Our modern devices — always buzzing with interruptions and alerts — may seem like the absolute antithesis of mindfulness. But if deployed wisely, we can harness technology to foster feelings of calm, awareness and acceptance. This article describes how one employee assistance program (EAP) uses technology to reach thousands of employees and their family members with guidance on how to build a successful mindfulness practice.
Why Practice Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness involves waking up from automatic behaviors and paying closer attention to what you are doing. People suffering from stress, anger and even physical pain benefit from regularly practicing mindfulness meditation. It helps them better identify their own feelings and reactions. People often say, “Mindfulness helps me be in control of me.”
Meditation is one way to practice mindfulness. Other ways include sitting quietly in nature, observing your breathing and/or noticing your thoughts or feelings. Meditating is like physical fitness for the brain. Research has shown mindfulness improves the brain’s response to stress, anxiety and fear.
As a high-touch EAP, KGA started offering stress management education in the 80s, resiliency training in the 90s and mindfulness meditation in the early 2000s. Typically delivered in classrooms, these programs were well attended, but represented a “one-and-done” approach — not necessarily the most effective way to build ongoing mindfulness.
In 2010, KGA recognized it could reach more employees by combining mindfulness and technology. To make the mindfulness program more scalable, KGA added five different types of products to its platform, offered at no cost to EAP members. Those products included short, pre-recorded meditations, a “Top 10” list of mindfulness apps, mindfulness podcasts, a four-week guided “MyMindfulness Challenge” and mindfulness education via text message.
Why Businesses are Interested in Mindfulness
Everyone agrees that having a mentally healthy workforce is good for business. Additionally, research on mindfulness indicates that businesses also benefit from having more “mindful leaders.” When acting mindfully, leaders are able to take a broader view of initiatives, streamline work and treat others more empathetically.
Employers are also acutely aware of the increase in mental health issues and costs. Employees treated for mental health challenges report improved levels of work efficacy and satisfaction. Mindfulness meditation won’t cure all mental health conditions, but there is good evidence that it reduces stress and positively impacts major ailments such as high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety and depression.
Few organizations have the ability to bring mindfulness training to the masses. EAPs are perfectly positioned to do just that. When technology is properly harnessed for this purpose, employees and their loved ones can get started and work at their own pace.
As more employees opt to work remotely, organizations will turn to their EAPs to look for scalable solutions and digital therapeutics for physical and mental health challenges. With changing demographics, distributed workforces and evolving service models, distribution and delivery through smart technology is critical — even mindful.
About the Authors
Kathleen Greer, LMHC, is founder of KGA, a human resources services firm that helps organizations create and sustain a healthy, engaged and productive workforce.
Seth Moeller has been president of KGA since 2013. Seth has over 25 years of experience in organization development and talent management from financial services, health care, technology and consulting.