Stress reduction, improved attention span, reinforced self-control… There are many benefits to performing relaxing activities. For several years now, disciplines such as yoga and meditation have made their way into the working world. Why do companies offer this kind of activity to their employees and what are their effects? Let’s find out.
How do yoga and meditation work?
Though the popularity of yoga is relatively recent in Western societies, in India this practice has existed for millennia. The objective? Connect the body and the mind to help man make contact with his inner self in order to find unity.The most popular technique in the West is Hatha Yoga, which is based on a combination of physical and breathing exercises.
When we talk about meditation in France, we refer to full consciousness or “mindfulness” in English. The technique, based on Buddhist meditation, has since been secularized. It consists in being one with oneself as well as with the world by paying attention to one’s breathing, bodily sensations and to the noises that come to us from the outside world.
The benefits of relaxation in the workplace
Stress reduction is beneficial to productivity
In November 2017, the consulting firm, Stimulus, which specializes in psychological health at work, published a worrying study concerning employee stress levels. It revealed that out of 32 137 people working in 39 companies in various sectors, 24% are in a state of hyperstress. “i.e. at too high a stress level and therefore at risk for their health.” However, many studies have shown that stress limits productivity! As a result, the practice of relaxation activities in companies seems an obvious solution. These two disciplines have been known to promote serenity and lucidity. Moreover, as Capital magazine published in July 2017, “with the implementation of the Health at Work Plan (2010-2014), companies now have an obligation to achieve results in terms of reducing psychosocial risks, in particular by acting on the stress of their employees, and by taking preventive actions against burnout and depression.” In fact, by offering employees the opportunity to practice a relaxing or refreshing activity, companies are also honoring their social responsibility.
An improvement in employee experience
The practice of yoga or meditation at work also presents an effective solution to improve employee experience. In 2015, a survey conducted by OpinionWay for Éditions Tissot showed that employee loyalty to their company was more a matter of quality of life than salary. Offering employees the opportunity to discover a personal development activity is therefore also a way of making them understand that the society in which they live is one concerned with their well-being and the way they experience work.
The Benefits of Yoga and Meditation
As psychiatrist Christophe André explains in a Huffington Post article entitled “Thoughts on meditation and work,”meditation has proven benefits on brain function, including improved attention span, better emotional regulation and better impulse control. However, according to him, “the regular practice of mindfulness also leads to an evolution in our ways of living on a daily basis (employees become more calm, lucid, attentive, conscious, present, etc.) and thus more capable of managing their work.” These qualities are essential in the world of work, so the positive impact that the practice of meditation can have on the workplace is clear: By promoting well-being at work, companies can contribute to individual and collective performance. In addition, it also helps to harmonize employee relations and redefine managerial leadership. In a thesis entitled “Mindfulness and management: the effect of mindfulness on relationships at work and managerial leadership” (Université Grenoble Alpes, 2016), Daniel Françoise concluded that “mindfulness is a psychological construct that can offer a dual benefit to managers: by supporting a more positive work-life balance and encouraging the adoption of more positive and effective leadership behaviors at the same time.”
The practice of yoga also has beneficial effects on cognitive function and stress. A study conducted by former students of the University of Illinois revealed that a simple twenty-minute Hatha-Yoga session could improve concentration and memory capacities. Depending on the exercises performed, this discipline can also have physical benefits and prevent the appearance of certain functional disorders related to the repetition of specific gestures or poor posture. A study conducted as part of the “Yoga Education Yoguique” University Diploma in Lille 2 showed that the practice of yoga could have beneficial effects on the prevention of stress-related health problems and musculoskeletal disorders among office workers.
Are yoga and meditation in business a miracle solution?
Even if the largest groups – Google or Twitter to name a few – have already integrated them into their work routine, these disciplines are not necessarily suitable for all employees and there is still a lack of hindsight to evaluate all the benefits of this practice in the working world overall. Finally, as Estelle Becuwe, well-being and vitality at work editorialist for e-RSE site, says, “the deployment of mindfulness programs cannot serve as a singular solution to high-stress working conditions. They only make sense in organisations that also act on stress factors: workload, autonomy, atmosphere, and so on.”