For the typical office worker, the workplace is a place to be sedentary yet full of stress. Stressors affect a worker’s health and productivity in a most negative way, effects that extend beyond the normal working hours. Sleep quality of stressed office workers tend to be poor, thus creating a vicious cycle of perennial tiredness and stress.
There are however ways to counteract stress in the workplace.
A study by Ohio State University researchers used a modified version of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program. MBSR has been in use for about 30 years now to help hospital patients cope with being sedentary and cooped up.
The traditional MBSR program routine is a one-hour daily session for 8 weeks, plus a long weekly supplemental session and a full day retreat. This program, however, can’t be applied in the workplace due to its long duration and the different environment.
The revised version of the MBSR was designed for office-based workers wearing professional attire and consisted of the following:
- one-hour weekly group meetings during lunch
- 20 minutes of meditation and yoga per day at the desks
The program lasted for six weeks. After six weeks, the study participants reported that “they were more aware of external stressors, they felt less stressed by life events, and they fell asleep more easily than did a control group that did not experience the intervention.”
Recently, more and more employers have become aware of the importance of wellness in the workplace. A healthy employee is a happy and productive employee. In addition, healthy employees mean lower healthcare costs.
Most of workplace wellness programs concentrate on physical exercise to help fight obesity, obesity being a consequence of sedentary lifestyle. Thus, fitness centers and fitness programs have become popular in offices worldwide. Less attention is given to fighting stress which another factor of wellness.
According to lead researcher Maryanna Klatt, an assistant professor of clinical allied medicine at Ohio State University:
“Because chronic stress is associated with chronic disease, I am focusing on how to reduce stress before it has a chance to contribute to disease. My interest is to see whether or not we can get people to reduce their health care utilization because they’re less stressed. I want to deliver something low cost at the work site, something practical that can be sustained, that can help reduce health care costs.”
The modified MBSR seems to be the answer. A pilot study of the program showed that 20 minutes of guided yoga and meditation plus a weekly group session can reduce feelings of stress by more than 10% among sedentary office workers as well as improve their sleep quality.