Online mindfulness program receives praise from UBC researchers

An online mindfulness program designed to easily fit into the workplace has been found to significantly increase workers’ satisfaction, performance and their ability to handle stress, according to researchers at UBC’s Sauder School of Business.

'It's not a fad; it's something that has a tangible payoff for organizations and individuals'

Researchers at UBC's Sauder School of Business found that a 30-day online meditation program significantly increased the well-being and productivity of workers. (Getty Images/Caiaimage)

​A one-month long online mindfulness training program significantly increases workers' satisfaction, performance and their ability to handle stress, according to researchers at UBC's Sauder School of Business.

Developed by the organization MindWell, the 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge was designed to make mindfulness practices less time-consuming and more accessible to people in the workplace.

According to MindWell's website, the challenge teaches participants to "take five" — taking five minutes to focus their minds on what one may be doing, whether it is eating a meal, talking to a colleague or being in a work meeting.

Each day of the challenge has a new lesson, teaching participants how to add cues into their day (such as walking through a certain door, or sipping coffee) to remind themselves to take a five-minute break and practice mindfulness.

The researchers found that the program — which consists of videos, podcasts and email and text notifications — was an effective tool in the workplace.

"We're seeing results in the workplace of employees feeling more positive well-being, [increasing] their ability to manage stress, their willingness to learn, to listen to others, resulting in perhaps the most ultimate thing that organizations care about, which is higher performance," said Daniel Skarlicki, a professor of organizational behaviour at UBC's business school.

Researchers skeptical at first

Skarlicki said he was doubtful the program would have a large impact at first seeing it only as a "light intervention."

"I was skeptical initially as a scientist. I was very curious to find out whether a 30-day challenge which is done remotely in small bites would actually have the impact that we're seeing in some of the other mindfulness programs that we're studying," he said.

"But we've now discovered through a series of studies and other colleagues throughout the world that it works. It's not a fad. It's something that has a tangible payoff for organizations and individuals."

Geoffrey Soloway, the co-founder and chief training officer for MindWell, said mindfulness can include meditation, but can also mean "training ourselves to be more present in our day-to-day life."

Soloway said the program was designed to make mindfulness more relevant and accessible to broader audiences, such as educational organizations, schools and workplaces.

Making mindfulness a daily practice

The program has a buddy system, so people have someone else they can do the challenge with, and there are email and texts to remind those doing the challenge to "take five."

"We're trying to integrate mindfulness into your every day, and so we create cues in your life and through the challenge we set cues to remind you to be mindful throughout your day."

The program has caught on at post-secondary institutions such as UBC, where a number of faculty and staff have taken the challenge.

Miranda Massie, the health promotions coordinator with the university, said  that those who tried the program found that it helped them if they were dealing with anxiety or workplace stress.

She added that she found that it was easy to integrate the practice of mindfulness into her daily routine by using the program.

"It wasn't something I had to stop and necessarily think about. It wasn't necessarily something I had to add to my to-do list, instead it was something I was integrating all the time," she said.

With files from CBC's B.C. Almanac


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