Mindfulness1 can be defined as the mental process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment. It has its origins in eastern Buddhist religious traditions, and has now become a popular practice in the west where people are trained in mindfulness to help them manage a variety of psychological conditions.
Increasingly, mindfulness training is also being conducted in the workplace with the aim of facilitating better stress, mental health, wellbeing, and work performance outcomes. The desired work performance outcomes include improved organizational citizenship, leadership, and creativity.
The authors reviewed randomised control trial (RCT) evidence using methods informed by the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions3. The initial searches identified 473 articles. After removing duplicates, excluding irrelevant papers, and then screening for eligibility, 27 papers remained. The authors of eight studies were contacted and asked to provide supplementary information. Ultimately, 23 studies were found to have sufficient data for meta-analysis for at least one of the review outcomes.
From the findings of their systematic review and meta-analysis, the authors conclude that:
- Workplace-delivered mindfulness training can cultivate employee mindfulness, reduce perceived stress, anxiety and psychological distress, and be beneficial for well-being and sleep quality. Effect sizes are in keeping with other well recognized stress-management interventions like relaxation and CBT [cognitive behavioral therapy].
- The promise for enhanced work performance following mindfulness training is not yet supported by the evidence, and claims of improvements in organizational citizenship, leadership, deviance, safety or creativity cannot be defended at the present time with RCT evidence.
- We recommend future studies use validated measures of performance for organizational and individual outcomes, conduct follow-up assessments, replicate interventions in different settings, and continue to explore effects for work sectors beyond education and health.
Header image: ‘Mindfulness’ Helps Soldiers Cope in Iraq. Army Maj. Victor Won and Army Lt. Col. Vincent Barnhart meditate during a 15-minute “mindfulness” session at U.S. Division Center headquarters in Baghdad, Aug. 2, 2010. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Daniel Schneider. Used in accordance with U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Public Use Notice of Limitations. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.
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- Bartlett, L., Martin, A., Neil, A. L., Memish, K., Otahal, P., Kilpatrick, M., & Sanderson, K. (2019). A systematic review and meta-analysis of workplace mindfulness training randomized controlled trials. Journal of occupational health psychology, 24(1), 108. ↩
- Higgins, J.P.T., & Green, S. (eds) (2011). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions, Version 5.1.0, updated March 2011. The Cochrane Collaboration. ↩