Mark Bertolini, a highly unconventional health insurance CEO, says yoga at work benefits the entire company. Here’s why your boss should endorse yoga.
Mark Bertolini, a highly unconventional chief executive officer at health insurance provider Aetna, believes that your boss should introduce yoga classes at work. And I reckon you should speak to your boss and tell them all about the benefits of yoga at work.
Mark Bertolini was nearly killed in an extreme ski accident. Since that day he’s changed his tune. Now he believes in yoga 100%. And he’s saying that doing yoga at work benefits the entire company. Now, he’s speaking up about the many benefits of yoga at work.
58 year old Mark Bertolini was dressed as ever in his crisp black suit, sitting in his expansive office in Hartford, where he overseas the operations of health insurance provider Aetna. He didn’t wear a tie though. Instead, Mark Bertolini wore a metal amulet that read Sohum. In Sanskrit, Sohum means, “You and I are one with the universe.” It’s a mantra that is often recited in meditation. It’s not the sort of message you generally relate to CEOs.
But Bertolini is not your average CEO. His life was changed when he miraculously survived a near-death skiing accident. Immediately afterward, he set about overhauling his health regimen, introduced key changes for the Aetna business, and began to offer free meditation and yoga classed to his employees—which totals more than 13,000 people. He then began to sell those same yoga and meditation classes to other insurance companies. And as though that weren’t enough, he raised salaries by 33%.
Try telling your boss that doing yoga at work has been proven to increase profits.
One third of all the health insurers employees have attended the yoga and meditation classes, and the results are clear: productivity is up, and stress is down. The meditation and yoga classes have revolutionised the business. Since Bertonli took over as chief executive operator in 2010 Aetna’s stock has tripled and is now sitting at a record high.
Many managers use meditation at work for themselves. But it’s important for the entire company to practice both yoga and meditation.
Attending Aetna for the day is like visiting the wall street version of a meditation retreat. Of course there’s business continually occurring, but at the same time there are employees dresses in yoga pants doing asanas, and others sitting on the floor in lotus position meditating. Offices are often decorated with religious or spiritual statues, like Bertolini’s statue to the Hindu deity Ganesha, and the attitude of the company is one of peaceful relaxation and oneness, the sort of place anyone would be lucky to work.
Aetna has measured the effect of their yoga and meditation practices. They’ve noticed a 28 percent decrease in stress, a 20% increase in sleep quality, 19 percent pain reduction, and nearly all employees who have taken the meditation and yoga classes have become more productive, equating to an average of 62 minutes per week saved per employee—which is the equivalent of$3,000 per employee.
“We have this groundswell inside the company of people wanting to take the classes,” Mr. Bertolini said. “It’s been pretty magical.”
Aetna is at the top of a monumental movement in the business world. Multinationals are beginning to introduce yoga and meditation lessons, and other emotional and spiritual courses. And it’s definitely true that yoga at work benefits everyone. But there are other positive courses that should be offered at work too. Google offers an emotional intelligence course for employees, while General Mills has a meditation room, and Goldman Sachs offers free meditation classes.
What’s most amazing about these courses is that they offer benefit to employer, employee and company alike. Meditation and yoga in the work place increase productivity, reduce stress, increase motivation and sense of wellbeing, significantly improve working relationships, and have led to companies seeing a marked increase in profit, which has allowed them to subsequently increase salaries. The benefits are clear and they’re across the board, not just across the boardroom.
Yoga at work benefits everyone. This infogrpahic tells you everything you need to know
Of course there are critics. Not all employees approve of the classes. Some more religious employees have even given heated criticism claiming that meditation and yoga are spiritual practices which are not enlighten with their own spiritual and religious beliefs. And it is important that companies respect the differences in beliefs and offer alternative classes for their different employees.
Many view meditation as a religious practice (even though meditation need not be religious at all). They believe meditation is all about Buddhism and Hinduism (though meditation is also an important aspect of many other religions including Wicca and Jainism). Other religions view meditation in a less positive light. Christianity only recently changed its view on meditation. In the 1950s meditation was regarded as occultist and satanic by the Christian community. There are still those who are against meditation, and a small group of those has publicly speaking up against the use of meditation in workplaces, seeing it as an offense to their beliefs.
What is clear and cannot be disputed, however, is that meditation and yoga are powerful and essential tools in business in the modern world. When work life puts a heavy burden of stress and anxiety on employees, it is essential that businesses do everything they can do ensure the stability of their employees mental and physical health. Companies like Aetna are leading the way towards a brighter tomorrow.
We recommend suggesting meditation and yoga classes at your workplace and sharing this article. Tell your boss that yoga at work benefits everyone. Let me know how they respond.
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