Posted: 08.20.2014 | by AMRA

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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 “satisfactory,” and the dropout rate was only 5%. Improvements occurred despite stressful work circumstances, including a large round of lay-offs and a local plant closing. A cost-benefit analysis projected possible cost savings of up to $22,580 per year per employee due to decreased employee burnout.

Reference:

Aikens, K. A., Astin, J., Pelletier, K. R., Levanovich, K., Baase, C. M., Park, Y. Y., & Bodnar, C. M. (2014). Mindfulness goes to work: Impact of an online workplace intervention. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 56(7), 721-731. [PMID: 24988100]

[Link to abstract]