Wellness at Work

By Angela Bobo

Jennifer O’Sullivan, owner of Sati Yoga.
Photo courtesy of Emily Kendall.

According to a 2014 study published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Preventing Chronic Disease, workplace wellness initiatives play an active role in decreasing chronic diseases and obesity rates. By offering on-site fitness programs, medical screenings, allowing time to exercise and offering healthier food options, companies can provide employees with the tools they need to have a longer lifespan. Jennifer O’Sullivan, owner of Sati Yoga, meditation and yoga instructor, promotes mindfulness in the workplace through workshops and sessions. Here, she shares a few healthy office hacks:

On the importance of being mindful:
“My belief is backed up by an explosion of media interest around mindfulness meditation. The Dalai Lama, my teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, and others have met with heads of state, corporate leaders and participated in conferences like Wisdom 2.0 out in the Bay Area. They have done a lot of work to elevate interest in the ways in which a more thoughtful and conscientious workforce can support corporate bottom lines. Probably the biggest cheerleader for corporate mindfulness programs is Google, who has for several years been formulating and refining an in-house mindfulness course called Search Inside Yourself. They even have a book of the same name and standalone course that you can follow on your own.”

On reducing stress in the workplace:
“The main thing that sets yoga apart from other forms of fitness and wellness is that it is particularly good at offsetting the effects of stress. A 2000 Gallup Poll, “Attitudes in the Workplace VI,” revealed that 80 percent of workers feel stress on the job. Nearly half of those people said they needed help managing stress, and 42 percent said their coworkers needed such help. This is a big problem.”

“While yoga and meditation cannot eliminate stress, they each provide us with tools to better manage and cope with the increasing pressures of work and everyday life. When employees are less stressed and burdened by the health problems associated with stress, companies may see fewer employee sick days, lower healthcare costs, increased focus and productivity, improved performance and energy and a more congenial office atmosphere.”

On the importance of moving at work:
“I recently read about a company that configured their email system to reject any messages that originate from and terminate at workstations within a certain distance of one another. The idea is that people have to get up and go talk to one another. I see this as a twofer—people are up and moving and also interacting with one another in a more direct and meaningful way. Also in the same vein, because so many of us use cellphones at work, encourage employees to walk around while they take calls. At the very least, they could stand up to chat.”

On making your own space:
“Recently I was contacted by a firm in Tysons that wants to offer a chair yoga workshop because they don’t have the space to offer a mat-based yoga class. Chair yoga is a very gentle style of yoga usually associated with populations that are less mobile, who have a lot of difficulty getting up and down off the floor, or whose balance makes it challenging to do standing poses unassisted. Some poses use the chair for a hand support. You can also sit in the chair and stretch. In office settings, it refers to things you can do at your desk in your everyday work clothes to offset the aches and pains associated with prolonged periods of sitting.”

Upgrade Your Workday

(January 2015)