Taking a look at Silicon Valley, you might imagine the tech industry as a laid-back, banana lounge type of industry. It’s full of colourful bean bags, everyone wears jeans and a t-shirt and all the work is done out of coffee shops.
But Silicon Valley’s outwardly lax culture is really only a counterweight to balance the inherent stress of software development. In an industry where a billion-dollar company can be made redundant overnight by a 13 year old and a laptop, you’re going to need a latte from time to time.
While most employers’ idea of company benefits is limited to health insurance, maternity leave and some vacation time – the tech industry is well known for extending perks above and beyond. Catered meals, dog-friendly offices, travel allowances – even indoor slides – the big tech players are notorious for keeping their employees happy and healthy.
At Facebook, for example, everyone gets free meals. The Facebook Culinary Team lets you know what’s on the menu using, you guessed it, a Facebook page.
Taking it further still, the Googleplex needs no introduction. Their Californian headquarters is over 500,000 square feet of corporate wonderland. There are heated pools, fitness facilities, beauty stylists, an indoor slide and apparently even snow. Fitbit has free kickboxing and zumba classes. The IT firm ThousandEyes offers free massages every other week.
While Rex doesn’t quite have the budget for snow or a Three Michelin starred tuckshop, they do their best to make sure their software lab is an enjoyable and healthy place to work. Hence, every Tuesday morning, I take the Rex team through their weekly yoga class.
Yoga at work
Progressive companies all over the world are now starting to provide yoga and meditation for their workers. Numerous studies have shown that yoga helps employees perform better and stay focused, and aids in reducing stress and tension. Physically, yoga helps to reduce muscular tension and aches, normalize cortisol levels, and increase energy levels and general wellbeing.
Every Tuesday morning, I’ve been helping the team ready themselves for the week through early morning Vinyasa, bends and near-silent ‘ohms’. Let me tell you – it’s certainly paid off. Some of the more studious yogis have even worked their way up to complex sun salutations, headstands and breath control. (That’s not to say the odd ‘beached whale’ pose and sneaky snore in Savasana don’t make their way into the routine from time to time).
Speaking of Savasana: practicing mindfulness has been perhaps one of the most beneficial aspects of Rex’s yoga sessions.
‘Mindfulness’ can be defined as; ‘the awareness and approach to life that arises from paying focused attention, fully present, with interest and compassion [which] helps to change the way you think and feel about your experiences.’
In a nutshell, it involves paying attention to your thoughts and feelings in order to become more aware of them, less entangled in them, and better able to manage them. Savasana – a ten minute ‘corpse pose’ that involves lying very still and doing very little (harder than it sounds!) – is the perfect way to help cultivate a more mindful approach to the day ahead.
While this all sounds pretty far removed from the usual corporate productivity schemes, yoga and meditation can contribute to reduced absenteeism, injuries and stress, as well as increased motivation and performance. It’s a team building exercise, a part of the weekly routine and a way to build truly supportive friendships.
I’ve seen firsthand how yoga has helped everyone be a little calmer, more present and dedicated. In turn, it’s of huge benefit to the business.
If you’re hesitant to believe that yoga is a legitimate method of boosting your business, let’s run some numbers. Rex has thirty staff, so let’s assume:
- Each staff member produces one hour of extra productivity each week because they’re healthier and happier
- They’re also sick one less day per year
Each staff member, on average, costs $60,000 per year (roughly $33 an hour):
- One extra hour each week x thirty people x $33 per hour = $1000 per week of extra productivity
- $4,000 per month (or $48,000 per year)
- One less sick day (8 hours x $33) x 30 people = $8,000 per year.
Even ignoring all the other benefits (which you shouldn’t), healthy, happy workplaces make sense financially. Most importantly, it makes your office a place people look forward to coming to.
We can all do with some designated time to unwind.
Caren Biddulph teaches corporate classes as well as tailoring yoga to suit gym and fitness settings in Brisbane. She’s travelled all over Asia and North America teaching for Lorna Jane, Lululemon and studying under various teachers. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org