Yoga at work? The World Health Organisation has recommended yoga as a workplace intervention that can help to reduce employee stress, anxiety and burnout. The new policy follows years of research into the positive mental health outcomes of yoga and its impact on wellbeing.
Addressing Mental Health In The Workplace
These new guidelines can help prevent negative work situations and cultures and offer much-needed mental health protection and support for working people.
The World Health Organization (WHO), along with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have put forward a series of policies and guidelines aimed at improving mental health in the workplace. In a joint statement, the agencies urged employers to adopt practical strategies that would help to prevent negative work situations, act as a preventative measure for mental health issues and promote wellbeing in the workplace. Opportunities for positive interventions can take many forms, including leisure-based physical activities, such as yoga, or stress management courses for workers. The WHO also recommended that all managers should complete mental health training to help build awareness of mental health issues, allowing them to recognise and act early on mental health conditions of their employees.
Other points of focus included recommendations for the protection of emergency and health workers, guidelines to support the needs of workers with mental health conditions and strategies for governments and workers within the public and private sectors to help manage heavy workloads and other factors that may create distress at work. These guidelines follow an earlier WHO issued World Mental Health Report (June 2022), which outlined that 15% of the one billion people living with a mental health disorder are of adult working age.
Speaking to the recommendations, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that “these new guidelines can help prevent negative work situations and cultures and offer much-needed mental health protection and support for working people.”
How Yoga Can Improve Your Wellbeing
Yoga is a highly effective stress management practice for improving tolerance and resilience to stress and prevention of burnout.
Multiple studies have shown that yoga is an effective method for protecting oneself from negative physiological states, including work-related stress, anxiety and burnout. Whilst physical relaxation techniques, including massage therapy, also show positive effects, research indicates that yoga leads the pack when it comes to reducing occupational stress. It does this through a unique combination of mental and physical exercise, with the ultimate aim of striving to seek balance in both domains through repeated practice. Commenting on the impact of yoga on mental health and wellbeing, Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, noted that “yoga is a highly effective stress management practice for improving tolerance and resilience to stress and prevention of burnout.”
Others have sought to dive deeper into the underlying mechanisms behind yoga’s effect on stress management. A recent study revealed that yoga can reduce stress by altering a person’s psychosocial resources, including interoceptive awareness (the perceptual awareness of one’s internal state and body sensations) and increased mindfulness.
It may not be news to regular yoga-goers or yogis, but these findings, coupled with recommendations by leading health agencies (such as the WHO) to integrate the practice into workplaces reinforces the notion that the mental health of workers is being taken seriously. As the world begins to recover from the psychological impact of a multi-year pandemic and workplaces adapt to hybrid working arrangements, there has never been a better time to review and improve mental health issues and build better workplace environments for all.