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Yoga: the latest workplace wellness activity to improve productivity and lower stress

January 19, 2017

By Kristen Cifolelli, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

As a way to lessen the effects of stress and its negative health impact on workers, employers may want to consider including workplace yoga and meditation in their array of workplace wellness activities.  In a new study of more than 85,000 adults, yoga practice among U.S. workers nearly doubled from 2002 to 2012, increasing from 6% to 11%.  In that same time period, meditation rates also increased from 8% to 9.9%.  

According to the study’s authors, “Approximately 1 in 7 workers report engagement in some form of mindfulness-based activity, and these individuals can bring awareness of the benefit of such practices into the workplace.”  Additional insights from the study revealed that employed individuals were more likely to engage in yoga and meditation than unemployed individuals.  Blue-collar and service workers were less likely to practice these activities than white-collar workers. 

The study detailed that the increase in yoga and meditation activities is positive news since it has been shown to improve employee well-being and productivity.  Incorporating these activities into employer based wellness and stress reduction programs is a good way to get workers to participate.  Many well-known employers such as Aetna, Google, General Mills, Twitter and Zappos offer onsite meditation rooms or on-site yoga classes.

A 2015 report from Attitudes in the American Workplace found that 80% of American workers say they feel stress on the job, and nearly half of them say they need help learning to manage such stress.  Employers that offer on-site yoga and meditation promote this as a technique to help employees learn how to limit stress.  The goal is that by encouraging participation, the employer will see fewer employee absences, lower health care costs and higher morale, which will result in better employee retention. By improving the well-being of their workforces, it will also improve the bottom line for the organization.  

Unlike other exercise routines, yoga is low impact and focuses on improving strength and flexibility, building concentration, and reducing mental and physical stress and tension.  Other workplace benefits of yoga and meditation include:

  • Reduces anxiety and heightens the ability to calmly react to demanding situations
  • Improves employee alertness and productivity 
  • Improves memory, mental clarity and concentration
  • Enhances employee attitude and outlook by lowering stress levels
  • Improves decision-making skills and ability to multi-task
  • Aids in healing work and stress related physical issues, such as back and neck pain, carpal tunnel, aching joints, muscle tightness, headaches, and fatigue
  • Builds team spirit and community by bringing people together in a peaceful, stress reducing, and encouraging environment

One of the easiest reasons for employers to consider offering yoga and meditation is that there is very little upfront cost, which is great for employers with a small budget.  The only equipment needed is floor mats, which employees can bring their own, and employees willing to give it a try – no experience needed.  A yoga program can be conducted anywhere, such as a conference room or lunchroom, as long as there is ample room to spread out.  Employers can opt to bring in a yoga instructor or an employee who is well-practiced can lead a session.  

So the next time you are feeling stressed at work, closing your door or find a quiet space and taking even 10 minutes to practice some simple yoga stretches or breathing exercises can help immensely.

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