UBC adds to mindfulness training with Google program

As part of efforts to add to its mental-health training for staff and faculty, the University of British Columbia is in the process of rolling out a mindfulness program from technology giant Google Inc.

The Search Inside Yourself program, an effort launched internally at Google in 2007, follows the research of leading experts in the fields of mindfulness, neuroscience and emotional intelligence. It has just finished its first run at UBC with participants currently going through a four-week, online followup component.

“We’re waiting to collect all of the evaluation data at the end of that one,” says Miranda Massie, a health promotion co-ordinator on UBC’s human resources team.

“But what we were really excited with is that it not only takes the mindfulness work that we’ve been doing for a while, but it also connects it into some of those more traditional workplace professional development areas like leadership and emotional intelligence, things like motivation and self-management and those sorts of concepts.”

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About 65 employees are participating in the training, which involves two days of in-person sessions in which employees practice the concepts of mindfulness and emotional intelligence, followed by a four-week challenge that includes a daily email with homework and a weekly update to track progress with a colleague who’s also going through the program. There’s also a webinar with one of the instructors, says Massie.

Initial reports are promising, she adds. “In terms of the two-day training session, . . . they told us that 98 per cent of the participants would recommend the program to a colleague and 4.5 out of five said that, overall, they were very satisfied with the program.”

The university is waiting for further evaluations of the Google program and intends to look at it alongside its other mindfulness programs to see whether it’s worth bringing back, says Massie. Other mindfulness programs at UBC include an in-person course and a 30-day online challenge.

The 30-day challenge was part of a research study conducted by UBC’s Sauder School of Business last year in which researchers engaged employees with an online mental-health tool that aims to improve resilience and performance and reduce stress.

“It’s basically 10 minutes a day for 30 days, and participants receive an email prompt with a video clip for the day. It comes with a mini-mindfulness practice, information around links to neuroscience and to interpersonal relationships, conflict management . . . and then they can do it wherever they want,” says Massie.

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“And people were also invited to have a buddy to join them,” she adds. “So what we heard from participants was they really liked that they had someone holding them accountable to doing their practice every day.”

The research found improvements in emotional regulation, overall well-being, humility, authenticity and psychological capital, according to Massie.

“[It also found] a willingness to go above and beyond, so they actually found that there were increases in people being more inclined to help others as a result of their participation, as well as hope and optimism, so people feeling a lot more positive when asked to think about their future. And then teachability, so people were more engaged and open to learning as a result of participating in the challenge,” she says.

Within a workplace context, the research found that the top three reasons to incorporate mindfulness were emotional regulation, the ability to stay present and conserve mental resources and increased resilience and stress management, adds Massie.

“For us to be able to say that these programs that we’re offering are having these effects, specifically in the workplace, really helps us build a case to advocate for these programs and to share with managers and supervisors about why these programs might be beneficial to their staff,” she says.

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