The United Nations(UN) recognized Yoga as an “ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India”. Today, Yoga is practiced in different forms in various parts of the world and has gained immense popularity over the years. To raise awareness on the many benefits of practicing Yoga, the UN declared 21 June as the International Day of Yoga. The first ever International Day of Yoga was celebrated on 21st June 2015. On 1 December 2016, Yoga was inscribed in UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, unanimously supported by all 24 members of the Intergovernmental Committee for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The theme for 2018, organized by the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations is ‘Yoga for Peace’.
Yoga and Workplace Productivity
While Yoga has many proven health benefits, its use as an effective tool to improve workplace productivity at a time of growing pressure at the workplace is important. Stress has emerged as a major issue in the workplace and has reached alarming levels. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 80% of workers experience job stress. Increasing stress levels at work adversely impacts an individual’s physical and psychological wellbeing, which in turn results in lower productivity and reduced work performance.
Practicing yoga is known to reduce stress and boost energy levels. Many studies have found the positive impact of Yoga on improving workplace productivity while reducing perceived stress, backpain, and improving health conditions. New research has found that absence from work, which results in great losses to companies, can be substantially reduced with the help pf Yoga. Research conducted on employees in North Wales showed that yoga participants had 20 times less sick leave than non-yoga participants.
Some estimates show that savings to the amount of $2000 per head in healthcare costs and a gain of $3000 per head in productivity is possible as an outcome of introducing wellness sessions at work. As a result, employers around the world ranging from start-ups to big corporate giants are increasingly delivering some form of wellness programmes including Yoga to their employees including the US, UK and China for greater workplace productivity.
There is also evidence of the positive impacts of Yoga in enhancing work performance in India. In a Randomized Control Trial study among Corporate Personnel in the Indian Telephone Industry, it was found that the use of Yoga and other wellness techniques had significant effects on managing distress and enhancing work performance. A study conducted in Punjab’s Private Insurance sector finds that that Yoga and other similar practices also positively impact job satisfaction. Initiatives have been taken in some Indian corporates to introduce healthy breaks to reduce the monotony of long working hours and performing specific exercises at their desks. This has led to positive outcomes such as reduction in sick leaves by 5-8%, increased employee productivity, greater social interaction and reduction in back aches and pains.
The practice of Yoga for maintaining a healthy work-life balance is critical today with ever-increasing pressures at the workplace. While the many benefits of Yoga for a healthy lifestyle is widely known, the practice of Yoga as a means to improve workplace productivity needs to be seriously considered. A growing body of literature also points towards the adoption of Yoga leading to substantial reductions in healthcare costs of companies. Thus, raising awareness among employees about the health benefits of Yoga and offering wellness programmes for greater wellbeing of employees is critical for improved company performance.
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has been actively involved in promoting and raising awareness about public health. To celebrate the first International Yoga Day on 21st June 2015, CII spearheaded a huge campaign across the country where it organized several yoga sessions for Indian Industry. Thousands of representatives of Indian Industry including CEOs, employees and others, participated in the celebrations.
CII partnered with the ISHA Foundation, the Iyengar Institute, Art of Living and several other Yoga institutes to hold yoga sessions in industrial hubs. Several Yoga Practice sessions and workshops were organized across CII offices and several cities in the presence of industry members. CII also facilitated Yoga Sessions for school children while raising awareness about its many benefits. Since the first International Yoga Day, raising awareness on Yoga has become a regular feature for CII. CII continues to organize yoga sessions to raise awareness about Yoga and its many benefits, not only among industry members and corporates, but also among the general public, children as well as the underprivileged.