Increasing workloads and a higher retirement age have also increased the interest of companies in their employees’ health and well-being. The ideas are pretty inventive: for example, yoga at the office.
Once a week, always at half-past five in the afternoon, the conference room is transformed: chairs are stacked, tables folded away and pushed to the side – and yoga mats are unrolled. Work colleagues appear dressed not in a suit as usual, but in shorts and tracksuits, in order to assemble here for "business yoga". After an hour they all seem transformed. "After yoga I feel energetic, relaxed, de-stressed and refreshed. When I return to work, I can focus better and I am more motivated and creative," enthuses Christopher Colosimo from the London architect’s office HOK.
"And that is exactly what yoga is supposed to achieve," explains Susanne Lurger, co-founder of BeYoCo – ‘The Business Yoga Company’ in London. Okay, but what’s really happening in the conference room with those cosy trousers? "In Sanskrit, yoga means unifying body, spirit and breath," says Lurger. "During every BeYoCo session, the participants adopt various physical postures, as well as spiritual, mental poses, and I guide them: there are asanas, those are the poses, and pranayama, the breathing exercises, then there are relaxation techniques and, finally, visualisation techniques. In this way we allow stress and physical tension to be relieved. And that is why our clients feel so well-balanced and full of energy after their yoga session. Yoga helps people to exploit the full extent of their abilities."
Susanne Lurger knows precisely how important and also difficult it can be to achieve this in today’s business world: born in Austria, she worked for several years as an office planning consultant for multinational organisations and companies in London following employment in the office sector in Vienna. With her effervescent nature, she developed an extensive understanding of the needs of the species "office worker", specifically of the "knowledge workers" who must fulfil particular demands.
"I learned what it means to work while continually switching between individual work and collaboration, concentration and creativity," explains Susanne Lurger, "and how rooms can influence a person or team, their feelings or behaviour – and ultimately stimulate or hinder their performance."
Her experiences with yoga began when Susanne Lurger herself was searching for a way to counterbalance her strenuous everyday work with growing demands. In 2009 she established BeYoCo – The Business Yoga Company, together with Karin Schrijvers. This step was preceded by intensive training to become a yoga teacher, and as an enthusiastic student Lurger also travelled to India.
Passion is good and plausible, but how does she explain the success of BeYoCo to a company? Susanne Lurger: "We focus on tailor-made offerings that help people to be focused, flexible and also strong – mentally, physically and emotionally. At a corporate level, this means enhanced efficiency, reduced sick days, lower fluctuation and an increase in resilience."
The special thing about BeYoCo is the place where the sessions are held: the employees’ own office. Susanne Lurger describes her business idea: "With BeYoCo I can offer yoga and meditation as a practical tool for professionals directly at their place of work, which means that people are saved the journey time and remain in their normal environment." Yoga is practised in meeting rooms, conference rooms, auditoriums, central areas in open-space offices, break-out areas and larger individual offices. Some companies even have their own yoga room. Such as Google in London. And the hip company also lists yoga – alongside "fun and inspiring workspace" – as one of its "Top 10 Reasons to Work at Google". After all, appreciation and recognition are the best motivation… An employee explains: "The yoga with BeYoCo is the perfect way to reduce stress and increase flexibility and strength for better performance at work...and on the football field. It is the thing I look forward to all week." Matt Brocklehurst, Product Marketing at Google in London is convinced about the benefits: "The most amazing testament is that, after a (foolish) break from yoga, my first session with BeYoCo yoga cured my postural vertigo (described as the sensation of standing still within a spinning room) that had been bugging me for months. Incredible. Downward-facing dog (a posture we practise during the session) I applaud you forever more."