At the beginning of 2013, Breathworks successfully bid to run an innovative staff wellbeing pilot for Dept of Health staff at the main offices in London and Leeds.  The programme was designed as a health and wellbeing support initiative for staff, and as a “proof of concept” study assessing benefits and challenges to wider implementation.

48 volunteer members of staff from a wide range of roles took part in Mindfulness for Stress programmes via a range of formats:

  1. Group “face to face” course: weekly two-hour sessions with a  mindfulness trainer over eight weeks
  2. Self-directed online course: twice daily practice of ten-minute guided sessions streamed via computer or smartphone, over eight weeks.
  3. Online course (same content as point 2) combined with three visiting trainer-led sessions.

Outcomes

Participants completed a rigorous evaluation questionnaire set before and after, with data independently analysed by Dr Elaine Weatherley-Jones, a Chartered Psychologist and former health services researcher.  21 participants were interviewed in detail by Dr Sue Hinder, an experienced independent qualitative researcher working primarily in the healthcare sector.

Evaluations of impact, both qualitative and quantitative, were overwhelmingly positive.  The following figure summarises statistically significant findings, with some general qualitative findings listed under “Perceived Stress”.

Statistically significant changes for the group as a whole included:

  • reduced Perceived Stress
  • improvement in Satisfaction with Life
  • improved Wellbeing
  • reduced sense of isolation
  • less likely to be overwhelmed by painful thoughts and feelings

Detailed Qualitative interviews with 21 participants found that most had learned a Mindfulness technique that made their working lives easier to cope with.

One person reported being able to avoid taking time off with stress as a result of using the Mindfulness exercises.  The course also made him more aware of stress and how to reduce the pressures on the team he managed.

One person reported having gone from having two hours per night sleep to having eight or nine hours as a result of doing online Mindfulness sessions.

All participants interviewed felt that the course should be made available to other staff, and approximately half of those interviewed were interested in becoming a Mindfulness trainer or group facilitator in the workplace.

In Conclusion

This was an extremely promising pilot, and the results from both the quantitative and qualitative evaluation indicate that mindfulness training made a significant positive difference to staff working with high levels of pressure.  We look forward to seeing in what ways mindfulness for wellbeing will be taken in future within the civil service and the wider health system.