(This post is about a 4-minute read)
This years’ Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey showed that benefit plan sponsors are dealing with many different types of challenges as they try their best to deliver high-value programs to their employees. Sponsors are on the lookout for low-cost, low-effort solutions where they can realize big returns; improving productivity, morale, and overall focus within their organizations. Backed by numerous scientific studies, and emerging as more mainstream in North American culture, mindfulness is a highly credible practice that workplaces can embrace to see profoundly positive rewards.
Wellness program fatigue
In recent years, the focus may have been on expanding or promoting services within the scope of formalized wellness programs. Various forms of discussion-based therapy, nutritional counselling, and exercise would have been touted as essentials to help an employee smooth the edges of life’s rough patches. While these are valid, proven, and practical, the Sanofi report revealed that engagement in these kinds of offerings was plateauing. It argued that it was time to put the brakes on trying to bring in more wellness bells and whistles.
Create a shift in culture
A better approach would focus on looking at the underlying beliefs, assumptions, attitudes, and behaviours that form the backbone of a company’s culture and introduce programming that would support the creation of a healthier, more pleasant environment that’s supportive and minimizes stressors. This is where mindfulness is quietly showing its strengths. Mindfulness programs that are endorsed by employers and work to normalize meditation and deep breathing techniques – two hallmarks of a mindfulness practice -- are seeing astounding results with a trifecta of positive physical, emotional, and psychological changes.
Start small. Share. Support
So how can an organization start down the path of incorporating mindfulness into their culture? It’s easy if they consider one of the fundamentals of mindfulness itself: paying attention to the present time and place. Start small and gauge interest, finding people who have already developed a personal practice and who are more than willing to share their knowledge as advocates. They will help introduce and model the principles. The potential for grassroots involvement is big if it has the right support from leaders and influencers within your company.
Introduce focussed and balanced breathing exercises at the beginning or end of team meetings. Share the science and results. Create space by inviting people to attend a short, five-minute group meditation session, at least once a day. Make work a safe place for people to recognize the need for balance and help them achieve it.
What are the gains?
When someone is mindful, they become more keenly aware of how they choose to interact with the world. They develop a better sense of how they process information. More importantly, they learn how they react to different sources of stress. Mindfulness gives them a chance to observe the direction that they naturally lean to when responding to situations. And consequently, they can make more thoughtful, conscious choices. This kind of insight comes with practice, and of course, a strong personal commitment.
When a business creates space within their culture to support mindfulness, they gain employees who feel more in control of their personal well-being. They will start to see reductions in interpersonal conflict because of reduced stress, increased empathy and higher degrees of emotional intelligence. Creativity, community and loyalty flourish. As the employee population becomes healthier all around from the shift in support of mindfulness in the workplace, these positives and others will begin to show up as better outcomes for benefits programs
Connect with usif you would like to discuss mindfulness at work or any other topic. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.