Yoga at work recommended to improve employee mental health

Yoga classes should be offered in OFFICES, World Health Organization recommends in bid to improve mental health of workers

  • Employers should do more to boost workplace mental health global bodies say
  • This includes free office yoga classes and mindfulness training for employees
  • WHO guidelines also say bosses should be trained to spot signs of staff distress 
  • This could help cut the 12 billion working days lost to mental health each year

Yoga classes should be in offices, the World Health Organization said today in an attempt to tackle spiralling rates of depression.

The influential body also called for managers to undergo mental health training to spot employees who are struggling, and offer their workforce stress management courses.

Experts hope the recommendations, in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation, will help reduce mental illness in the workplace. 

Workplace yoga should be offered to support employee mental health, the World Health Organization has recommended

Another one of the recommendations is for interventions ‘that aim to build workers’ skills in stress management’ to be introduced – which could include mindfulness training.

Opportunities for ‘leisure-based physical activity’ — such as gym classes, walking or yoga — should also be available in the workplace.

If these can’t be conducted in offices or other settings, then companies should find external sites for workers to utilise, the organisations said. 

They added that organisations should examine employee workloads, to ensure that no-one is at risk of burn-out.

Authors of the document wrote: ‘High workload increases the risk of symptoms of mental health conditions.’

For workers in ’emotional distress’, firms should offer ‘psychosocial interventions’ such as those based on mindfulness or cognitive behavioural approaches. This could ‘improve work effectiveness’, they said.

The document, published today, also highlights risks to employee mental health, including bullying and psychological violence – also known as ‘mobbing’.

The WHO said that around one in seven (15 per cent) adults of working age has a mental health disorder.

Estimates suggest that 12billion ‘working days’ are lost every year around the world due to depression and anxiety among workers.

And the cost to the economy is staggering – an estimated £1trillion is lost every year from the global economy due to depression and anxiety, largely from lost productivity.

‘It’s time to focus on the detrimental effect work can have on our mental health,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general.

‘The wellbeing of the individual is reason enough to act, but poor mental health can also have a debilitating impact on a person’s performance and productivity.

‘These new guidelines can help prevent negative work situations and cultures and offer much-needed mental health protection and support for working people.”

Guy Ryder, director general of the ILO, added: ‘As people spend a large proportion of their lives in work – a safe and healthy working environment is critical.

‘We need to invest to build a culture of prevention around mental health at work, reshape the work environment to stop stigma and social exclusion, and ensure employees with mental health conditions feel protected and supported.’

Yoga, like many forms of exercise, is good for mental health.

However, some fans have claimed the ancient practise has a number of other benefits like helping ‘squeeze’ toxins out of the body’s organs, a claim which doesn’t have scientific backing. 

Globally, an estimated 5 per cent of the adult population suffer from depression.

But the mental health toll of the Covid pandemic was estimated to increase depression rates by 25 per cent, according to a scientific brief released by the WHO earlier this year.  

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