- Over the past few years, many organizations have added stress management strategies to their wellbeing programs, including yoga.
- While some believe it is merely a band aid solution, recent research shows that yoga, meditation, and regulated breathing significantly reduces stress.
- Whether by hosting on-site yoga classes as people return to the office, or sponsoring an online yoga program, here’s why employees and employers alike stand to benefit.
You’ve probably heard this before, but now there’s scientific evidence to back up the claims. If you’re feeling stressed, then some yoga is just what the doctor ordered.
A recent analysis published by the Journal of Occupational Health found that physical relaxation may help reduce occupational stress in healthcare workers, and that yoga, in particular, is quite effective.
Work stress is the leading source of stress among adults and, unfortunately, stress levels have been escalating quickly over the past few years—and COVID-19 only exacerbated the problem. Occupational stress, along with long working hours, have been linked to negative effects on physical and mental health, especially because stressed adults are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors.
According to the American Institute of Stress, chronic stress can affect our central nervous and endocrine systems, our respiratory and cardiovascular systems, our digestive system, our muscular system, our reproductive system, and our immune system. Symptoms of chronic stress include irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, and insomnia.
In the workplace specifically, stress is caused by the perception of having little control but lots of demands, according to the American Institute of Stress. Work stress has been associated with increased rates of heart attack, hypertension, and other disorders.
Workplace stress affects the health and wellbeing of workers, and it also affects a company’s bottom line.
Stressed workers are less productive and more likely to call in sick. According to research, an estimated 1 million workers are absent every day due to stress. Absenteeism affects productivity, company morale, and it can disrupt regular operations.
What Causes Workplace Stress?
There is no single answer. What may stress one person may not stress another. Below are some of the primary culprits of work-related stress:
- Long working hours: this was exacerbated by the pandemic and people working from home; many had a hard time disconnecting.
- Technology—especially keeping up with new and emerging technologies.
- Job and financial insecurity—this was a major source of stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Interpersonal conflict.
- Inadequate workplace environment (again, exacerbated by the pandemic and people working from less-than-ideal settings—closets, kitchens, living rooms, etc.).
- Harassment, discrimination, violence.
Stress Management at Work
Many argue that work-related stress needs to be a management issue. Why? Because if work is the #1 source of stress among adults and that’s impacting their wellbeing and work performance, it is most definitely a company issue.
Over the past few years, many organizations have added stress management strategies to their wellbeing programs, including yoga.
While some believed this was merely a band aid solution, recent research shows that yoga, meditation, and regulated breathing significantly reduces stress.
The analysis gathered data from 15 studies, totaling 688 participants. The participants were split into two groups: those who had undergone physical relaxation and those who had not.
“Pooled results show that altogether, interventions involving yoga (seven trials), massage therapy (six trials), PMR (one trial), and stretching exercises (one trial) significantly reduced measures of occupational stress at the longest duration of follow-up vs baseline compared to non-intervention controls.”
But, why yoga specifically?
The analysis concluded that “yoga and related exercises may be the most effective methods of stress reductions.”
The researchers argue that this could be because yoga can help modulate the autonomic nervous system. Those who practice yoga have experienced reductions in heart rate, blood pressure, and breath rate. Yoga also leads “to significant reductions in salivary cortisol immediately after practice.”
But there are other reasons why yoga seems to be so effective—beyond the physical benefits it offers.
“Yoga stands out not only in terms of effectiveness but also in terms of the method of delivery. The recent need for social distancing has driven many activities online, and yoga enjoys obvious logistical advantages over massage therapy in keeping with these measures.
“Pilot studies of online yoga programs have shown improvements in mental well-being in specialized populations, and tele-yoga has been suggested as a specific means of stress management in the era of COVID-19.”
While people are likely to start participating in in-person events and classes as vaccine rates increase, the convenience of online yoga programs will make it an attractive stress management strategy for many. It doesn’t require any booking or scheduling; it can be done anywhere, anytime; and people can choose the intensity and type of yoga session based on their daily needs.
What does this mean for workplace wellness programs?
It means companies need to seriously consider incorporating yoga to their wellness offerings. Contrary to what many may think, it’s not just a band-aid solution.
Whether it is by hosting a regular on-site yoga class as people return to the office or sponsoring an online yoga program, employees and the company alike stand to benefit from this.