Whether you are self-employed, a small business owner, or a corporate mogul, both your business and your employees (even if that’s just you) can benefit by incorporating yoga into your daily work routine and your wellness program.
If you do not have one, now is a great time to start. It’s reported that companies spend about $14,000 per employee on medically related productivity costs annually. But companies that offer yoga and other preventive initiatives can greatly reduce their health insurance premiums and increase their bottom line.
FYI: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, health insurance costs for businesses range from $1.66 per employee hour worked (5.6% of total compensation) in the smallest establishments (up to 49 workers) to $4.62 (8.5%) in the largest establishments (500 workers or more).
Many companies now recognize the value of yoga, and more and more are offering classes as part of their corporate wellness. These include pro sports teams, Forbes, GE, Apple, Google, GM, Chase Manhattan Bank, HBO, GM, Industrial Light & Magic, and Nike. But yoga can help all companies just as it can benefit all people, no matter their age, current health or level of flexibility.
How yoga can helps productivity
Consider these six ways yoga can boost your employees’ productivity and your own at work.
It increases energy and reduces fatigue.
Working nonstop can create stress. Even just standing up or doing some stretching or physical activity every 30 minutes greatly increases blood circulation. Incorporating simple yoga moves at these times is a great way to avoid fatigue.
It alleviates physical ailments.
If you’re suffering from aches, pains or even more serious physical problems, this will affect your productivity. No matter what kind of job you have, if you are constantly thinking about and dealing with ailments, the last thing your mind will focus on is work.
Yoga can help relieve even the most severe pain and physical problems, such as those associated with traumatic brain injuries. If it can help in that context, imagine what it can do for regular headaches, carpal tunnel, neck strain, shoulder stiffness, arthritis, etc.
It relieves stress.
Aside from physical pain and illness, the other major factor affecting employee health and work productivity is mental and emotional stress. While stress itself doesn’t always cause people to seek help, it can cause and exacerbate physical ailments and conditions (from colds, allergies, and headaches to diabetes, cancer, and heart disease).
Stress accounts for billions of business dollars lost to reduced productivity, absenteeism, employee turnover, accidents and medical fees. Avoiding such problems is paramount for both employees and businesses.
It improves concentration and focus.
Stressful deadlines, endless meetings and the general cacophony of a workplace create mental clutter that prevents you from concentrating on tasks and making good decisions. Yoga’s meditation and breathing exercises help to silence the noise and clear the clutter, letting you be more mindful, alert and focused.
It helps with creativity.
As yoga gives you better concentration and focus, it also opens the mind so the creative juices and energy can flow. You can’t think outside of the box when your brain is confined within one.
If you feel well physically, mentally and emotionally, your morale will be high. If you are focused and energetic, your positivity will be strong. If your creativity is unleashed, your self-confidence will soar. And all of this will make you a better employee, in your job responsibilities, your dealings with clients and your interactions with fellow employees.
Healthy, relaxed and focused employees are more productive and cost-effective. Even encouraging employees to take just 10 minutes during the workday to practice some simple yoga stretches or breathing exercises at their desk, in a conference room or outside if possible can help immensely. And offering yoga classes at work or off-site is a low-cost and effective way to achieve happy and productive employees.
Did you know? According to research by Eventbrite and OnePoll, 52% of Americans said they practice yoga to get stronger physically and mentally.
How companies can bring yoga to a virtual workforce
1. Start a ‘mindful movement’ daily routine.
Doing yoga daily at work, even in a virtual environment, offers benefits. Lindsey Hyland, founder of Urban Organic Yield, said one example of a mindful movement could be formal stretches performed at the beginning of the day, which loosen tight muscles and increase blood flow.
Another time for a mindful moment is a few hours later. “This may reduce pain caused by hours of typing or other weight-bearing activities,” Hyland said. “It might also help to take five-minute midday breaks to stand up or walk around, followed by another stretch or 10 deep breaths.”
Yoga at work doesn’t have to be mandatory, but all should be encouraged to attend at least one class, and the perk of a virtual team is that employees can do yoga virtually together or on their own.
2. Include yoga in an employee wellness program.
Employee wellness programs aim to benefit the employee, but they also help the employer and the company as a whole. Relaxed employees do their jobs better, often at a higher level.
“Conducting yoga classes once a week outside work hours will allow employees who cannot attend to practice mindfulness and stress relief,” Hyland said. “However, if you have a large enough staff, it may also be possible to have a dedicated yoga session during work hours. This will allow your employees to take advantage of yoga’s physical and mental benefits without taking time away from their jobs.”
Yoga classes can also now be done virtually, which is helpful for a company that has remote employees all over the map.
“With no office space required, employees can select a class to suit their new home-working timetable,” said Simon Nichols, head of global partnerships and supply at Evendo. “Companies are also not tied to local instructors. With virtual classes, you can discover great instructors from across the world.”
3. Set an example from the top.
Like most things in the workplace, a yoga program needs to start with leadership. Including yoga as a daily part of a virtual workforce’s routine is a culture change.
“There needs to be an expectation from leadership that employees take care of their mind and bodies – a culture shift that makes it OK to spend a half hour a day on self-care or black out a block of time where everyone practices together,” said Ashley Cardini, certified yoga instructor and teacher of mindfulness in the workplace.
If these behaviors are not only practiced by leadership but also encouraged, employees are less likely to feel guilty about taking time out of their day for yoga or meditation.
Jennifer Post contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.