|Case study: Alison Dunn, head of treatment services, Transport for London
from article in http://www.personneltoday.com
Alison Dunn says: “Bringing mindfulness into the workplace back in 2004 was a bit of a leap of faith. We wanted to introduce an intervention that would provide an additional dimension to the support we were already offering employees. Counselling is a great solution for a whole range of people and problems, but we felt that we needed to provide something more active and direct for employees experiencing symptoms of stress.
This six-week programme – which incorporates cognitive behavioural therapy and other techniques as well as mindfulness – aims to guide people in mastering their symptoms, help them understand the stress cycle and how to interrupt it, and enable them to develop a healthier approach to life. The metaphor we use and the name for the programme is ‘Riding the Wave’. We say that stress management is like learning to surf. You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf them effectively. The biggest challenge was dealing with the myths and preconceptions. We just have to keep talking to people and explaining, and let the results speak for themselves. We don’t use the word meditation that much either, we talk much more about relaxation.
“The thing I’m most surprised about is how big a part of our work it’s become. It’s popular with employees – partly because it isn’t therapy – and our counsellors enjoy running the workshops too. There is no ‘type’ of person best suited to mindfulness. It can help anyone with symptoms of stress. I believe that people are motivated because what we are teaching them is relevant and makes sense in their daily lives, both professionally and personally. It’s a very practical programme. We also offer monthly follow-up sessions and people can come back to us at any time if they get into difficulty in the future.”
Since 2009, around 600 Transport for London (TfL) employees have been through the programme and qualitative evaluation shows that, immediately afterwards, nearly all employees said that they made changes to their lives as a result.
Among employees who have attended the course, the number of days off for stress, anxiety and depression fell by 71% over the following three years, while absences for all conditions dropped by 50%. There are also qualitative improvements, with 80% of participants reporting improvements in their relationships, 79% improvements in their ability to relax, 64% improvements in sleep patterns and 53% improvements in happiness at work.
One of the most attractive things about mindfulness at TfL, from an OH point of view, is that colleagues kept improving on key measures a long time after the point of intervention.
“On average, not only is there a significant improvement in the first year, but there are further slight improvements in years two and three, sustained much beyond intervention,” says Dunn.