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UK Mindfulness practitioner (teacher) experiences overview

Course duration and format

A number of meta-analysis and other workplace studies published in 2015 and 2016 suggest that shortened mindfulness programmes produce desirable workplace outcomes.  A current problem with the research is that many research studies do not adequately document the length of the mindfulness based intervention (MBI), the ratio of experiential practice time & refletion vs didactic outcome, and the daily practice time requirement.

What is becoming clear is that shortened course durations with shortened practice requirements can generate similar or identical outcomes.  Practice is a key element, as is a roughly 50/50 split between taught input and mindfulness practice and reflection in class time.

Anecdotaly, many mindfulness teachers report that they adapt mindfulness teaching acording to the clients and organisational culture - the most common adaptations being shortened practice requirements, shortened sessions, use of language and pair feedback rather than use of the clinical inquiry model which is regarded by many as inappropriate in a workplace environment.

Skilled mindfulness teachers do successfully deliver 8 week x 2.5 hour a week with 20-40 minute daily home practice requirements and report good outcomes.

It would make sense from a neuroplasticity perspective that the longer the time spent practicing and discussing mindfulness, the better mindfulness is embedded in the brain - so the argument that longer course durations and longer practice requirements produce better outcomes is logical.  However, we currently research which compares shortened courses with standard 8 week courses, so no one really knows which is most effective.   

Many workplace mindfulness teachers have reported that the requirement for 8 week x 2.5 hour a week and 20-40 minutes home practice may act as a barrier to employer engagement. This is acknowledged in the Mindful Nation report and a number of recently published meta-analysis reports on mindfulness in thr workplace.  6 week approaches such as WorkplaceMT  may provide a compromise and can help reduce barriers and increase engagement. 

 

Mindfulness at work case studies

 

Why are organisations increasingly interested in mindfulness? 

By Juliet Adams MSc FCIPD  6/11/14

"The world is not spinning faster, it just seems that way.  Businesses operate 24/7 and expect constant performance. Workers multitask through multiple projects, teams, and time zones, trying to keep up with too many "top priorities". Many silently wish to, "stop the madness", and wonder why results don't change.  An answer lies in our ability and choice to focus  attention, which may be the most critical management skill of the 21st century."

From Jeremy Hunter/Marc Sokol recent article "Focus is Power: Effectively Treating Executive Attention Deficit Disorder"

The quality of your attention directly affects the quality of your performance,  but unfortunately attention is a very limited resource.  Leaders and staff alike learn to manage their attention, rather than their time. Mindfulness enhances your awareness of what you are doing or thinking at any given time. This simple act helps you to clear your mind and focus your attention. Research also demonstrates that mindfulness can increase well-being and resiliance; reduce stress; improve relationships at work, and help you make better decisions.  For these reasons, more and more companies are offering staff training in mindfulness.

Major corporations in the USA, like General Mills, and major employers in the UK, such as the National Health Service, have offered staff mindfulness training in recent years. Google,  eBay and Capitol One are among the many companies that now provide rooms for staff to practise mindfulness in work time. The Harvard Business School and the Peter Drucker School of Management in the USA, and Ashridge Business School and Cranfield School of Management in the UK now include mindfulness principles in their leadership programmes.

Is mindfulness really the solution?

Mindfulness is not a quick fix or a cure all.  Learning mindfulness takes time and practice.  Unlike most training routinely offered to staff, its not something that organisations can read a book on then develop their training programme.  In order to teach mindfulness trainers need a deep understanding of mindfulness which can only be gained through sustained practice over a period of time.  This can lead to frustrations for organisations as they have to rely on external teachers, who can be in short supply.

When considering introducing mindfulness training to staff, its always a good idea to see if its the right solution to the organisational challenges that you seek to address.  The flow chart above summarises some things to consider.  

Key approaches to teaching mindfulness at work in the UK

MBSR & MBCT

Mindfulness has its origins in ancient meditation practices. The founder of modern day Mindfulness is Jon Kabat-Zinn who founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the late 1970's. Since then over 18,000 people have completed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme to help with conditions as diverse as chronic pain, heart disease, anxiety, psoriosis, sleep problems and depression.

In the 1990's Mark Williams, John Teasdale and Zindel Seagal further developed MBSR to help people suffering from depression. Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) combined CBT with Mindfulness. MBCT is clinically approved in the UK by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) as a "treatment of choice" for recurrent depression 

MBSR and MBCT have been the subject of thousands of research studies.  Both courses were designed primarily for medical and theraputic use.  Both courses are normally 8 weeks in duration, consisting of between 90 minutes and 2 hours taught tuition a week and home practice each day. Many MBCT or MBSR trained mindfulness teachers offer this format of mindfulness training to organisations. 

  • Pros: very widely researched, set curriculum.  You know what you are buying.
  • Cons: developed for medical and theraputic use - in its pure format does not always fit with organisational constraints.  Length of practice time required during taught sessions and home practices can be highly challenging for very busy people. For some organisations, 8 weeks is too long.


MBCT (Frantic World with short practices)

In the best selling self-help book, "Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World", Professor Mark Williams adapts the MBCT 8 week course for a 'well' population.  This readable book is based on up-to-date scientific understanding of mindfulness and includes a programme of short but powerful mindfulness exercises that most people can fit into a busy day. The main difference is that practice time is much shorter, and the order in which practices are taught is slightly different from the MBCT medical and theraputic model. 

The Oxford Mindfulness Centre (OMC) and other mindfulness training providers such as A Head for Work  and TME offer courses based on 'Frantic World'  to corporate clients, and are reporting great success with these shortened practices.  The OMC offer existing mindfulness trainers Frantic World master classes to help them deliver this version of MBCT for a non clinical population.

 'Frantic world' Master classes offered by the Oxford Mindfulness centre

  • Pros: Based on MBCT which has been extensively researched.  Self help book is an engaging, but easy read which is widely available.   Shotened versions of practices make it more accessible for very busy people.
  • Cons : Some mindfulness teachers feel that the practices are too short, and some of the depth of mindfulness is being missed. For some organisations, 8 weeks is too long. As with all new approaches, would benefit from more research into its effectiveness.

 

The Mindfulness Exchange (TME)

Marina Grazier and Mark Leonard set up TME as a spin off from Oxford University's, Oxford Mindfulness Centre (OMC) to provide mindfulness training for the workplace based on scientific understanding and best practice developed in clinical research and mindfulness teaching. 

Mark was involved in early discussions, which lead to setting up the Oxford Mindfulness Centre (OMC) and worked as Projects and Development manager until May 2013. He championed the OMC Mindfulness in the Workplace Project from the start and taught the first training programmes using Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World, by Professor Mark Williams and Dr. Danny Penman as a course book for corporate clients before co-founding TME

TME focus on adapting scientifically validated mindfulness teaching, into training formats designed specifically for the workplace.

TME deliver to corporate clients a six week version of the 'Frantic World' MBCT course (see above), with training sessions of one hour a week delivered in the workplace.   They also offer TME mindfulness teacher training retreats.


Visit TME website

 

  • Pros: As 'Frantic world' above and ..TME is specifically designed for the workplace. Short 1 hour training sessions, short practices, evidence based.
  • Cons: As 'Frantic world' above and ..Reduced contact time with trainers.  As with all new approaches, would benefit from more research into its effectiveness.

Corporate Based Mindfulness Training (CBMT)

(Information to be added shortly)


Acceptance and Commitment Theraphy (ACT)

(Information to be added shortly)



 

 

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