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A feasibility study conducted by the University of Cambridge is utilising Wellmind Health's Be Mindful mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) course to help measure the effects of mindfulness on wellbeing and work performance. It is believed that mindfulness has particular benefits in this area as practice of it teaches how to focus and direct our attention.

From the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at Cambridge, study author Maris Vainre is working to understand the mechanisms, such as the ability to maintain attention, that might improve as a result of practicing mindfulness.

"It's established that mindfulness is beneficial for wellbeing. Mindfulness is also claimed to improve work performance," explained Maris, "but at present this claim does not have the support of good-quality evidence and we don't understand the effect or what is behind it. For the people benefitting from the course, the effect is real, but from a wider perspective, we need to know if the benefit occurs reliably enough. This will help us to establish whether mindfulness could indeed improve work performance."

This study aims to evaluate the acceptability, feasibility, and procedural uncertainties of a randomised controlled trial in a workplace, calculate an effect size estimate to inform power calculations for a larger trial, and explore whether improved cognitive control and/or enhanced mental health could be potential mechanisms underlying the effect of mindfulness on work performance.

One hypothesis is that the skill that is special about mindfulness compared to other wellbeing practices is emotion regulation or the ability of moving away from certain emotions. For example, being able to put aside worries about a recent misunderstanding with a colleague to focus on the work at hand. By inducing negative emotion and at the same time asking people to pay attention, a question posed is whether people are better at paying attention despite the negative stimuli if they use mindfulness compared to another wellbeing course that doesn't include mindfulness.

Workplace performance stock photo

The impact of workplace wellbeing on performance has been increasing as an issue and improving our understanding of the link between mindfulness and workplace performance is vital. Atop the detrimental effects of poor mental health at a human level, when employees' wellbeing is suffering, they take more sick days, deliver lower performance, and have higher rates of burnout and turnover. According to a study conducted in the UK, work-related stress led to 12.5 million workdays lost in 2016/17, and the World Economic Forum estimates that the costs associated with turnover and lower productivity seen in burnout result in a loss of $322 billion annually.

Wellmind Health is involved in numerous research studies to help build the evidence base for MBCT. Be Mindful was selected as the programme for mindfulness training in the study due to its online nature and clinically proven ability to improve wellbeing through mindfulness. Follow-up questionnaires for the second and final cohort will be completed by end of February 2022. Collected data will then be cleaned and analysed, with findings published in a years' time and plans for a larger trial following that.

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