Stress at Work
Article from BPS Research Digest
Controlled study finds mind-body stress reduction techniques effective in workplace
A large randomised controlled study has found yoga and meditation techniques to be effective for stress reduction in the workplace. The study screened employees from a single company at two location to find healthy individuals who identified themselves as stressed and did not practice those techniques. This led to 239 employees who were randomly assigned to a weekly program of viniyoga practice, a similar program focused on mindfulness meditation, or to a control group who were simply given information about resources available to help with workplace stress. After 12 weeks, participants in both programs had significantly lower stress, as well as reduced difficulties in sleeping, whereas the control participants did not.
The study also measured biological features, such as heart rate variability measured post-intervention, where the participant had to imagine an upcoming stressful event and try and apply the relevant technique (mindfulness, yogic techniques such as breath control, or simply their default coping strategy if a control). Again those participants who had been through the intervention had better outcomes, in terms of heart rhythm coherence, a measure of autonomic balance linked to better functioning.
Key to these findings were the time commitments taken on by participants: the weekly commitment was in most cases just an hour, with a total time investment of 12-14 hours leading to these health effects. We’ve written about even more bite-sized approaches to introducing health activities into the workplace, which itself is being evaluated in a trial form. As our scientific understanding of the valuable impact of these often-ancient activities deepens, it’s very welcome that we are simultaneously investigating the pragmatic concerns: understanding which strategies are viable for introducing these techniques on a large scale into a workplace.
Wolever, R., Bobinet, K., McCabe, K., Mackenzie, E., Fekete, E., Kusnick, C., & Baime, M. (2012). Effective and viable mind-body stress reduction in the workplace: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 17 (2), 246-258 DOI: 10.1037/a0027278