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Mindfulness in the workplace: Less hostility, more true emotions

Posted 12.26.2017 | by AMRA

When workplace conflicts boil over into outright expressions of hostility, employees may feel harmed and mistreated and workplace functioning is disrupted. Liang et al. [Journal of Applied Psychology] conducted a series of four studies to test if mindfulness plays a role in decreasing hostile and aggressive behavior in places of employment.

The first three studies examined whether mindful awareness and acceptance can weaken the link between feelings of hostility and the overt expression of those feelings. The fourth study explored the ways in which mindfulness might accomplish this.

The first three studies used employees from Amazon MTurk (average age = 36-39 years; 44%-48% male), a crowdsourcing Internet marketplace, as participants. The fourth study drew employees (average age = 37 years; 49% male) from a larger employee database.

In the first study, 101 employees visualized and described a past negative incident with their supervisor. Participants were then randomly assigned to either a mindful awareness, mindful acceptance, or mind wandering condition. In each condition, participants read flashcard statements designed to elicit one of these mental states. The cards included statements like “consciously attend to your breath for a few seconds” or “let your mind wander to whichever thought it wants.”

Afterwards, participants were presented with a voodoo doll representing their supervisor and asked how many pins they would like to stick in it. The flashcards participants read affected how many pins they chose to use (partial η2=.07). The mindful awareness group used significantly fewer (6 pins) than the mind-wandering group (15 pins). The mindful acceptance group (8 pins), however, didn’t differ significantly from the mind-wandering group.

In the second study, 342 employees completed the Mindful Attention and Awareness Scale […]

December 26th, 2017|News|

MBSR participants with generalized anxiety disorder miss less work

Posted 03.21.2017 | by AMRA

People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) suffer from excessive and uncontrollable worry concerning a broad array of everyday matters (work, money, health, relationships, etc.) along with a range of physical symptoms (headache, fatigue, muscle tension, etc.) associated with stress. As a result, people with GAD often miss days at work and tend to use medical and mental health services at a higher rate than the average person.

GAD is often treated with medication and psychotherapy, and in recent years, mindfulness-based interventions have been added as an additional treatment alongside more traditional approaches.

In a secondary analysis of a previously published randomized, controlled clinical trial, Hoge et al. [Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine] investigated whether Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) reduced the number of GAD sufferers’ missed days at work and the number of their visits to primary care and mental health care professionals to a greater degree than a stress management education (SME) control.

The 57 individuals with GAD (mean age = 39; 56% female; 83% Caucasian) whose data were analyzed in this study were a subset of a larger cohort of individuals with GAD who were randomly assigned to either a standard 8-week MBSR program or an 8-week SME program. The SME program covered topics relevant to stress including time management, nutrition, exercise, and sleep.

The subgroup of patients whose data was included in this analysis completed the World Health Organization Health Performance and Work Questionnaire (HPQ) at baseline, after intervention, and at 24-week follow-up. The HPQ is a self-report measure of illness-related absences from work and visits to primary care and mental health professionals.

At immediate post-intervention, the MBSR group had significantly decreased the number of partial […]

March 21st, 2017|News|

Workplace mindfulness intervention may lower overall healthcare costs

Posted 09.26.2016 | by AMRA


Healthcare costs in the United States rose to over 17% of the Gross Domestic Product in 2015. Employers are increasingly turning to workplace-based lifestyle interventions to control employee healthcare costs. Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are sometimes offered in workplaces to enhance employee self-care and decrease illness-causing stress. How well do workplace-based MBIs succeed in lowering employee healthcare utilization costs?

Using a quasi-experimental design, Klatt et al. [Complementary Therapies in Medicine] retrospectively analyzed 5-year healthcare utilization and the associated costs for participants in a workplace-based MBI and a workplace-based didactic diet-and-exercise program. The researchers then compared these utilization rates and costs with those of matched controls drawn from a health care database.

A sample of 170 faculty and staff members from a large Midwestern university was recruited and randomly assigned to either a MBI or the diet-and-exercise (DE) intervention. The participants were selected, in part, on the basis of their high C-reactive protein levels (3.0-10.0 mg/ml), which are a known risk factor in cardiovascular disease. The MBI was an 8-week program modeled after MBSR, but truncated to fit a lunch hour schedule. The weekly workplace-based group meetings lasted 1 hour, recommended home practice was 20 minutes per day, yoga consisted of standing and chair yoga, and a 2-hour retreat replaced the usual “all day” session. The DE intervention consisted of a series of 8, 1-hour-long, group didactic sessions focusing on nutrition, diet, and exercise along with associated home readings.

After the experiment was concluded, an additional cohort of 258 “controls” was selected from the university health plan database by matching the study participants as closely as possible on age, gender, relative health risk, and prior healthcare utilization. […]

September 26th, 2016|News|

Online mindfulness program boosts employee wellness, not productivity

Posted 04.25.2016 | by AMRA


Jobs can be a major source of stress. Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) can reduce stress, but employers may be reluctant to offer them due to time and cost concerns. Web-based MBIs may help to address such concerns, but research suggests participant engagement in online programs tends to be low. Allexandre, et al. [Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine] randomly assigned employees to a web-based MBI with and without group and clinical expert support in an effort to discover how to best improve web-based MBI engagement and outcomes for workers.

The researchers recruited 161 predominantly Caucasian (77%), female (83%) (average age = 40) debt collectors, customer service representatives, and fraud representatives from a pool of 900 employees working at a corporate call center in Ohio. These employees reported greater levels of stress and exhaustion than average American workers.

The employees were randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions: 1) a web-based MBI, 2) a web-based MBI with group support, 3) a web-based MBI with both group and clinician support, and 4) a wait-list control. All three intervention conditions ran for 8 weeks and participants had access to both weekly online and weekly CD/MP3-delivered mindfulness lectures and guided meditations including a body scan, sitting, and lovingkindness meditation.

Group support consisted of small-to-medium sized practice-and-discussion groups which met weekly for one hour. All groups were employee-led, but the groups with clinician support met on three occasions with a licensed social worker or counselor who did not serve as a “mindfulness teacher” but discussed topics such as letting go, acceptance, non-judging, and compassion from a cognitive-behavioral perspective.

Participants were assessed on self-report measures of emotional wellbeing, vitality, stress, burnout, exhaustion, […]

April 25th, 2016|News|

Delivering mindfulness to employees during paid work hours

Posted 11.17.2015 | by AMRA


Employee psychological distress negatively affects workplace productivity, absenteeism, and disability. Employers, therefore, have a financial stake in their employee’s levels of distress and emotional well-being. Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) may have the potential to reduce job stress and improve employee psychological health in ways that benefit both employee and employer.

Huang et al. [PloS One] investigated the potential of a MBI to reduce emotional distress and job strain in a randomized controlled trial of factory employees with previously identified poor mental health.

The researchers screened almost 3,000 employees at two Taiwanese factories using self-report measures of psychological distress (anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, relationship problems, and somatic concerns) and job strain (job demandingness and lack of personal control on the job), and then invited those workers with the highest distress and strain levels to participate in an 8-week MBI based on the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program.

A sample of 144 employees (59% male, predominantly college educated and “white-collar,” average age = 42) agreed to participate and were randomly assigned to either the MBI or a wait-list control. Participants were assessed on the original screening measures and on measures of prolonged fatigue and perceived stress (how unpredictable, uncontrollable, and overloaded they found their lives) at mid-intervention, post-intervention, and 4-week and 8-week follow-up.

The intervention groups met during paid work hours, and 78% of the participants successfully completed the program. At program’s end, MBI participants had significantly greater improvements over time in levels of psychological distress (6.3 vs. 1.4 mean change in scores), prolonged fatigue (9.6 vs. 2.0), and perceived stress (2.5 vs. 0.9) compared to controls. Those group differences persisted at 4-week and 8-week follow-up. The MBI did […]

November 17th, 2015|News|

Web-based MBI combats work stress and burnout

Posted: 08.20.2014 | by AMRA


Occupational stress is not only harmful to employees, but is also costly to employers in terms of increased health-care expenses and decreased employee attendance, morale, and performance. Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) may have an important role to play in combatting occupational stress, but MBSR programs are time-intensive and often challenging to implement in the workplace, especially on a scale expansive enough to benefit large corporations.

Aikins et al. [Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine] developed an abbreviated MBI modeled after MBSR that was delivered on a web-based virtual classroom platform. The intervention makes use of a live instructor, webinar-and-email technology, and a printed workbook/practice guide to deliver 7, 1 hour-long, virtual classes and support 10.8 hours of home-based practice. The durations of the body scan, meditation, and yoga sessions were shortened to accommodate the hour-long format, there was no daylong retreat, and workplace-relevant material was included in the syllabus.

Eighty-nine Dow Chemical Company employees were randomly assigned to either the MBI or a wait-list control. Only 66 participants completed the study, due in part to the 6 MBI and 10 wait-list control subjects who never attended a class after being initially assigned to their groups. MBI participants significantly improved their mindfulness (as measured by the Five-Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire), resilience, and physical, emotional, and cognitive vigor, and decreased their perceived stress compared with wait-list controls.

Treatment gains were maintained or continued to improve at six-month follow-up, with the exception of a small, non-significant rise in perceived stress. MBI participants reported significant decreases in high-stress days, burnout, and fast-food consumption, as well as increases in fruit and vegetable consumption.

Eighty-seven percent of the participants rated the program as […]

August 11th, 2014|News|

Worker safety practices accounted for by mindfulness

Posted: 08.04.2014 | by AMRA


Food service industry workers (e.g., cooks, waiters, and busboys) are expected to keep their productivity high and their customers happy under trying circumstances. Maintaining awareness of food safety to prevent the spread of foodborne disease is a central worker role.

In day-to-day operations, workers are expected to be aware of and reject previously thawed deliveries, heat foods to their proper temperature, and maintain hygiene through proper hand washing and food handling. Food service workers do not always follow safety protocols, however, and sometimes get distracted or misjudge priorities.

Betts & Hinsz [Current Psychology] explored the degree to which dispositional mindfulness (as measured by the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale) might contribute to employees’ attention to safety. Study measures included the dispositional mindfulness, food safety knowledge, and self-reported safety practices of 428 university students who worked at least part-time in the food service industry.

Results from the study showed that knowledge of food safety protocols alone accounted for only 3% of the actual variance in employees’ food safety practices. When dispositional mindfulness and its differential relationship with differing levels of food safety knowledge were taken into consideration, however, about 15% of the variance in food safety was explained. Mindfulness was positively correlated (r = 0.35) with food service safety practice. Especially important was that the less workers actually knew about food safety, the more mindfulness contributed to safety practice.

The study suggests that level of dispositional mindfulness is an important variable in determining the extent to which food service workers safely carry out their work responsibilities, but the study is limited by its reliance on self-report measures and its failure to rule out the impact of social desirability […]

August 4th, 2014|News|

Mindful Power Plant Operators in High Complexity Jobs Enact Safer Behaviors

Posted from archive: 06.06.2013 | by AMRA


Zhang et al. [Personality and Individual Differences] validated the factor structure of the Freiberg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI) in a Chinese population, and investigated the effects of trait mindfulness on the job performance of Chinese nuclear power plant operators. The FMI validation study (n=294) yielded a two-factor solution (Presence and Acceptance).

The authors then compared supervisor-rated task performance, safety compliance, and safety participation in two groups of power plant operators: control room operators (CRO) who monitor over 1,000 displays and maintain responsibility for overall reactor safety (a high complexity job), and field operators (FO) who monitor just a few pieces of frontline equipment and have limited decision-making responsibility (a low complexity job).

The authors hypothesized that trait Presence would be an asset for high complexity jobs, but less of an asset for low complexity jobs. Their reasoning was that mindfulness might consume limited cognitive resources that could interfere with speed and efficiency in low complexity jobs. Presence turned out to be positively correlated with CRO (high complexity) task performance, CRO safety participation, and CRO safety compliance, but negatively correlated with FO (low complexity) task performance, and unrelated to either FO safety compliance or participation. Trait Acceptance was unrelated to any of the work performance or safety measures.

This study suggests that mindfulness might aid in vocational tasks involving the processing of multiple streams of information along with complex decision-making responsibilities. However, mindfulness might be less relevant on routine tasks when speed is of the essence and the cost of error is low.


Zhang, J., Ding, W., Li, Y., & Wu, C. (2013). Task complexity matters: The influence of trait mindfulness on task and safety performance of […]

January 2nd, 2014|News|