The trend of integrating yoga, meditation and other health promoting behaviors into the workplace has grown exponentially over the last several years. With roots in Eastern traditions, these practices are now being utilized by Western employers who are starting to recognize the value of integrating mindfulness based habits at work.
Many Americans struggle with balancing work with “everything else,” and consider their job as something separate from their “real life.” Perceptions that health and wellness activities exist outside of work hours, rather than as things able to be integrated into our days contribute to this disconnect between lifestyle and the workplace. Yet, studies show sitting for more than six hours a day poses serious health risks, and that physical and mental breaks increase productivity, creativity and efficiency. As more employers adapt these practices, not only will employees become better workers, improvements in overall health will also lead to cost savings for companies.
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For some, the concept of yoga or meditation at work may conjure images of Silicon Valley, or fringy new start-ups that boast a playful, fun workplace as a part of their brand image. In some ways, these have been the workplace equivalent of yogic traditions “getting a foot in the door.” Mindfulness meditation threw that door wide open last week when the British Parliament held a group meditation session. For more than a year, small groups had been practicing meditation together, but this was the first session that included all of Parliament. It was the first activity of a working group established to explore the implementation of meditation in healthcare, education and the criminal justice system.
It’s hard to imagine a day when the US Congress would be open to integrating these techniques into their process, but Chade-Meng Tan, Google’s staff mindfulness trainer, thinks widespread acceptance will happen within a generation or two. Beyond the benefits of creating more efficient, healthier employees, part of what motivates his work is the idea that when meditation becomes mainstream it will have “global effects for peace.”
For those working for more conservative or regimented organizations, it is still possible to achieve some integration of yoga, meditation and other wellness practices into your day. Some very simple things you can do include standing for part of the day (there are now devices to help turn your desk into a standing desk); looking away from your computer at least once every twenty minutes, and going outside during lunch and other breaks. For some quick and easy tips, try a Google search for “yoga at your desk” and see what you find. Even five minutes of focused breathing and stretching can go a long way when done just once per day.
Finding spiritual fulfillment at “work” is not a new idea, nor is it unique to Eastern traditions. Believe it or not, the word “vocation” originated in Christian traditions, referring to those who felt called to serve God and the church. Over time, use of the word evolved and became synonymous with one’s career choice. Today, though many of us may not be involved with work that provides a spiritual fulfillment, we can learn to add small practices into our workday to help us feel more integrated and closer to achieving “work-life” balance.
Does your employer have any health and wellness policies in place? What are some physical and/or spiritual practices you’ve integrated into your workday?