Workplace Wellness

By on Oct 15, 2015 in News

Yoga inched its way onto the corporate scene 25 years ago. Within the last decade, the practice has significantly grown in popularity. Forbes, Apple, Google, and several Fortune 500 companies offer yoga classes as part of their wellness programs. Employers shutterstock_244733572continue to tap into the $10 billion per year industry–but is it worth it?

The Benefits

Before buying yoga mats wholesale, controllers may need hard numbers to determine an onsite wellness plan’s value. A Harvard study estimates that companies can save more than $3 in health care costs for every dollar spent; RAND studies are more conservative with a $1.50 savings.

Also worth noting, health care costs increased by 7% nationwide. A subsequent study by Harvard Business Review calculated that average annual health care costs only increased by 1-2% at firms with onsite wellness programs.

In addition to health care savings, companies can cut other costs. An article published in the American Journal of Health Promotion reveals additional savings: wellness programs resulted in 25 percent lower costs related to disability insurance, workers’ compensation, and sick leave. Gallup finds a strong correlation between physically active employees, profitability, productivity, and higher sales.

Wellness programs are worth their keep. Yoga as a wellness option offers uniquely relevant benefits. Employees that participate in yoga classes report significant improvements to their health and their sense of wellbeing. The Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester has issued long-term treatment to more than 10,000 patients in its 35-year history. In Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction courses, participants reported lasting decreases in the symptoms of stress, increased energy, and higher self-esteem. Participants also reported an improved ability to handle stress and cope with workplace challenges.

Just how much yoga is needed to see the benefits? A report in Science Daily reveals that “twenty minutes per day of guided workplace meditation and yoga combined with six weekly group sessions can lower feelings of stress by more than 10 percent and improve sleep quality in sedentary office employees.”


If you are just beginning a wellness program, ASAE Center has helpful suggestions for starting from scratch.

To gauge interest in yoga, some employers begin by offering yoga during a company retreat. The number of participants may help employers determine interest in the program. After classes, this small test group provides feedback on the effectiveness of the yoga classes. Other employers opt for a survey, requesting when employees would prefer a class, class duration, and frequency.

Remember that the title of the class may influence employees’ willingness to participate. “Yoga for Stress Relief” may deter participants if they feel that attending the class is a sign of weakness, an inability to handle the demands of their job. It could be beneficial to stick to generic titles such as “Yoga with Darren,” or “Lunch Hour Power Yoga.”


Wellness programs aren’t a single solution approach. Health initiatives can’t take the place of workplace structure, which offer lasting results:

  • clear communication
  • a supportive environmentshutterstock_61663210
  • accountability
  • the ability to disconnect after hours to promote a work-life balance

Without those features in place, yoga classes and other wellness courses cannot fulfill their potential.

Be mindful that turning wellness into a competition can unravel the benefits of any health initiative. Wellness Syndrome by Andre Spicer and Carl Cederström is a four-year exploration of wellness programs at more than a hundred corporations. Their research reveals that health competitions can be a source of anxiety for participants. Those who do not meet goals may feel like they are failing on the job. Some respondents even felt that they could lose their jobs if they did not perform well in health-related activities. Avoid transforming yoga class attendance into an opportunity to compete.

Yoga classes are a good alternative to BMI-, weight-, or fitness tracker-based competitions. Classical yoga instruction minimizes competitiveness while emphasizing empowerment and gratitude. When combined with a healthy work environment, the downsides of the Wellness Syndrome can be minimized or avoided.

What benefits or disadvantages have you encountered regarding workplace yoga?