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Workplace health and well being is a rising public health concern. Poor employee health can be costly to the organization (e.g. absenteeism, poor productivity, reduced attention and workplace safety).

Chronic stress has been shown to impinge decision-making, reduce concentration, immune system responses, and job satisfaction, cause psychological distress (e.g. depression and anxiety) and coronary heart disease, and negatively impact client rapport and personal relationships. 

Perceived stress increases the risk of burnout, a syndrome of depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, and feelings of low personal accomplishment. Stressful working conditions can lead to lateral violence (e.g., non-verbal innuendo,undermining, withholding information, verbal affront, scape-goating, backstabbing, infighting, disrespecting privacy, and broken confidence). 

Lateral violence creates negative workplace relationships and disrupts team effectiveness, resulting burnout and turnover.

Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) have been shown to significantly reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout. MBIs are a mechanism for reducing negative emotional reactions, enhancing resilience, and promoting self-healing.

Mindfulness fosters acute awareness of the "present moment" and the impermanent nature of things. Participants are thereby able to cultivate the ability to respond to stimuli in a nonjudgmental way; allowing them to navigate their lives in a manner that does not involve attachment to particular beliefs. The first formal program, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) was created by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979.

MBSR teaches participants to let go of ruminations and fears about the past and future to become more aware of, and relate differently to, thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. Participants are then able to identify their habitual reactions to stress and promote healthier, more adaptive ways of coping. 

Mindfulness reduces stress by:

  • Enhancing awareness of thoughts in order to identify and reduce negative response styles (e.g. pessimism, ruminative thinking)
  • Reducing emotional reactivity; pausing to think with a "wise mind" to find the best solution
  • Creating a "being present" mindset which is associated with relaxation as opposed to "doing" mode requiring action and a stress response
  • Improving awareness and sensitivity to the needs of the body and mind
  • Increasing awareness of the emotions of others creating enhanced empathy and reduced conflict
  • Promoting care and compassion for yourself and others thereby inhibiting the stress response
  • Reducing the fear response and threat detection
  • Enhancing cognitive function and improving concentration skills on tasks at hand
  • Changing attitudes about stressors and promoting positive thinking towards stress

Mindfulness is fundamentally connected to many facets of workplace functioning. Mindfulness effects on attention, cognition, emotional, behavior, and physiology impact key organizational outcomes including leadership, motivation, performance, relationships, and well-being. 

Mindful communications have also been associated with enhanced empathy, attention, and listening. MBIs are important tools for work/life that are being included as part of a comprehensive worksite wellness programs throughout the world. 

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