The global cost of mental illness through lost productivity, staff turnover and absence is thought to be around a staggering $2.5 trillion a year. So it's no surprise that the question about employee wellness programmes has moved from a 'why' to a 'how'.
Organisations the world over have turned to yoga for their employees and are reaping all manner of benefits - from employee health and happiness to their company's overall performance. Here's why workplace yoga is now a firm favourite at Fortune 500 companies like Apple, Google, HBO and Nike.
It's a (much-needed) stress reliever
54% of working days lost in 2018/19 were due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety (source: Perkbox). Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has declared that depression is the most disabling illness of the corporate sector. No wonder being able to offer employees time out to reset their bodies and minds is a no brainer for companies seeking lower burnout rates.
Yoga lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The physical movement takes the body through a series of postures that can have a particularly calming effect on the body while the meditation woven throughout each of my classes resets the nervous system. And the breathing practices we do help extend the breath, taking the nervous system from 'fight or flight' to 'rest and digest' mode.
Yoga can improve productivity, focus, creativity and decision making
Lost productivity is said to be costing British businesses a total of £143 billion each year.
Focusing on a particular pose and how it feels in a particular part of the body, or turning your attention to the natural breath coming in and out of the body - it all trains the mind to focus on one thing, rather than 'multi-tasking' and jumping around from one thing to another. It clears away the mental clutter and empowers employees to follow suit off the mat in their day-to-day lives.
It also increases blood flow to the brain, helping it function better. Employees leave feeling refreshed, revitalised and ready to tackle the rest of their day, whatever it may bring. Stress and fatigue wipe out creativity - yoga brings it back. And who wants a stressed-out employee making big decisions? Send them to yoga first.
It boost energy and reduces fatigue
The increased blood flow and the resulting O2 boost alleviates lethargy and ups our energy levels. And the breathwork helps employees learn how to breathe properly, getting full use of the diaphragm, which in turn calms the nervous system (as opposed to the shallow breathing most of us adults do, sending our nervous system into 'fight or flight' mode).
It improves posture, prevents injuries and relieves joint pain
The physical benefits to yoga are well documented. Unfortunately, the myth of 'not being flexible enough to do yoga' is still widespread. To which us yogis say, 'Saying you're not flexible enough to do yoga is like saying you're too dirty to take a bath.' It will help a huge amount with flexibility. It also strengthens the spine and helps correct the posture - vital for all those who've been hunched over desks for years on end causing chronic spine, hip and breathing problems.
Helping mobility, flexibility and strength in the spine, neck, shoulders, pelvis, hips and obliques, yoga's an all-body practice that covers all the major muscle groups. It's also said to aid digestion, support organ function... And some schools of thought say it even detoxifies - although, it has to be said, there's no clear-cut evidence.
It's a great team-building morale booster
Evidence from companies who've offered yoga classes has shown that it helps employees form better working relationships, encourages better team working and generally boosts team morale. This then has a knock-on effect on productivity, customer service, employee loyalty... the list goes on.
There's a ripple effect
The beauty of yoga, for me, is that it's a relatively short period of time - 45-60 minutes, let's say - but the benefits stick. They permeate throughout people's working and home lives. People leave feeling happier and energised yet relaxed and calm. This then affects how they respond to stressful situations both at work and at home. They sleep better. As they come to realise the benefits of taking care of themselves, they start making healthier lifestyles decisions elsewhere, too. That one hour can have a profound impact on people and the people around them.
And for the organisations? Happier, healthier, more productive employees have an equally profound impact on a company's performance - all for a fraction of the cost of other measures. Happy staff equals happy customers and increased loyalty. It's a win win.
Find out more about The Reset Project's Yoga in the Workplace packages.