Why (and How) to Incorporate an On-Site Office Yoga Program

Let’s face it—we work, a lot. We spend a third of our day in the office (traditional or virtual), have trouble turning off work mode after hours, and as a nation, our average work weeks has been climbing steadily for the last decade (we’re now clocking 47 hours!).

And even though you may love your job, that doesn’t mean you’re immune to workplace stress. Yes, there will always be a certain level of stress in your day to day life. But sometimes, the pressure is all-consuming and the demands of the job can just be too much.

The cost of workplace stress is colossal—$300 billion annually for American businesses. There’s a reason it’s been dubbed the ‘health epidemic of the 21st century’. Not only that, but businesses also bear the brunt of indirect healthcare expenses, like reduced employee engagement, sick days and absenteeism. According to HBS Working Knowledge, studies show employers are spending 200 to 300 percent more on these costs than they do on health benefits.

Let’s just take that in for a moment.

Mind-Body Medicine Anyone?

While we’ve talked about office wellness programs before, nothing can compare to the feeling you feel after accomplishing a yummy yoga class. If you’ve never taken a yoga class before, admit it: you’ve wondered why everyone’s always talking about how good it really feels. You’ve only ever heard of the benefits, so now it’s time to introduce that stress relief to your home away from home (your office).

If a change in energy is something your office needs and you’re ready to bring on the stress-busting benefits of a yoga at work program, look no further! We chatted with Office Meet Yoga founder, Laurie Eagle, to get a few tips on how to build your business case for on-site yoga. Since she’s worked with companies like Slack, Eventbrite and Modcloth, she knows a thing or two about how to get everyone out on the mat!

Analyze Your Company Values

The first step to building any business case is to do some homework. Take a look at your company values. What does your mission statement say? Anything about wellness, health and overall well-being of your customers? What about improving the quality of life or enhancing customer experience through you, the company’s employees?

Chances are, if any of the above language is included, congratulations! You work for a company that knows, and values, the importance of office wellness. Maddie W., Health and Happiness Manager at Collective Health,knew that implementing a yoga at work program aligned completely with the company’s core values:

“Our exec team is fully on board with promoting our culture of holistic wellness, and champion the programs we offer. In Silicon Valley, stress and burnout are serious threats to the success of businesses, so supporting our people in staying well in body and mind is one of my team’s top objectives.”

Sara G., Facilities and Wellness Specialist at Eventbrite, credits the success of their yoga at work program to the company’s founders:

“Fortunately our founders care deeply about the overall well being of the team—physically, mentally, and emotionally—and wellness is a huge part of our culture. Our execs know that the more nourished people feel, the better employees they will be.”

If wellness doesn’t make up a core company value, you can easily remind your employer of the cost of workplace stress. The question won’t be ‘why?’ anymore, but ‘how?’.

Find the Sweet Spot

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From the mat comes mindfulness. Photo credit: Office Meet Yoga

One of the biggest things to consider when implementing an on-site exercise program, besides cost, is space. While having yoga available to your team on-site makes it convenient for them to participate, it may not always be the most convenient option for the office. For Maddy, an office move was the perfect time to launch the on-site yoga program:

“We kicked off our on-site yoga program to coincide with our HQ move. The more spacious office space enabled us to add this program, making yoga convenient and accessible for our people.”

Not only did she find the perfect time to launch the program, but the furniture choices for the new office reflected how eager they were to have yoga at work:

“Our Office team helps move our collapsible furniture before each class. We deliberately purchased furniture that we could fold up and put away easily for classes like this, so setting up the program involved conscious decisions around space planning.”

While you may not have the opportunity to take advantage of an office move like Maddy did, having an open space, and a few yoga mats, is really the only thing you need to get started.

Finding the best time for everyone can also be tricky—scheduling the class too late can mean less engagement since people will generally be too tired and want to head home, too early and team members may feel guilty about leaving work early to attend. Sara found the best option was to offer a variety of times and days:

“We have yoga here in the office twice a week, on Tuesdays at lunchtime and Wednesday evenings, and one weekly desk stretch session.”

Monitor the Moods

At the end of the day, your employer will want to know just how an on-site yoga program can impact the bottom line. After all, the very reason you’ve set it up is to help improve productivity, increase everyone’s energy and generally improve everyone’s mood.

Some key metrics to monitor are:

  • Number of sick days since inception of program
  • Rate of absenteeism
  • Number of participants in the program
  • Reported improvements of health ailments.

Maddy shared some amazing feedback from one of her colleagues on the impact of their yoga at work program:

“I have suffered from low back pain for the last two years. Before this program, I had never practiced yoga. The convenience of attending yoga at work and the high quality of the instructors have allowed me to attend despite my busy work schedule. Yoga has significantly reduced my back pain and dramatically improved my quality of life.”

For Sara, the word of mouth and contagious happiness has been a clear indicator of the ROI:

“People always leave feeling more open and relaxed, and have started spreading the word around the company, generating more and more interest. People seem to like the breath-work the most and are always surprised by how good they feel after taking some deep breaths!”

Leave it to the Mat

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Caption: Yoga as a need to have. Photo credit: Office Meet Yoga

With the lines between work and home becoming more and more blurred, prioritizing workplace health is no longer a ‘nice to have’; it’s a ‘need to have’. Let’s roll through the why and how of incorporating yoga at work:

  • Workplace stress has been dubbed the ‘health epidemic of the 21st century’—costing American business $300 billion annually.
  • Employers spend 200 to 300 percent more for the indirect costs of healthcare—absenteeism, sick days, lower productivity, and even staff turnover—than they do on actual health care payments.
  • Analyze your company values—if wellness is a core company value, your chances are better for getting on-site yoga. If not, find a way to link the benefits to the company’s bottom line.
  • Find the sweet spot—space and time will be the make or break of your on-site yoga program’s success. Having an open space, and a few yoga mats, is the only thing you need. Be sure to schedule classes at an optimal time so everyone can enjoy the benefits.
  • Monitor the moods—one of the easiest ways to qualify the success of the yoga at work program is by monitoring the moods of the participants! For more qualitative metrics, track the number of sick days, rate of absenteeism and number of participants.

Your turn—if you’ve implemented an on-site exercise program, what were the hurdles you experienced? What was some of the feedback you received from your colleagues on it?

Jennee Rasavong

Jennee is a content writer who covers careers, personal growth, lifestyle and digital marketing. A former Office Ninja herself, she’s conquered her fair share of bootstrapped projects for the sake of operational efficiency—let’s just say, she understands what “get it done” means.When she isn’t writing, she’s refilling her cup of tea (Earl Grey only), trying to keep up with her preschool daughter and watching her favorite Shondaland shows.

Comments

  1. Nadine Blinn
     

    Thanks for the great article! I would love to use this on my site to help folks understand how to get yoga and wellness approved in their offices. I do teach office yoga and timeframes are a real issue. I loved the idea of having two sessions at differing times. A few yoga teachers (including myself) also offer shorter sessions like 30 minutes which makes it easier for folks to take the time.

  2. Alicia
     

    We have a yoga program twice a week – while that was good for getting the movement and stretching, it has changed with new instructors who are now highly spiritual and flexible. I am not interested in becoming a yogi or a human pretzel.

    I want the exercise without the religion/spirituality they teach. How about the basics and stretching/restorative moves where I don’t have to become one with my chakra or the earth? It would never be allowed into a business environment. if there was a ‘Christian’ exercise method in which the instructor declared it was time to repeat a scripture, pray and meditated on that scripture while in a pose, or close with ‘Praise Jesus who is the Savior of the world.’ Somehow because Yoga is an exotic eastern practice (actual Hindu worship using one’s body to bring healing), it is ok for them to include the religion in a business setting.

    Just my 2 cents and frustration.

    1. OfficeNinjas
      author

      This is definitely a great point to consider, especially when it comes to choosing an instructor. Let us know if you think of an alternative!

    2. Marissa
       

      Actually, yoga is based on Hindu mysticism. It is not tied to any sort of religion – I would read more on it :)

  3. Lauren
     

    Hi! I tried implementing yoga at work and it got a lot of interest but not a ton ended up attending the classes. I was not sure how to time the classes right for the majority of employees to attend. People really liked the idea that was offered though! I am thinking of setting up a program that once and a while, we would have a “workshop” where an instructor comes in and teaches alignments and modifications, so our employees have the tools to go to any class and feel comfortable if they are beginners at yoga. Maybe once people start feeling more confident, they would be more interested in having classes in house. I am also looking in partnering with a studio close by to give our employees a corporate discount if they choose to practice outside of the office :)

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