Updated: Oct 6
In 2019/20, in the UK alone, an estimated 17.9 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, anxiety or depression. An estimated 2,440 workers per 100,000 were suffering from, amongst other things, long hours, heavy workload, job insecurity and conflicts with co-workers or bosses, all of which led to absenteeism from work. That’s a staggering 828,000 people in the UK taking time off because of work-related mental health issues.
The cost to British businesses of work-related stress and mental illness is about £26 billion per annum. Another estimate puts it at £45 billion a year. Studies have also shown that 460,000 people a year move from work to sickness and disability benefits which adds another £9 billion to the load placed on employers. These statistics are staggering.
The UK is facing a massive mental health crisis and it is largely due to its broken economic system, costing the NHS in 2018 an estimated £71.1 million and taking up 165,000 beds per year.
Ripple that out to most other countries, developed or not, and you can see that the world is undergoing a mental-health tsunami, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic that is leaving so many suffering from stress, anxiety, fear, feelings of suicide, and severe depression. Jobs are collapsing, economies are shrinking, businesses are going bust.
What is the solution? Clearly, there isn’t one fix-all panacea that will solve the external situation that the world finds itself in, but we can do something about our internal orientation to those circumstances not only on a personal level but on a corporate and organisational level also.
Back when I was a kid if you wanted to keep fit, you put on your running shoes and ran through the streets, around the park or along the canal towpath. There weren’t any gyms back then, apart from the somewhat grubby, sweaty and under-equipped affairs that the local council provided, which mostly sat empty. These days people are waking up to the need to keep the body in shape and there are gyms everywhere as well as alternative approaches to keeping the body in shape, such as the plethora of yoga classes now available.
Right now, the same thing is happening in relation to the mind. Meditation used to be something that only hippies or those strange New Age people did. Or maybe monks. Normal people didn’t meditate. Obviously. Things have changed.
Meditation, specifically mindfulness meditation, is now being seen by more and more people as well as healthcare specialists as the mind’s gym. It is something that is needed by everyone. Mindfulness is fundamentally changing our notions of wellbeing and how to maintain it by taking some of the emphasis away from the body and placing it squarely on the health of the mind.
In terms of the workplace, the practice of mindfulness can powerfully address such issues as work-related stress and depression. In fact, some of the bigger corporations have now appointed their own Corporate Mindfulness Officers (CMOs) as part of their senior management teams. Their job it is to oversee the implementation of wide-ranging work-based mindfulness programmes.
Mindfulness, according to the UK-based organisation Breathworks can enable people to reclaim their lives, and it can help companies address the terrible fall-out of mental health problems that is not only affecting their bottom line but impacting on wider society and the individuals in it. Everyone is suffering.
In a 2020 report, it was claimed that not only does a regular and well-implemented mindfulness practice improve employee focus and increase productivity by 120%, but employers were seeing an 85% decrease in absenteeism. Businesses with meditation programs for employees experienced a huge 520% profit increase.
Those statistics speak for themselves, and this is why it is vital not only for businesses and the global economy, for employers and CEOs to get on board with mindfulness within their organisations.
Such a programme doesn’t have to be a huge commitment in time, money, and resources. There are plenty of providers now offering excellent work-based mindfulness programmes that can readily be brought into organisations and companies to start up employee mindfulness practices with very little cost.
Critically, however, such programmes should take place on the company’s time. Trying to force it into a rest period, or worse, running it before or after normal working hours is a recipe for building resentment and low commitment. Employees need to be invested in the programme and the only way to do that is to implement it in the company’s time. The potential returns for the employees and the company’s profitability are potentially massive, however.
Individuals and companies, large and small, are starting to get the message. Just like in the 80s and 90s when gyms started to become fashionable and then necessary for the maintenance of physical health, mindfulness is rapidly becoming the gym for the mind all over the world. It’s no longer an activity that only those strange alternative types do. Executives, housewives, students, nurses and doctors, politicians, and soldiers are also doing it. Mindfulness programmes can be run online just as easily as face to face. It’s a win-win situation with no downside.
If you work for or run a company that isn’t implementing a mindfulness programme yet, isn’t it time you got on board with this? Your competitors certainly will be. The traditional approach of expecting employees to simply cope with whatever comes along doesn’t work anymore. It didn’t work in the first place, but now there is a solution.
If you’re not sure where to start in bringing mindfulness into your organisation, then drop me a line. I can help you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org