Businesses are waking up to a work-life balance crisis. According to a 2016 Values and Lifestyle survey from CEB Iconoculture, now part of Gartner, the goals employees assign the highest value to in the workplace include “self-Improvement,” “happiness” and “sanity” — and all have climbed the ranks over the past five years.
That suggests that companies should pay attention, because whether or not our culture is any worse today than in the past, people’s values have shifted, and they’re not accepting industry expectations anymore.
In fact, those expectations have changed: To meet the demands of new talent, companies from entrepreneurial startups to large corporations have added perks rivaling the tech world’s, like creativity stipends, rooftop bars, office dogs and free food. However, better snacks or free parking will not offset the tipping point we face.
Instead, what’s needed isn’t perks but a change from within. And, to my way of thinking, one of the things leaders can initiate to make that change — and one of the most effective — is yoga. Not the Power Flow class you enjoy at the gym, but the 3,000-year-old original practice derived from The Rigveda, an ancient Indian text.
In that text, you’ll find the Yamas, or ethical rules, a kind of guide to “rightful living” that we yoga practitioners use and that can be adopted by the business world to influence workplace culture and make employees (and ourselves) feel happy and sane again.
Not that yoga in the workplace is anything new: Businesses have been incorporating yoga practices and meditation tactics for years. Back in 2007, Google implemented a program called “Search Inside Yourself,” to teach 500 employees about meditation. Companies like Apple and Nike even have dedicated meditation rooms where workers can step away from a busy day, unplug and meditate.
These are amazing tactics for managing existing stress. As entrepreneurs building a business, we can use mindfulness, particularly the Yama guidelines, to shape culture at the core.
What’s important here is that these guidelines are never black and white; they’re on more of a scale, which means there’s always something to work toward and no bad place to start. Without further ado, here are the five Yamas which you can use to shift your workplace culture:
1. Ahimsa: Do no harm.
Think about this lesson in your interactions with your teams, customers and business partners. It might be as small as giving feedback in a non-harmful way, or as large as sustainable business practices that do as little environmental harm as possible.
Google famously demonstrated this in its early code of conduct statement: “Don’t be evil,” which has been joined by Alphabet’s “Do the right thing.” A motto as simple as that can help us feel happier about why we come to work every day.
2. Satya: Be truthful.
Being truthful may conflict with being non-harming — for instance giving honest feedback on an idea you don’t particularly like can hurt someone’s feelings. But consider how you might deliver feedback in a non-hurtful way and adjust your delivery and tone before you begin to speak.
Colleagues and clients will thank you for being honest and helping them change course early on, rather than go too far down a path that isn’t right for the end objective. According to leadership experts, encouraging employers and coworkers to give honest feedback to one other in a non-harming, helpful way, creates an increase in positive employee engagement.
In other words, the more honest you are in your feedback to your staff, the more likely they’ll be to want to fix the problem and recognize that you want to help them fix it, too.
2. Asteya: Don’t steal.
Millennials stay at a job when they feel appreciated, and giving credit for ideas is an easy way to make everyone feel valued. So, not stealing others’ ideas is a no-brainer. But so is not coveting others’ ideas. The business world, after all, can feel very competitive, and entrepreneurs can fall subject to a “grass is greener” mentality.
Employees, meanwhile, may think that friends at other companies have it better, that other people’s roles are easier or that their closest coworkers have cooler clients. But, focusing on what other people have distracts us. The sooner we all establish a workplace where we praise each other for our accomplishments and realize we’re only in competition with ourselves, the sooner we’ll all be doing our best work.