5 rules for engaging millennials in wellness

As wellness programs become increasingly popular, it is important to understand how to get your employees engaged. Dr. Rajiv Kumar lends 6 tips to engaging millennials in your wellness program in the article below.

Original Post from BenefitsPro.com on June 27, 2016

These days, you can’t pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV without hearing a new indictment of millennials.

You know the stereotype: this newest generation of employees is selfish, narcissistic, entitled, and impatient.

I understand where this portrayal comes from — no one admires the guy with the selfie stick — but it’s an inaccurate generalization of my generation.

In fact, a growing body of data has revealed that the millennial generation is more altruistic, socially engaged, and health-minded than our predecessors, making us perfect consumers for employee well-being programs.

The trick is to speak the language of millennials, and as a millennial myself, I’ve got some advice to share.

Here are my five rules for engaging millennial employees in employee well-being programs.

Rule 1: Be legit.

The key to earning the trust of millennial employees is authenticity. Mine is a generation that has grown up with the internet, and thus has a very keen eye for public relations spin, marketing jargon, and advertising. Millennials have grown up truly surrounded by marketing, and they’re a bit immune.

Research has shown authenticity is of utmost value to millennials. 70 percent of millennials will stay loyal to a brand that has earned their trust. And 75 percent view themselves as authentic, meaning that being legit is the truest way to earn that trust.

When you’re considering your well-being benefits, create a brand that resonates and accurately represents your workforce. Use images of real people instead of photo-shopped models. Offer programs that allow people to set their own goals, rather than impose parameters and benchmarks.

Avoid jargon and long detailed benefits explanations. Instead, be straightforward. You’ll telegraph authenticity and your employees will connect with your brand.

Rule 2: Cut to the chase.

The millennial preference for all things direct and convenient is unsurprising given our obsession with authenticity. A marketplace devoid of middle men, where consumers are empowered to make their own informed decisions, is a millennial touchstone. Some of the country’s most impressive consumer companies have tapped into this preference. Consider Uber, Roku, and Airbnb.

The attributes that define the millennial marketplace — speed, convenience, transparency — are the ones that will also shape the future of well-being benefits.

45 percent of millennials say they’re more likely to participate in health and wellness programs if they’re easy or convenient to do. This means that we need to make enrolling in well-being programs straightforward and easy if we’re going to attract the next generation.

Seek out vendors that offer Single Sign On (SSO) integrations to relieve your employees of additional accounts, usernames, and passwords. When possible, offer programs that are flexible — that employees can tackle in their own time, on their own schedule.

This flexibility means programs can easily be accommodated and adopted within an existing or preferred schedule, and your engagement rates will climb.

Rule 3: There’s gotta be an app for that.

An appropriate motto for the millennial generation is “all mobile, all the time.” It may astonish older generations to hear that even a PC is passé to a millennial. Instead, we rely on our phones, tablets, and even our watches for all of the information we need.

Wellness and benefits cannot expect to be an exception to this rule. To remain relevant to millennials, you must allow them to enroll, participate, and access resources from their phone. This is absolutely critical, as millennials have little tolerance for anything else.

The good news is the industry is catching up to these preferences. Many well-being vendors have native apps that employees can download and access through their phones and smartwatches.

When selecting your wellbeing program, find a vendor that is committed to mobile innovation — this trend is advancing rapidly, and you’re going to want a partner that keeps up with the swift pace of mobile invention.

Rule 4: Sharing is caring.

For a generation that is constantly in touch, frequently checking in online, and publicly voicing our opinions, sharing is an important part of millennial life — professional and otherwise. Contrary to the stereotypes, this tendency to “overshare” isn’t just about self-involvement or grandstanding. In fact, sharing opinions, publicly voicing feedback, and reaching out to others serve an important purpose.

More than any other generational cohort, millennials rely on our friends, family, and peers for recommendations and suggestions. This is particularly true in the consumer arena — consider sites like Yelp and Amazon — but it has important implications for well-being benefits as well.

If you’re able to get an enthusiastic group of early adopters to enroll in your benefits program, you’ll likely enjoy a successful ripple effect with millennials. That’s because word-of-mouth is the most effective form of marketing for my generation. This ties back directly to our obsession with authenticity — we trust the recommendations and views of our friends and peers more than the promotional efforts of a corporate department.

When you’re implementing a well-being program, devote time and resources to building a champions network that will get the word out, share updates, and encourage others to join.

This will attract hard-to-engage populations and keep them invested throughout the program duration. Find a well-being vendor that has experience creating champion networks and your program will benefit immensely.

Rule 5: Offer well-being, not wellness.

Unlike previous generations who have used traditional milestones to measure success — climbing the corporate ladder, getting married, buying a house — millennials aspire towards balance, in life and in work. In fact, 97 percent of millennials named happiness as a primary interest. It’s nearly unanimous.

This focus on balance extends to the way millennials conceptualize health, which is much more focused on well-being than previous generations. 72 percent of millennials say they exercise once a week or more, and 95 percent say they care deeply about their health.

For wellness benefits to be relevant to millennials they can’t merely focus on the physical realm of health — clearly, millennials are already on that bandwagon.

Instead, they’ll be drawn to a range of programs that address other ways to find balance and achieve happiness. For example, financial wellness is of great interest to a generation that’s shouldering record levels of debt. My generation would also benefit greatly from emotional resiliency programs, since we are incredibly stressed.

To engage millennials in wellness, you have to extend the definition to embrace holistic wellbeing, incorporating programs that address the multiple factors that contribute to work/life balance, including mental, social, and emotional variables. Companies that adopt this millennial view of well-being will be much more successful in attracting, retaining, and engaging the most powerful generation in the workforce today.

Read the full article at: https://www.benefitspro.com/2016/06/27/5-rules-for-engaging-millennials-in-wellness?ref=hp-blogs&page_all=1


Kumar, R. (2016, June 27). 5 rules for engaging millennials in wellness [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2016/06/27/5-rules-for-engaging-millennials-in-wellness?ref=hp-blogs&page_all=1

Many Patients Don't Get Much Out of EHRs

Original post benefitspro.com

Most Americans appear to view electronic health records (EHR) as a welcome convenience, but not as a game-changing medical advance. That’s what one can glean from a recent survey of patients conducted by HealthMine.

The poll of 500 insured adults found that 60 percent have access to an electronic health record, but only 22 percent of those with an EHR say they use it to guide their medical decisions. The great majority of patients say they rely on the technology as a way to “stay informed.”

Other results:

  • 71 percent of those with EHRs say they access the records when needed
  • 15 percent say it’s hard to understand the information presented
  • 14 percent never access their EHR

Of course, not all EHRs are created equal. Some patients report only having access to a limited amount of information, and others say they are not able to see that same information as their doctor:

  • 69 percent can see lab work/blood tests
  • 60 percent see their prescriptions
  • 55 percent view their billing information
  • 47 percent see notes from their physician

Bryce Williams, CEO of HealthMine, suggested that many patients have not yet fully grasped the value of EHRs. Educating people on how to benefit from them could be an important part of wellness programs, he said.

"Electronic health records are still in the early phases of consumer adoption. They have the potential to engage consumers more directly in managing their health," he said. "Wellness programs can help bridge the gap between EHR adoption and understanding by making the information both meaningful and actionable for patients."

What Percentage of Your Life Will You Spend Exercising?

Original post benefitspro.com

How much of your life will you spend exercising?

Reebok and Censuswide, a global consulting firm, studied exercise habits of people in nine different countries and came to the conclusion that the average person spends 0.69 percent of their life working out.

Or, as the shoe company chose to frame it: Of the 25,915 days the average human lives, only 180 will be spent on fitness. “25,915” is the name of Reebok’s new brand campaign focused on encouraging exercise.

To be sure, “fitness” is not the same as physical activity. Manual laborers throughout the world burn calories effectively without ever getting a gym membership. Reebok acknowledges that fact, pointing out that the average person still walks or runs the equivalent of the Earth’s circumference nearly twice in their lifetime.

But in an increasingly mechanized world in which more and more workers spend their days in offices, it is more important than ever for people to make a conscious effort to get exercise.

"As a brand dedicated to promoting and supporting health and fitness around the world, we felt compelled to shine a light on the disparities between what we may aspire to achieve and what we're willing to do about it," said Yan Martin, vice president of brand management at Reebok.   "It gives us a renewed urgency to get out there and live fuller, healthier lives. If we all traded in 30 minutes of phone time for a jog, we could actually help change the dynamics of global wellness."

To highlight the point, Reebok calculated that 41 percent of the average person’s life is spent engaging with technology. That amounts to 10,625 days in a lifetime.

In addition, the average person will spend 29.75 percent of his life sitting down, 6.8 percent socializing with a loved one, and 0.45 percent having sex.

Wellness Programs Benefit Employers, Employees

Original post benefitspro.com

Offering employee wellness programs isn’t just an exercise in altruism for employers. It pays off where most companies would value it most: the bottom line.

According to Forbes, companies are jumping on the wellness program bandwagon right and left, to varying degrees. In fact, Society for Human Resource Management statistics indicate that in 2015, 80 percent of employers offered preventive wellness resources and educational information, with 70 percent providing full strategic wellness programs.

But while companies are happy that such programs pay off in healthier employees — 59 percent of employers offering such programs believe they’ve resulted in improved worker health — those programs also pay off in ways that have more to do with the balance sheet than the scales.

The cost of wellness programs is nothing to be sneezed at, but on the other hand, employees involved in them often shift their diets to healthier foods, quit smoking, have a better mental outlook on life, and watch the pounds come off through diet and exercise. That means they’re less likely to have to take so much advantage of company-provided health plans, if they’re reducing or eliminating some of the risk factors that could send them to the doctor more often.

Healthy employees might exercise more and weigh less, but they’re also more engaged, and thus more productive. Better health can also keep them on the job longer, with better results and better job satisfaction. They’re less stressed, miss fewer days at work and don’t look for a new job as often; all those things add up to an 8 percent improvement in productivity.

All of that can translate, for most programs, to dollars and cents: a return on investment of approximately 3:1. It can, however, go as high as 6:1, thanks to reduced health care costs that result when workers are eating better, exercising more, and forestalling some of the conditions that can result in mega health care bills — and equally mega premiums.

Study Suggests Plan Transparency Doesn’t Reduce Costs

Original post benefitspro.com

“Transparency” and “choice” are keywords associated with health plan consumers these days. But there’s no guarantee those key words will lead to the keyword phrase “lower health plan costs.”

One survey of the employees of two large employers reports that, given transparency and choice, plan members did not reduce their costs, and even increased them a bit.

As reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a Harvard-led study of plan member choices showed that when employees spent more time reviewing plan options, they did not necessarily choose a cheaper plan. The study compared two groups of employees — one with a plan that included a price transparency/comparison tool, and another that did not.

The end result: The group with the transparency tool at its disposal spent slightly more (about  $59 per member) on a plan in 2012 than in 2011. The control group with no tool spent about $18 more.

However, the study included a big caveat: “Only a small percentage of eligible employees” used the tool.

Such studies can offer some value to the overall discussion of reducing health costs. However, this study’s small focus (employees of two companies), when it took place (before comparison tools had truly entered the health plan lexicon), and the relatively few folks who used it, probably suggests that perhaps it could be used as the starting point for a broader study based upon more recent data.

6 Tips for Moving Wellness Beyond Biometrics

Original post benefitsnews.com

Employers are increasingly moving from traditional wellness programs to a more comprehensive, total well-being approach.

While this might seem to be unique, it is part of a greater trend — a growing list of employers are moving beyond the standard “one-size-fits all” approach to wellness and toward a more holistic view of total well-being.

In this post-ACA era, employers are facing the reality of ever-increasing medical costs and the need to engage their employees in their personal healthcare decisions. To achieve these goals, more and more are turning to wellness strategies, with over two-thirds of U.S. employers now offering some type of wellness program.

In the past, many implemented turnkey programs that focused purely on physical health. Who among us hasn’t heard about a company that did a 10,000 steps challenge or “Biggest Loser” competition?

Although these programs were a strong first step in the right direction — accepting the critical role that employers can play in improving the health of their employees — the current understanding is that physical health is only one small component of total well-being.

In our drive to promote employee engagement, we are likely missing the mark if we don’t realize that many employees have more urgent needs that divert their attention from focusing on physical health. An employee may have the desire and intent to attend the onsite biometric screening, but it ends up taking a backseat to more urgent needs — financial stress, an aging parent who needs to be cared for, or exhaustion from late nights caring for a sick child.

If our goal is to really move the needle — to increase productivity, enhance engagement, reduce healthcare costs, and position ourselves as employers-of-choice — we must take a more holistic approach to well-being. It is time to move beyond the singular focus on physical health, and begin to address the financial, emotional, spiritual, and social aspects of total well-being.

Luckily, with recent advancements in technology tools, and our greater understanding of employees’ needs, today more than ever employers have the ability to do just that.

Sleep, or lack thereof, has been identified as a major issue for its employees, and organizations are starting to offer sleep programs as an investment in its people. It is believed that this will lead to more productive and mindful employees, and eventually, a better bottom line for the company.

Similarly, companies across the country are implementing other all-encompassing “well-being” programs — such as financial education, yoga and meditation classes, volunteer opportunities, and flex-time — all of which are aimed at helping their employees be more engaged and productive.

Whether your company is already well on your way to developing a comprehensive well-being program or just beginning the journey, many best practices apply to both:

1. Assess your population and offer programs that fit your employees’ unique needs and interests. Just because Google offers a certain program doesn’t mean that it would work well for your company. If you have an older population, a financial education program about saving for retirement will have higher engagement than a program for college loan forgiveness.

2. Ask your employees about the causes of stress that impact them and their families.You can get firsthand feedback about the types of issues that are most relevant in their lives, and then tailor your program to target these high impact areas.

3. Take a multi-year strategic approach. At the outset, determine your desired end-result. Then set goals and implement programs along the way that ensure consistent progress and engagement toward those ends.

4. Use technology to interact with the employees in their preferred social medium. Whether it is a smart phone mobile app, their Fitbit or Apple watch, a Facebook page, or face-to-face contact, employees are more likely to engage if you connect with them through their social channel of choice.

5. Move away from a check-the-box approach in favor of more robust program.Programs with the highest levels of engagement tend to be those that allow employees to personalize their experience and choose from a variety of options and activities.

6. Provide consistent and frequent messaging. Your communication should continue throughout the year and align with your company’s culture and brand.

We’re moving “beyond biometrics” to a more holistic view. Is your company ready to embrace the change?

How to Bridge the Wellness Disconnect

Original post benefitnews.com

HR executives and business leaders are not always aligned about employee well-being or wellness solution buy-in, new research shows, signaling a need for adviser help to bridge the disconnect.

Optum’s seventh annual workplace study surveyed wellness budgets, return on investment (ROI), incentive strategies and challenges in building a culture of health among companies of all sizes.

Seventeen percent of HR executives versus 30% of business leaders think employee well-being is” very good,” according Optum Health’s Seventh Annual Wellness in the Workplace Study, conducted by the Optum Resource Center for Health & Well-Being.

On the other hand, 41% of HR executives versus 32% of business leaders say wellness solutions are important to the benefits mix.

Seth Serxner, chief health officer for Optum says it is important for benefit advisers and consultants to make sure that both HR executives and business leaders are all on the same page when it comes to understanding their wellness programs.

“[Advisers] might think they have everyone on board when speaking to HR executives,” Serxner says. “However, when HR goes to pitch this program to a CFO or members of the C-Suite, they may need to adjust how they present the business case.”

While HR managers view some of the non-financial productivity and moral factors that are important in a wellness program, the non-HR managers are focused on the bottom line, ROI, cost containment and healthcare cost issues, he adds.

“[Non-HR managers] tend to think the population is healthier and more well than the HR folks,” Serxner says. “So they may not think there is as much of a problem as the people who are closer to the data and understand the health risk condition of the population.”

Optum’s survey did find that wellness budgets are not decreasing, but are actually increasing. Twenty-eight percent of employers increased their wellness program budgets, according to the survey, up from 22% last year.

Serxner says advisers should use the data gathered in this study to help ground their clients in respect to what is happening within the client’s respected industry and with their peers.

“Clients will ask, ‘where do I sit in terms of culture of health, how am I doing with how I am investing my money,’ and what we find is it is very helpful to share some of these benchmarks about what other clients are doing and what the trend over time has been,” Serxner says.

Optum’s seventh annual workplace study surveyed wellness budgets, return on investment (ROI), incentive strategies and challenges in building a culture of health among companies of all sizes.

Optum surveyed 554 benefit professionals at U.S. companies across a variety of industries, which offer at least two types of wellness programs to employees. The size of respondent companies ranged from 20% small companies with two to 99 employees, to 38% jumbo employers with 10,000 or more employees.

Why Employers Should Boost Dental Benefits Enrollment

Original post benefitsnews.com

You might eat a balanced diet and squeeze in a mix of cardio and weight-lifting workouts every week to stay healthy. But to be truly healthy, you’ve got to focus on more than just working out and eating well. Believe it or not, you’ve also got to focus on oral health.

The link between oral health and cardiovascular health isn’t new; however, there is new evidence that more closely ties periodontitis, better known as gum disease, to heart attacks and stroke. One study showed that treating oral inflammation caused by gum disease with a topical remedy reduced vascular inflammation, which is a leading risk of hypertension, heart attack and stroke.

Heart disease is a serious problem in the United States — one in four people will die of the malady if it goes untreated. It’s also a major expense for Americans, including employees and employers who sponsor their health plans; heart disease costs nearly $1 billion a day in medical care and lost productivity.

Gum disease can affect more than just the heart. For pregnant women, it can also affect unborn babies. The bacteria caused by periodontitis can get into the blood stream and target the fetus, contributing to premature birth or low birth weight. Not only does prematurity and low birth weight put newborns at risk for issues in the beginning of life and learning, as well as developmental issues later on, it’s also costly for a family. In its first year, a preemie can cost around $49,000 in expenses, compared to just $4,551 for an infant who doesn’t experience complications. The March of Dimes reports that pre-term birth costs more than $12 billion in excess healthcare costs.

Diabetics also need to pay special attention to their oral health. In addition to monitoring their feet, eyes, kidneys and heart for complications, they are more prone to periodontitis. A higher risk of gum disease can make it more difficult to control blood glucose, and can also cause disease and infections in the bones that hold teeth in place, making it more difficult to chew. Gum disease may also lead to tooth loss. Diabetes costs the United States $322 billion in a combination of healthcare fees and lost productivity.

It’s important for employers and employees to understand how oral health plays a part in overall health, and that simple, inexpensive treatment can save businesses and plan participants thousands of dollars and countless hours of pain and suffering.

Analyzing claims data is one way to see how oral health might affect employees. The highest number of claims typically comes from cardiovascular, maternity, diabetes and musculoskeletal claims — all of which are exacerbated by periodontitis.

For years, dental health was given a back seat in health plans, wellness initiatives and employee education. Most initiatives focused on preventing heart disease through diet and exercise, and focused little, if at all, on dental care. Many health plans did not — and still do not — include dental coverage, which is a minimal expense compared to other program costs overall. Consequently, employees may simply write off dental care because they may not have a history of cavities. But dental coverage and consistent employee education and communication can help them understand the risks, develop good habits and begin to take their dental health into their own hands.

Employers can work closely with insurance brokers to understand medical and dental coverage, and what their costs and claims are for both. They’ll likely see that medical claims are far higher than dental claims. They can then work together with benefit consultants to create an affordable dental plan, or bridge the gap between dental and medical for those at higher risk for periodontitis issues so that employees can get the treatment they need.

Finally, employers need a long-term communication strategy to educate employees on the value of benefit offerings and the importance of good oral hygiene. They’ll be happy and healthier, and the employer’s medical costs will decrease.

Everybody wins.

Why Employers Should Consider Mindfulness Training as an Employee Benefit

Original post benefitsnews.com

Some previous blogs have noted the research supporting the benefits of mindfulness for both individual performance and workplace relationships. Research also finds that mindfulness improves employee well-being and resilience.

Resilience gained attention in the 1970s as psychologists and trauma researchers began to articulate the amazing ability of many people to bounce back following a devastating event, crisis or injury. Over time, researchers have identified the characteristics of resilient people, and have identified how to train people to develop skills to increase their resilience. Hence, resilience has evolved to reflect a coping style that allows someone to endure during difficult times and emerge more competent and skillful in dealing with challenges.

A growing body of evidence suggests that mindfulness is particularly important for developing resilience at work, through its effects on employee physical and psychological health, absenteeism, turnover, and in-role performance. Here are some of the findings:

  • In workplace samples, mindfulness has been linked to reduced levels of reported burnout, perceived stress, work-family conflict, and negative moods, along with better sleep quality.
  • In studies where employees were randomly assigned to a self-directed mindfulness intervention or a control group, those in the mindfulness intervention reported greater job satisfaction and less emotional exhaustion. Similar effects have been found in a range of occupations, including doctors, soldiers and teachers.
  • Mindfulness has been linked to increased psychological capital and resilience in managers and entrepreneurs.
  • Mindfulness training predicted employee engagement among employees at the Mayo Clinic. Additional studies have further shown that such engagement may be mediated by greater authenticity, positive emotions, hope and optimism.

Developing a formal mindfulness practice is thought to increase resilience in three ways:

1. Flexible cognition. Practicing mindfulness may actually rewire our brain circuitry, improving our ability to think flexibly, more easily perceiving different perspectives and generating novel solutions to problems. This same skill may allow one to observe potentially toxic workplace events while adopting a “decentered perspective,” making perceived stressors appear less threatening.

Imagine an employee witnesses verbal aggression directed at a fellow co-worker, which causes the employee to feel physiological reactivity and psychological stress. Experiencing the event with mindful attention could decouple this automatic link between the toxic experience and emotional reactivity, leaving them feeling less depleted. This reinterpretation of events actually starts to form new habits of thinking, which may involve perception of stressors as challenges that elicit growth, rather than as hindrances. In addition, application of mindfulness skills may elicit compassion for the fellow co-worker.

2. Growth in the face of adversity. Research shows that exposure to a threat without being overcome by that threat can result in higher levels of well-being than not experiencing the threat at all. In other words, experiencing but quickly recovering from workplace stress may indeed make an employee stronger.

So where does mindfulness fit in? Mindful individuals show an ability to perceive stressful and adverse situations from different angles, and demonstrate a willingness to behave more flexibly in response to them. As workers successfully experiment with new coping behaviors, they experience increased confidence and stronger self-efficacy, improving their ability to deal with many types of challenging situations and developing greater resilience.

3. Positive thinking. Positive emotions play a crucial role in one’s ability to recover physically from adverse events, as well to facilitate better emotion and behavior self-regulation. Mindfulness not only enhances regulation of negative emotions, but also cultivates positive emotions. It’s not that resilient people don’t experience negative emotions like anyone else; they do. Resilient people, however, do not dwell on them. Rather, they have learned how to use their attention and other internal resources to notice and amplify pleasant experiences and meaningful events as well.

To summarize, mindfulness may improve employee resilience by training the mind to reinterpret stressors as less personally threatening, empowering workers to take new perspectives and try new behaviors, which may actually result in growth in the face of challenges, and cultivating positive thinking, which is especially important during hardships. A new wave of resilience research is supporting the idea that mindfulness practice may lead to improved workplace outcomes like job satisfaction, retention, and employee health.


Workplace Mindfulness Training Benefits Extend Beyond Individuals

Original post benefitsnews.com

Much of the research demonstrating benefits of mindfulness practice – stable attention, reduced stress, emotional resilience, and improved performance at work – focus on the benefits for the individual practicing mindfulness. But the workplace benefits extend far beyond that: Mindfulness has a huge impact on relationships. We’ve seen this in our work at eMindful, and it’s supported by considerable scientific research.

Humans are relational by nature, and the quality of our relationships deeply influences our health and well-being. The importance of relationships in the work environment is no exception. Satisfaction and performance at work are strongly linked to one’s ability to work well in teams, develop leadership skills, communicate effectively and resolve conflict.

Team performance obviously relies on relationship skills, and mindfulness training that improves these skills affects both the experience and productivity of teams. One study of health care workers found that a mindfulness-based mentoring intervention resulted in better active listening, more patient-focused discussion and collaboration, as well as greater respect among team members. Moreover, the newly learned mindful communication habits seemed to stick; one year later the team members still demonstrated the same skills.

Mindfulness has become particularly popular in the business world as a component of leadership training. CEOs and senior executives have revealed that practicing mindfulness helps build leadership skills, connect to employees and achieve business goals.

One study showed that leaders’ mindfulness was associated with employees’ work-life balance, job satisfaction, and job performance. In that same study, employees of mindful leaders also experienced less exhaustion and burnout. The researchers attributed these findings to leaders being more attentive to and aware of employees’ needs, while self-regulating their own impulses and personal agendas.

Studies confirm the idea that mindful leaders are more attuned to their employees’ nonverbal communication, body language and emotions. In one study, more mindful individuals were better able to recognize the emotions displayed on others’ faces. In fact, it is not uncommon for leaders who complete mindfulness training to say communication feels somehow different, like they are truly listening to their employees for the first time.

Communication, conflict management
Much of the improvement in teamwork likely stems from improvement in communication skills and conflict management. Research suggests mindfulness is associated with better conflict management, with less aggressive communication, and better perspective-taking. During conflicts, people who rate higher in mindfulness have been shown to exhibit more positivity in interpersonal interactions, fewer inappropriate reactions, and less hostility. Mindfulness leads people to process events and feedback in a less self-referential or personal way, which fosters greater attention to group outcomes over self-concerns.

In a study of groups without leaders, teams that were randomized to a short mindfulness exercise had better scores on measurements of team bonding, and they performed better as well. These mindfulness-enhanced skills are helpful not only in better teamwork, but also in enhancing negotiation. One study showed that negotiators randomized to a short mindfulness intervention were more successful in distributive bargaining.

Mindfulness may improve negotiations and team functioning by affecting the emotional tone (positivity vs. negativity) of the team. Since mindful individuals tend to be less reactive to negative events, and recover from negative emotions more quickly, they can influence the collective mood and reduce emotional contagion – the tendency for “negative people” to “bring down” the mood of the group. By practicing focused, kind attention and skillful self-management, mindful people tend to influence through example, engaging and inspiring others.

In summary, practicing mindfulness yields personal benefits, and it can benefit everyone around you. Leaders who practice mindfulness listen differently and communicate more carefully. One result is that they have employees who are more productive and report better job satisfaction. Since mindfulness leads to less reactivity, greater focus on others’ needs, and overall positivity, practicing mindfulness also enhances teamwork through better perspective-taking and more skillful self-management. In my personal experience as a coach, clinician and academic researcher, mindfulness makes working relationships more enjoyable and productive. I’m delighted that research is beginning to confirm how the impact of mindfulness on relationships contributes to better business outcomes.