is a growing call for evidence of how effective and useful online training in mental health is for employees. As such, for this article, we review some research from the Black Dog Institute on whether an online mindfulness training program is feasible and engaging for high-risk workers. The study findings are transferable across all employee groups.

We need evidence-based solutions

Poor mental health, such as depression and anxiety, has a direct impact on workplace productivity. Mental health conditions lead to sickness absences and presenteeism where workers attend work but perform at a diminished capacity. In Australia, PwC report that absenteeism costs $4.7B, presenteeism costs $6.1B, and compensation claims for mental illness cost $146 M every year.

Long-term, once a worker develops a mental health condition, they often suffer personal financial losses, career disruption, and their well-being reduces.

There is a substantial need to develop evidence-based solutions that are practical, affordable, and accessible. In doing so, there is the potential to deliver significant economic benefits while improving the lives of individual workers.

To address declining mental health, we need a multifaceted approach that addresses the individual, team, and organisational factors. Much is written about the importance of considering work design, corporate culture, management, promoting and facilitating early help-seeking and early intervention, as well as supporting return-to-work programs and recovery.

Importantly, these frameworks also make specific reference to the role of employee resilience training. This type of individual training can form part of the broader workplace health promotion and take on a preventative role to protect the long-term well-being of workers.

Why move mental health training online?

Most resilience interventions involve multiple face-to-face training sessions. They generally include a combination of cognitive strategies, mindfulness training, psycho-educational material, and goal setting. The aim is to enhance a person’s capacity to manage stressful situations and adverse circumstances more effectively and with greater emotional insight.

However, these skills and strategies require time to practice and gain proficiency, which is a particular challenge for many employers.  Apart from the direct cost to attend the training, taking workers away from the workplace disrupts business and critical services. The high costs of face-to-face training is a hindrance to organisational uptake.

Another issue of face-to-face training is that it may prevent workers from choosing to engage openly in group-training sessions because of the stigma associated with mental health.

Adding to the complexity of training delivery is the escalation of COVID-19. Wherever possible, organisations should not be undertaking training activities face-to-face, in a classroom or as group activities. The risk is too high that we may spread the virus. By continuing with traditional training delivery methods, organisations are unnecessarily bringing people together.

The safe alternative is to deliver whatever training you can online. And there’s plenty of evidence that shows that using digital mental health interventions in the workplace can improve psychological well-being and work effectiveness among your employees.

The benefits of online mindfulness training

Mindfulness training is proving to be some help for people with anxiety and mood disorders. Regularly using mindfulness techniques increases well-being, reduces psychological symptoms and emotional reactivity, and improves behavioural regulation. However, online mindfulness training is particularly helpful to reduce stress.

In this study, 29 firefighters tested the Resilience@Work Mindfulness Program (RAW) to determine the online delivery method was practical and engaging. The RAW Program, like other online training, is self-paced and aims to increase employee’s resilience by training in how to manage stress and cope when things get too tough.

The results show that using a mindfulness training program increases resilience and regulates the emotional response to high-stress and crises. Furthermore, providing mindfulness training using online delivery is practical and affordable and enables greater accessibility. Employees can fit the self-paced online mindfulness training into their schedules. Also, there is no requirement to use work time to participate, which is a considerable time and cost-saving to organisations.

Before the pandemic, there were concerns about rising mental health issues in our employees. Now, higher levels of stress are prevalent, and your employees are anxious about their futures and keeping their jobs.

One way to help to improve your employee’s resilience when times are tough is to provide mindfulness training. This type of training is particularly helpful to reduce stress and offers some help to reduce anxious feelings and regulate mood disorders.

The focus of this article is to determine if mindfulness training remains effective when you use online delivery. The research suggests that providing mindfulness training using online delivery is practical and affordable, and enables greater accessibility. When the delivery is available to complete in their personal time, employees can save your business time and money in not having to train during working hours. But more importantly, it enables employees to practice and refine their new skills and strategies in private and at their own pace.

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