Mindfulness Center, Mindfulness, mental health

Aetna opens its first Mindfulness Center

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Aetna opened its first Mindfulness Center in its Hartford, Connecticut, headquarters this week. The center will help Aetna associates learn and engage with mindfulness and aim to change workplace culture.

“This is igniting the transformation. We’re going to be offering programs and trying to gradually change the workplace culture,” said Andy Lee, the chief mindfulness officer at Aetna. “Stress affects all companies. Mindfulness is an effective way to provide people with the tools to help manage their stress.”

From left to right: Cheryl Jones, director of mindfulness at Aetna; Andy Lee, chief mindfulness officer at Aetna; and Cheryl DuBois, a senior project manager and mindfulness advocate at Aetna. | Eric Vo From left to right: Cheryl Jones, director of mindfulness at Aetna; Andy Lee, chief mindfulness officer at Aetna; and Cheryl DuBois, a senior project manager and mindfulness advocate at Aetna. | Eric Vo

Mindfulness is paying attention or noting whatever is happening in the moment with a gentle and open mind. It’s about being present in the moment.

Aetna employees participate in a mindfulness exercise in the company's Mindfulness Center in Hartford, Connecticut. | Eric Vo Aetna employees participate in a mindfulness exercise in the company’s Mindfulness Center in Hartford, Connecticut. | Eric Vo

Richard Watson, manager of Wellness and Fitness at Aetna, said mindfulness is an integral part of the company’s well-being strategy.

“We are excited to have the Mindfulness Center open in Hartford. Building state-of-the-art well-being facilities sends a powerful statement to our employees, customers and the community that we are committed to building a healthier world,” Watson said. “The Mindfulness Center is a part of unique resources that helps create a supportive, healthy work environment to help our employees achieve their health ambitions.”

Aetna employees visit the Mindfulness Center in Hartford, Connecticut. | Eric Vo Aetna employees visit the Mindfulness Center in Hartford, Connecticut. | Eric Vo

Aetna’s Mindfulness Center, which opened on June 1, 2017, will give people the opportunity to participate in mindfulness activities and learn how to incorporate the exercises in their everyday life. In the beginning, activities will be held three to four times a week. Eventually, Lee said, the center will host external speakers and courses.

For those that don’t work in the Hartford location, they can attend programs at the Mindfulness Center virtually.

The Mindfulness Center at Aetna's Hartford, Connecticut, location. The Mindfulness Center at Aetna’s Hartford, Connecticut, location. | Eric Vo

Opening the Mindfulness Center was a project that took over a year. Its opening signifies Aetna’s commitment to mindfulness.

“It’s a part of the company’s broader strategy,” said Cheryl Jones, the director of mindfulness at Aetna. “We’re evolving beyond the mindfulness-based wellness programs and aiming to create a workplace culture of well-being.”

In 2011, Aetna began offering mindfulness-based programs to associates. Those programs produced more than a 35 percent decrease in perceived stress. Participants also reported a 20 percent improvement in sleep.

In 2016, Aetna launched its first Mindfulness Challenge, which yielded significant interest among the workforce, Lee said. The company will also start another challenge in 2017 to coincide with the opening of the Mindfulness Center.