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  • Laila Datoo

Zen & the Office

Wellness is fast becoming a buzz word and for the past few years this trend has been gathering pace - first in the gyms and health clubs as a way of promoting healthy minds and bodies for its members.

Now it’s becoming an office revolution. Companies like Google have been running workplace wellness programs since the 90s and now the rest of us are catching up.

What started as a fad though has now become totally common place in many businesses.


Because employers are finally realising something employees have known all along- a healthy mind and body equals a more productive, engaged and happy worker. If you put it like that, shouldn’t all employers be racing to nab the best yoga teacher in town?

It can be hard to quantify the benefits of a happy healthy employee though – I learnt this when looking to run a wellness week at my workplace. How can you measure the direct benefits of holding corporate yoga classes and offering free gym membership?

I firmly believe that our mental wellbeing is so important to having a happy work life- and work can be the number one cause of stress so it’s partly an employer’s responsibility to look after their employees’ wellbeing. Not simply from a development and career point of view – also for their work environment, their motivators and their holistic wellbeing.

Why is it so important?

Events in particular is an industry known for its high stress levels- in fact a recent study showed that events is the 5th most stressful career choice, the only jobs more stressful were military personnel, fire fighter, airline pilot and police officer!

It is estimated that UK employers lose an average of £29 billion a year to employee sickness. Combine that with the events industry being one of the most stressful in the industry and you don’t have to guess that the workplace can be a tough environment. People think that you need to have a big stressful project/ not enough people/ terrible boss for you to have a stressful work life and to actually do something about it. I disagree – I think spending long hours at a desk, working on tough even if not really stressful rejects and interacting with a variety of colleagues can be stressful in itself – you’re always thinking, manoeuvring and adapting. Which is often tough on the body and the mind.

Given that employees spend up on average 9 hours a day at work – 40+ hours a week, it is paramount that employers invest in their staff as a happy workforce = a happy company = healthy productivity and profits!

The benefits of wellbeing are massive:

It brings fun into the work place, staff are often more productive as wellness activities such as yoga & mediation are proven to work the creative focused parts of the brain…it builds communities at work as people enjoy doing group activities. All of this leads to improved mental health and less sickness and stress which directly impacts productivity and effective at work. And it obviously spills into our personal lives and has positive effects there too!

I’m lucky to work for a business that values its staff’s wellbeing- so last week we hosted a wellness week that catered to our staff’s overall wellbeing through physical, mental and financial wellness. The aim was to help employees to feel healthier and use their workplace as a place of inspiration not stagnation.

It was such an interesting week full of loads of useful tips from a wide variety of healthcare professionals. We featured a range of sessions from:

  • Resilience & mindfulness workshops

  • Early morning yoga classes

  • A natural oils session looking at the benefits of natural remedies in our hectic city lives

  • Body analysis and fitness advice from professional trainers from some of London’s top gyms

  • A money management session with a leading investment specialist who manages millions of pounds for private clients

  • To round off the week the company offered free massages to staff for those tense shoulders!

The main take aways were obvious but not always the ones we listen to. The things we talked about this week were how to make space at work to look after yourself, how to be mindful of yourself and others and how to make your wellbeing part of your work life rather than an afterthought.

My top tips:

  • Preparing for work days is so important for how the day goes- the better prepared you are with meals and snacks, the less likely you will be to eat junk.

  • We often forget our minds in this so a short meditation or even 5 deep breaths first thing in the morning before you get out of bed can calm you and make you stop and be grateful before you start your busy day.

  • Nutrition tips were enlightening- a small amount of full fat dairy is better than a lot of fat free - we need good fats.

  • The same with carbs – we get energy from carbs so while protein is the favourite, we need carbs with every meal to keep our energy levels consistent.

  • We are all vitamin D deficient due to the variable British weather, So while walking outside at lunchtime is a big plus, even the summer sun isn’t enough to give us the Vit D we need. So take supplements to top up – vitamin D is essential for our immune system and managing cortisol levels/increasing endorphins.

  • Being still – it’s so important to take a few minutes every day to stop and be still. And in those moments we can take 5 deep breaths, be aware of our presence and what we are doing in that moment…making a cup of tea, writing ion our books, admiring the trees and buildings around us…those 5 breaths centre us and help bring us back to the present rather than thinking about the past or future as we so often do.

  • Taking breaks at lunch and during the day is key to staying productive and focused and clearing your head – even 10 minutes helps.

  • A great tip is doing walking meetings rather than sat at a boardroom table – fresh air and a fresh perspective!

  • Try doing small office exercises at your desk or while the kettle is boiling for that cuppa – I liked the one leg chair raise (standing up and sitting down in your chair using one leg only) and the desk presses.

  • Find an exercise or activity that works for you – it can be walking, dancing, singing – anything that brings you joy will lower your stress levels so anything goes!

  • Find a buddy who you can exercise with or who can hold you accountable for those grey mornings you don’t feel like getting up for a spin class. It makes a big difference knowing you have company and someone waiting for you!

Starting the day with yoga made a huge difference to people’s mental wellbeing and how they set themselves up for the day ahead. Many of them told me they had woken up tired, grumpy and didn’t feel like coming to class but once they were there they loved it and finished the class on a huge high- feeling blissed out for the rest of the day. Just teaching it made me feel the same- It gave me such a buzz to see the smiles on everyone’s faces during meditation – and it did me good to do a stretch session first thing as it set me up really well for long days of meetings and desk sitting.

While it’s not realistic to have whole weeks dedicated to our wellbeing, it’s also a big reminder that there are so many little things we can do every day to make our days and weeks “well” – so that it isn’t something we do once a year, but something that becomes part of our daily life, and improves it.

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