Fort Collins Housing Authority Finds Daily Employee Meditation Has Positive Effect On Work/Life Balance

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Recognizing the mental health challenges caused by occupational stress, the Fort Collins Housing Authority, in partnership with Colorado State University, piloted an innovative mindfulness and meditation program for their employees to improve efficiency and quality of work within their organization.

"The big improvement, and the reason the program was initiated, was in psychological detachment, meaning leaving work issues at work rather than bringing them home at the end of a work day."

Recognizing the overall impact caused by the excessive strain on work and life balance associated high levels of stress, The Fort Collins Housing Authority recently completed a very unique, month-long mindfulness program for their staff. The program was voluntary, and consisted of daily, hour-long sessions during work hours that blended presentations, group discussion, and mediation practice. The results of the program showed improvements in many areas including lowered stress and depression, and an increase in work/life balance.

Julie Brewen, the CEO of the Fort Collins Housing Authority said that the inspiration for doing the program came from a recent annual wellness survey of Housing Authority staff. Brewen said, “While overall satisfaction with work and work environment remained strong in our annual wellness survey results, we noticed one area that could use improvement was work and life balance.” She added, “We are committed to implementing new programs for the health and well-being of our staff.” The program was launched with a one hour session featuring nationally-recognized Michael Carroll, author of Awake at Work, who has worked at Paine Webber, Simon & Shuster and the Walt Disney Company.

Professor Dr. Lorann Stallones, a professor in the Colorado State University Psychology Department, and two PHD students, Lauren Menger and Morgan Valley, evaluated the effectiveness of the program. Dr. Stallones has extensive experience in research related to health promotion and recently has been involved with evaluating mindfulness workshops offered at CSU.

In describing the evaluation, Dr. Stallones said, “General mindfulness is measured in terms of attention, acceptance, present focus, and awareness. We found overall improvements in all of these areas among participants. We also measured improvements in sleep patterns, decreased stress and decreased distraction at work. But one big improvement, and the reason the program was initiated, was in psychological detachment, meaning leaving work issues at work rather than bringing them home at the end of a work day.” Participants found it easier to isolate moments of anger or frustration, curb their reactions, and felt more refreshed overall after sessions. A few described being less angry in traffic, and have stronger focus for longer periods of time.

“Yes, work life has changed but not as much as my personal life,” said one participant, expressing the positive effects of the program.

“The program has given me a new perspective on accepting myself and has helped me to not judge my thoughts …,” described one staff member. “I feel more content and ready to face what comes my way.”

The program design and sessions were developed and led by Jon Barbieri of JDB & Associates of Fort Collins.
In an industry that deals with tough issues of poverty, homelessness, and families in crisis, Julie Brewen feels the program is a step in the right direction. “Many of the participants have expressed their intentions to continue meditation and mindfulness exercises,” she said. “I hope the effects continue to positively impact the workplace and our organization overall.”

The Fort Collins Housing Authority is an innovative public agency which brings together a mission to support public housing needs joining business acumen with creative property management and development techniques. The Authority serves more than 5,000 people through housing and services in Fort Collins, Colorado and has won awards for excellence in design and sustainability.

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Simone Cordery-Cotter
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