In the business world, the buzzword these days is “multi-tasking”. Creating a spreadsheet, handling a client on the phone and responding to email at the same time is considered a much-needed skill in today’s workplace. It may be a big asset to a businesses’ productivity, but it’s also a big cause of workplace strain and stress.
Wouldn’t it be great to throw yoga into that multi-tasking mix?
Many businesses these days are doing just that. As computers become more and more an essential part of the modern office, along with the prevalence of iPhones and Blackberries that permit you to continued to work anytime and anywhere, employees are feeling even greater pressure to be “on call”. But research is proving that a more stressed worker very often becomes a less productive worker. The solution: yoga in the office
As workers are asked to take on more jobs and spend even more time behind a desk, the issue of how to help them avoid stress has become an important one for top executives. And yoga has emerged as a convenient, cost effective and universal way to achieve this goal.
A growing number of companies has started bringing yoga instructors into the workplace in recent years, scheduling yoga sessions throughout the workday to accommodate those employees with different schedules. Whether it’s in a company gymnasium or that conference room down the hall, yoga classes have been cropping up in companies of all sizes.
The growth of yoga in the workplace, at least in the United States, began about 25 years ago when rising health care costs led companies to introduce programs aimed at increasing wellness – stop smoking programs, exercise programs and, of course, yoga. While the original motivation was a health care cost-cutting measure, employers began to discover than yoga in the workplace also had the added benefit of reducing stress in workers.
According to the director of one trend analysis company, corporations began to understand that addressing an employee’s mental health is just as important as addressing their physical health. Meanwhile, a clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center found that yoga, in conjunction with meditation, reduces stress and actually improved workplace performance. And an Ohio State University study found that 20 minutes of instructor-led workplace yoga and meditation, along with at least one group session a week for six weeks, can lower stress by more than 12 percent and improve the quality of sleep in sluggish office workers.
The office environment makes it a prime location for a yoga session, many workplace and yoga experts contend. They point to the often uncomfortable work environment – hard-backed chairs and the harsh computer glare – as well as the need to perform repetitive tasks. For many, lunch is a visit to the fast food restaurant down the street, last night’s leftovers or a quick trip to the vending machine. This uncomfortable setting, combined with the pressure to meet deadline, take on new assignments that need to be done immediately, responding to hundreds of email messages and coping with the other mundane office tasks can make their stress levels rise dramatically.
To relieve this stress, many corporations began bringing yoga into the workplace. Some companies began using their existing gyms as yoga centers, while other smaller companies converted their conference rooms or even lunchrooms into makeshift yoga studios by moving tables and chairs out of the way. It proved to be an entirely new way of life for many yoga instructors, who not only had to attempt meditation exercises with the whirr of a Coke machine in the background, but were also dealing with employees at different levels, from beginner to experienced, or who weren’t exactly dressed in traditional yoga clothing (think ties or work overalls).
But the benefits became apparent soon enough and the number of companies bringing yoga into the workplace grew steadily. Today, many modern corporations have regular paid yoga instruction in the work place in specially designated areas. For instance, Apple and Google have regularly scheduled yoga classes at their home offices at various times of the day, and even after work. And at HBO corporate headquarters in New York City, the demand for yoga classes at work has become so great they’ve had to add additional classes.
It may be hard to get companies to ask their workers to cut back when it comes to multi-tasking (and indeed, many may be reluctant to do so). But when it comes to coping with the stress that results from it, they may want to add yoga in the workplace to their to-do list.
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