The Mindfulness Initiative’s report: Building the Case for Mindfulness in the Workplace, CVS Case Study

CVS Vets

The Mindfulness Connected approach is built on learning gained delivering 20 “Frantic World” courses to CVS Vets (the largest corporate provider of veterinary services in Europe), which is included as a Case Study, copied below, in the Mindfulness Initiative’s report.

Case Study 1, Page 10 of the report

The rate of suicide in the veterinary profession has been pegged as close to twice that of the dental profession, and more than twice that of the medical profession. CVS Group Health and Safety Manager Sean Gilgallon recognised that “stress and wellbeing issues are as important as fire, radiation, or any other hazard.” CVS decided to offer staff across the company mindfulness training. The Mindfulness Exchange delivered mindfulness training across the whole organisation for all UK staff. Statistically significant reductions in stress were measured and staff reported substantial improvements in their resilience following six weeks of training with a daily practice requirement of around 20 minutes.

A Practice Manager working for CVS had suffered from depression for most of her adult life. When she joined CVS she was offered mindfulness training. In her own words “I was sceptical; after all, if tablets and psychiatry hadn’t helped, why would concentrating on the here and now help?… I was so wrong; this course has helped me more than I could have imagined… Another unexpected positive outcome of the course is the confidence it has given me. I am now happy to participate in meetings and actually have the confidence to put my ideas across.”

Genesis of the “Frantic World” course for CVS Vets:

Mark Leonard co-taught the first MBCT course to Oxford Students from Wolfson College, which took place at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre (OMC) in 2009. Mark then taught the first mindfulness course using the “Frantic World” book to a small group of students at Keble College, Oxford, in 2011 before co-teaching an 8-week course based on the same book with Chris Cullen at Queen Anne’s College, which was open to undergraduates from all colleges.

This experience laid the foundation for developing the “Frantic World” course for CVS Vets, which was the first evidence-informed course, adapting MBCT, taught in the workplace. Mark Leonard and Marina Grazier then set up The Mindfulness Exchange, workplace spin-out of the OMC to provide this course and carried out a study with the assistance of Dr Adele Krusche to assess its impact on stress and mindfulness for CVS staff.

“Organisational Transformation via Collective Mindfulness”

Section 3.3.4, on page 16 of the report discusses “Organisational transformation via collective mindfulness”. This section refers to two studies on hospital staff:

  • A 2016 study65 involved 580 nurses from 54 nursing departments with different specialisations from 4 hospitals. The report concluded that “mindfulness is associated with a decrease in occupational safety failures”.
  • Researchers evaluated 50 intensive care units across 3 large acute-care hospitals, and quantified the effect of reliably engaging in mindful organizing as a 13.6% decrease in turnover and an average hospital saving of between $169,000 and $1,014,560.66 In a follow-up study, researchers measured the effect of changes in mindful
  • organizing across 95 hospital nursing units in 10 hospitals. They found that for each significant increase in a team’s organising according to collective mindfulness principles, 10% fewer medication errors and 33% fewer patient falls were recorded.

The report explains these organisational outcomes were ‘serendipitous’ resulting from a critical mass of mindfulness amongst nurses. The report does not refer to any case studies on mindfulness from an organisational perspective.

The Mindfulness Connected Approach – An Organisational Development Programme

Like MBCT, the “Frantic World” course applies a psychological model of mental health using mindfulness meditation as an intervention delivered to a group of participant-individuals. The Mindfulness Connected approach adapts this workplace teaching model but instead understands personal experience from a social perspective. This makes mindfulness meditation a path of personal development and a social process that shapes organisational culture by creating a common language around human values in the workplace.

Many problems in organisations result from attempting to contain the human spirit in a spreadsheet. A time bomb is set when organisational culture places productivity before human values. How can this be diffused?

Group dynamics in the classroom shape the learning experience with Mindfulness Connected. The learning experience in a social context becomes the context in which mindfulness meditation takes place. The classroom provides an opportunity for people to learn a shared language of experience, which then can be transferred into the workplace itself. This creates the potential for shaping a human centred organisational culture.

The Mindfulness Connected approach is currently being delivered to NHS hospital staff. A wait-list controlled trial, supported by a qualitative study, is being carried out. This may be the first course of its kind designed for this purpose and then subject to scientific evaluation.