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A yoga expert weighs in on the power of workplace wellness

What if taking a much-needed break at work involved rolling out a yoga mat in a conference room with your coworkers?

Workplace wellness programs have typically focused on activities that take place outside of office walls. Companies invest in reimbursement stipends for gym memberships and FitBit challenges. These are great offerings, but rely on employees making time before, during, or after work––often easier said than done, which affects the success of those efforts. 

Some companies, however, are starting to bring alternative opportunities for employee wellness directly into the workplace––inviting practitioners like Kim Sin to teach classes, like the yoga classes she offers, onsite. This provides a chance for employees to get a daily dose of endorphins and to relax just steps away from their desks and workspaces.

“Work can have a stressful impact on employees. Even with the simplest forms of yoga and breathing, I can visually see the stress melting away in my corporate classes. When I teach in offices, people will come up to me and say, ‘I’ve been waiting for this all week.’ ” –Kim Sin, Founder, Kim Sin Yoga

Wondering how to start a workplace wellness program of your own? I spoke with Kim about why offerings like in-office yoga are changing the way we think about self-care, and the compelling benefits these have on employee health and wellbeing

The benefits of offering wellness in the workplace

Encouraging employees to take time to break away from the daily grind is an essential part of facilitating a successful workplace experience for your teams. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to workplace wellness; what works for one or some shouldn’t be expected to work for everyone. With this in mind, in addition to offering intentional spaces dedicated to taking time out to reset and refresh, a workplace wellness program should take into account the differences in the ways people want to engage in self-care. 

You may be asking yourself: what are the benefits of hosting a yoga class, or related wellness activity, in your workplace?

Kim has posed this very question to her clients, who shared feedback about the impact of her classes such as employees feeling:

  • More creative
  • More prepared to navigate challenges and crisis
  • The ability to better emotionally regulate
  • Better empowered to minimize stress and to maximize focus
  • Improved interpersonal skills to communicate with coworkers
  • Increased productivity
  • More comfort in their bodies with less back and neck pain, better mobility, and improved posture

How workplace wellness helps combat the “always-on” mentality of contemporary life

No matter what industry we work in, our culture has a preoccupation with technology. So, even if you don’t sit at a computer all day, it can feel difficult to turn things off, set boundaries on responses to emails, and shift into a non-work mindset. 

While productivity is important, remembering to build in time to not “obsessively think about checking things off a to-do list”, says Sin, helps your performance in the long run. And, it just might extend to other aspects of the business by improving overall workplace dynamics. 

“I think when you do yoga together in a group, the concept of ego can go away. The CEO of one of my client’s always comes to class. When all different levels of a team or company can be in the room together, it’s really powerful. You may have different roles, but everyone shares stress! Stress does not discriminate.”

Two accessible ways to de-stress wherever you work

Understandably, notes Sin, some people might not feel comfortable with workplace wellness in the office, and the vulnerability of closing their eyes or getting into yoga positions in a room with coworkers. But, doing yoga and these kinds of activities at work helps build camaraderie with teams. According to HBR, research has shown that creating opportunities to connect around a common sense of purpose––related to work projects or not––promotes a shared commitment to and discipline towards work. 

“I keep in mind the sources of intimidation or barriers to access of wellness, and tailor the class or workshop accordingly,” Sin shares. Classes can include desk-based movements and stretches that don’t involve the time commitment of a full yoga class but still provide that welcome rest. 

Two of Sin’s suggestions (which can be done anywhere, whether you’re in the office or work remotely):

  • Interlace your fingers in front of your chest, flip your palms up and stretch your arms up above you. 

Why this works: This engages regions in the lower arm that get tight from typing and being on mobile devices. It stretches shoulders, elongates the spine, and improves posture.

  • Take a series of deep breaths. Inhale and say “calm” as you exhale to breathe out “stress.” 

Why this works: According to Sin, “Little tricks like this in the moment are really helpful when you are just drained, fed up, or made a mistake in an email. Before you react in a way that may be hurtful or detrimental, inhale “calm” and exhale “stress”.

Virtual classes and workshops bring workplace wellness to remote employees 

Workplace experience leaders should think about ways to offer remote participation in workplace wellness, too––and practitioners like Kim offer virtual classes and workshops. “There doesn’t have to be a complicated spiritual theory or dogma. The simplest things can be really helpful on profound levels. Yoga should be altered for the corporate environment. It should be potent and enriched with techniques to make people feel better and be more present in their life and work.”

Get the ebook with tips on how to create a better workplace experience that improves employee wellbeing.