Study: Workplace Yoga Lowers Employee Stress

April 24, 2019

Yoga has long been considered an effective way to decrease stress in general, but few studies have reviewed the ability of yoga to reduce stress in the workplace specifically.

Now, a new study confirms that yoga does just that. The study, published in Occupational Medicine, reviewed the results of 13 trials of 1,297 employees. Some employees had been assigned to workplace yoga programs and others were part of a control group. During the study, yoga didn’t seem to affect heart health, but it did positively affect mental health and stress reduction.

Participants practiced different yoga forms, including Kundalini, Hatha, Dru, and Vini, which varied in physicality; however, all of the forms had the three main components of yoga, which include postural exercises, breathing control, and meditation. Yoga was taught to participants for eight and 12 weeks. At the end of the trials, participants gauged their level of stress. Individuals who practiced yoga reported that their overall levels of stress had decreased more than the stress levels of those in the control group.

 

Implications Of Study

Yoga has been practiced for more than 5,000 years and is known for physical benefits, such as flexibility and balance. However, yoga provides many mental benefits too, including reduction of stress, anxiety, and depression. Eight in ten Americans say they frequently encounter stress in their lives, and according to the study, stress can especially affect employees whose work requires low physical activities, such as those in office jobs. 

Occasional stress can be useful, but chronic stress takes a physical and mental toll. Constant stress means the body remains in fight-or-flight mode and is always exposed to cortisol and other stress hormones. This overexposure can affect the body’s processes.

Physically, stress can impact the immune, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and endocrine systems. Stressed employees get sick more often and are more inclined to develop cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, irritable bowel disease, and endocrine system issues. Mentally, stress affects memory and cognition and increases the likelihood of developing anxiety and depression.

Stress is a workplace crisis. In Great Britain, for example, 15.4 million working days were lost in 2017 and 2018 due to work-related stress, depression, and anxiety. In the U.S., an estimated 1 million employees are absent every day because of stress. One study found that 40% of turnover is due to stress.

Organizations recognize that stress is a critical issue, impacting employee health and work performance and company productivity and financial performance.  As a result, organizations have developed a variety of wellness offerings to help employees better handle stress. Some wellness programs offer onsite fitness programs that include yoga. This study reinforces that decision.

Yoga can be a low-cost option for organizations, as it requires minimal equipment and can be practiced in multi-use spaces, such as a cafeteria, office, conference room, or even outside.

According to the study, yoga offered only positive effects. While additional studies on how yoga reduces stress in the workplace are needed, this study provides validation to organizations that are already providing this wellness benefit and encouragement for other companies to do so.

Topics: Facts and Research

Workplace mental health

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