Canadian HR Reporter

March 2020 CAN

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

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N E W S www.hrreporter.com 15 Mindfulness tech looks to improve well-being programs FOR the past few years, mindfulness has been a popular option offered by many employers keen to lower stress levels and absenteeism while boosting morale and productivity in the workplace. Not surprisingly, that interest has led to the introduction of newer technologies meant to help people with their mindfulness journey. To that end, Morneau Shepell is partnering with InteraXon, maker of the Muse 2 headband, in a pilot program for workers. Muse is a compact electroencephalography (EEG) system that uses dry sensor technology and Bluetooth and is a "multi-sensor meditation device that provides real-time feedback on your brain activity, heart rate, breathing and body movements to help you build a consistent meditation practice." But what can it do for the workforce? It's an opportunity to "significantly advance the ability of workplace well-being programs to improve mental fitness and to offer objective data on the progress toward doing so," says Derek Luke, CEO of InteraXon. "We see this having significantly disruptive potential by taking well- being to the next level of precision and effectiveness. It offers a new and high-potential platform for understanding opportunities within workplace programs." Some organizations are interested in using it because they have safety- sensitive populations, and jobs and shift work, which is also very disruptive for sleep, says Paula Allen, senior vice-president of research analytics and innovation at Morneau Shepell in Toronto. "We've had others who are at high-demand, professional services and they really want to make sure that they're supporting the well-being of high-paid, very influential executives and creative types. Others are really concerned because they have a number of mental health issues showing up in absence and disability." The device could also reduce safety incidents and help people with productivity at work, she says, "making sure that the ability to calm one's mind truly does reduce stress and, therefore, reduce the absenteeism and other things that are not wanted in workplace environments… It is those workplace outcomes that we are testing in this collaboration." Using the device might also help employees improve sleep outcomes, says Allen. "There's a high proportion of employees who have disrupted sleep and it's impacting their productivity." has been mindfulness' biggest benefits, especially for workers in high-stress environments, says Walsh. "It helps people to manage the stress of their day, it helps them to just detach from any negative emotions or rumination or negative thoughts that they might have and to remain focused on the task at hand." For managers, the benefits are promising, says Walsh. "Mindfulness does help to improve leadership style; when leaders were more mindful, they tended to be more inspirational and motivational to their employees and they were also able to avoid negative behaviours." Looking for the ROI With the technology in the mindfulness space still relatively new, the science is limited when it comes to results. There are a few studies that have looked into the issue, including a 2016 University of Toronto study of technology-supported mindfulness training that found "modest benefits for attention and subjective well-being" using a small sample size. A separate study published in the journal Integrative Cancer Therapies in 2019 found use of the Muse headband "may improve fatigue, [quality of life] and stress in patients with newly diagnosed breast cancer." However, a 2019 study published in the journal Heliyon found Muse "failed to show short-term stress reduction benefits above unassisted relaxation, using the physiological indices of heart rate variability, electro-dermal activity and… percentage of time spent in calm mode." For Allen, who has used the headband, the experience was extremely beneficial. "It was quite interesting because I actually found it very difficult to meditate, generally speaking, and this very quickly helped me. This helped me understand in a very clear way whether I was doing it right or not," she says. "Meditation coaching didn't work for me, but having the feedback on what I was doing, I actually was able to follow the path that calms my mind." CHRR Could a meditation device in the form of a headband take well-being 'to the next level of precision and effectiveness'? John Dujay looks into a pilot program for mindfulness in the workplace $16 billion Annual cost of lost productivity for Canadian economy 500,000 Number of Canadians unable to work each week due to stress 2x Cost of a disability leave for mental illness is about twice as much as for physical illness 1 in 5 Number of Canadians experiencing a mental health problem or illness each year MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES PROVE COSTLY Sources: Canadian Payroll Association, Mental Health Commission of Canada, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine Mindfulness roots The practice of mindfulness involves great concentration, according to Megan Walsh, assistant professor at the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. "Most researchers in workplace- mindfulness literature tend to define it around a heightened awareness and attention to present-moment experience," she says. "I like to describe it as feeling like a sponge; just soaking up everything in your environment very completely." Stress reduction and its management "When leaders were more mindful, they tended to be more inspirational and motivational to employees and they were also able to avoid negative behaviours." Megan Walsh, University of Saskatchewan

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