- Blog post
Mindfulness training: Now there’s an app for that
It’s no secret that mindfulness is good for you. In the workplace, studies show that employees can reduce their stress, lower their blood pressure, enhance their memory, cultivate empathy with others, improve their performance and raise their engagement level through mindfulness training.
So it would seem like a slam-dunk for employers to offer such training, which aims to center people on the emotions and sensations they’re feeling, putting them in harmony with their deepest selves.
Only problem is, in a work environment where time is of the essence, it’s not all that easy to find mindfulness training that fits into employees’ busy days. Nor, in this COVID-plagued era, is it evident that people will be able to engage in such training in person.
That’s why forward-thinking organizations will be interested to know that when it comes to employee mindfulness training, there’s an app for that. In fact, there are a bunch of apps for that.
Guided, short meditation sessions
According to a recent study from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, a couple of dozen iPhone apps are available that provide mindfulness training, and meet minimum quality standards. Taking the top-rated app from that group, another research team — from University College London and the University of California-San Francisco — studied its effects on employees at two large British companies.
One group of 110 employees was designated as the control group; they were placed on a wait list to use the app later. The others — 128 of them — were asked to download the app and attend a one-hour in-person introductory talk on meditation and mindfulness. Over the next eight weeks, these employees were directed to listen to one guided audio meditation, ranging from 10 to 20 minutes, per day. On average, people completed 17 of the 45 sessions offered.
Baseline assessments for both groups were done at the start and end of the eight weeks. These measured the participants’ levels of well-being, psychological distress, job strain, perceptions of being socially supported at work, and mindfulness.
The researchers said that the employees who had done the mindfulness training via the app showed “significant improvement” in all these areas compared with the control group. And when they were re-assessed after a further eight weeks, lasting improvements continued to be noted in well-being and mindfulness.
The researchers concluded: “This trial suggests that short guided mindfulness meditations delivered via smartphone and practiced multiple times per week can improve outcomes related to work stress and well-being, with potentially lasting effects.”
Not to overdo it…
Mindfulness isn’t a cure-all, of course. One study, from Brown University’s medical school, has found that overdoing attention to one’s own mental and physical state can actually create mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
But that’s unlikely to happen in the context of a work-sponsored mindfulness training program. What’s more likely is that employees who follow a program like the app-based one in the study will be happier and more productive. And that’s a good result.
This blog entry is based on the following research studies:
Mani, M., et al. (2015) Review and Evaluation of Mindfulness-Based iPhone Apps. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth, 3(3):e82.
Bostock, S., et al. (2019) Mindfulness on-the-go: Effects of a mindfulness meditation app on work stress and well-being. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 24(1), 127–138.
Britton, W. (2019) Can mindfulness be too much of a good thing? The value of a middle way. Current Opinion in Psychology, 28:159-165.