Guest Post: How Yoga Can Help You De-Stress At Work

Stress management in today’s work environments is extremely important. This was true long before the CoV19 outbreak, and will continue to be into the future. In many industries, people have been working longer hours for several years now — and the problem has only gotten worse in 2020, with 44% of people putting in more hours at home according to RTE. This naturally leads to stress (as if we don’t all have a bit too much already these days), which is not only bad for employees’ personal wellness but also has a negative effect on productivity. Virtually any experienced leader in business will attest to the fact that a stressed-out employee is generally a worse one.

An employee who feels overworked will ultimately “burn out” — an idea we covered in our piece on ‘How to Access Your Peak Performance’ back in 2018. In that piece we focused more on some of the mental and strategic things people can do to avoid feeling overwhelmed (such as saying “no” to more tasks, when possible). But sometimes physical activity can help to offset the burden or the modern work schedule as well.

One idea with regards to the physical dimension that become increasingly common is yoga. A simple search for “corporate yoga” will reveal pages upon pages of write-ups about various companies that have infused yoga and wellness programs into their cultures. They include the likes of Aetna, Blue Chip, and Eventbrite. But now, with so many people working at home, yoga is an even more appealing option, because it’s that much easier to sep away from your desk and knock out some downward-facing dog!

So let’s identify a few of the specific ways an activity like yoga in the workplace can help employees to manage stress, and thereby keep workplaces (even the remote ones) more productive and healthy.

#1 – Yoga is actually feasible

Yoga in the office can take a lot of forms. In the best of cases, a company will establish communal space where yoga or other light physical activities can be practiced, so as to incentivize employees to take care of themselves. However, the point here is that even in a more traditional office environment, yoga at work is completely feasible! Sure, you might not be able to do the full routine you’d ordinarily do at home with your favorite yoga app, or in a local studio or gym you might go to. But there are some things you can do without taking up any more space than you normally do when you’re sitting at your desk.

Thrive Global wrote about practical stress management and revealed some of the specifics behind simple yoga exercises that most anyone can do at work. Declaring yoga “hard to beat” as a stress management technique, the article revealed some basic poses — such as spine twists, rolling shoulders, and back-and-forth twists — that you can do quite literally while seated at your desk. There are more like these out there, and there are also some effective yoga exercises you can do standing behind your chair, if you have the option. Whatever the specifics may be though, the point is that one reason office yoga is so effective is that you can actually practice it regularly, no matter what your working environment may be. So yes, Yoga is feasaible!

#2 – Yoga Can Be Social

Socialization in the workplace is a somewhat polarizing topic. Some believe that employees becoming friendly with each other can lead to the working environment becoming somewhat less serious, and ultimately less productive. Others, however, believe that when employees are encouraged to socialize, they generally stay happier, and thus avoid burnout. To that point, Forbes covered multiple benefits of social connections specifically for employee wellness. Their article made note of broad concepts like increased happiness, less stress, increased engagement, and so on.

Considering these points it’s fair to say that socialization itself helps to keep workplace stress under control. Yoga, however, can help to drive that socialization. We mentioned above that some offices have spaces set aside for yoga and similar activities, and in these cases the exercise can help unite people. Even if employees aren’t necessarily chatting a whole lot while practicing yoga, they’ll be doing something together aside from work. It can help to build a sense of community that can in turn help to reduce stress. So yes, Yoga is quite but there is a very social, team-dimension to it!

#3 – Yoga Has Plenty Of Physical Benefits

Last but not least, there are physical benefits to consider! Healthline sums up the benefits of yoga in a fairly comprehensive manner, and includes improved heart health, reduction of chronic pain, better flexibility and balance, better breathing, and increased strength — not to mention the promotion of better eating and sleeping habits.

All of these perks are associated with regular yoga practice. And while they may not seem directly relevant to workplace stress, it’s reasonable to expect that employees who feel healthier in all these ways will simply feel better at work. They might be inclined to eat healthier lunches, they might feel more natural sitting at their desks, and they might simply operate with a more refreshed, energetic attitude. All of this, in turn, can amount to fairly effective workplace stress management. All it takes, as demonstrated by some of the companies listed previously, is the designation of a space and the offering of free yoga classes. Employees will do the rest. And your organization will experience one additional way to making your employees healthy high performers!

Written for:
Submitted by: Jennifer Birch
Image Credits: [PxFuel] – No changes were made to the image

How To Access Your Peak Performance And Not Burn Out

There is a feeling some people call “being overwhelmed.” It makes them unsure about where to start because there are a trillion things requiring their attention. Others call it “being off-balance.” Something feels just not right. And then there are those who keep repeating what nobody can hear anymore because everyone is feeling the same thing: “I am so stressed. I don’t even know where to start.”

Do You Know Your Priorities?

Whatever you call it, the feeling is prominent these days, and it is often a sign that you are not living by your priorities. Maybe you live on autopilot and take care ofwhatever others require you to do, what you are supposed to do, or what your family or boss requested that you do. Isn’t it time to get your balance back, to be your own master and complete those to-dos that bring you closer to your desired goals? To do this, it is critical that you define which priorities you have for your life, specifically right now, for this exact moment in your life.

Between Stimulus And Response, You Have The Freedom To Choose

Maybe you’ve heard of Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who was imprisoned in a Nazis concentration camp but survived and wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning. It was during these agonizing days when Frankl became aware of what would later be quoted a million times: “Between stimulus and response, you have the freedom to choose.” Frankl realized that whatever happened to him (the stimulus), he himself (and nobody else) had the freedom to choose his response to the stimulus.

Saying No To Everything — Almost Everything

Transferring this idea to our daily struggle means that at any given moment, you have a chance to choose. Say yes or no; do or don’t; go left or right. Most importantly, once you have identified your vision and your key priorities in life, you should say no to everything that distracts you or takes away time from your priorities.

Assuming you have a clear vision of where you are going with your life, and you have defined your goals, then you can judge which activities help you go in the right direction. In assessing whether something presented to you is a priority and should get your time and attention, ask yourself only two simple questions:

1. Is this really my subject, my problem, or somebody else’s? This question should help you identify who has the ownership of this topic and if that subject is important for you or has an impact on your bigger goals.

2. Will there be consequences that affect my goals if I choose not to respond? This question should help you understand how to prioritize this task, as well as lead you to consider what action is required.

If one or both of these questions is answered with no, there is no required action from you, so either disregard the task/topic presented to you or put it on your “maybe of interest someday” list. Answering both of these questions with yes means that you need to deal with the subject, allowing for your time and attention. Finally, consider the three-minute-rule. If the required action derived from this request takes less than three minutes of your time, and you can do it right away — get it done. If the task needs more than three minutes, delegate it and make sure it shows up on your “waiting for” list.

You can also put a date on the task to indicate when you will schedule time in your calendar to work on it. I learned from true productivity masters to schedule meetings for less time than you might otherwise. For example, 15 minutes instead of the commonly used 30 minutes. Without question, this allows you to fit many more potential discussions or meetings into your calendar and helps participants focus on what really matters. Last but not least, you could place this task that takes more than three minutes on your “next action items” list. Maybe you structure this list by topic or project. This “next action items” list is your No. 1 go-to place when it comes to defining your day or your week.

This article was first published with Forbes®.com

The One Thing You Can’t Buy That Gets Your Business Ahead

One of the most common challenges my senior management clients face is how to foster curious, high-performing, healthy and engaged employees during an era in which constant change and innovation are keys to success (see also Leadership In The Digital Age). The answer is actually simple: The No. 1 factor for preparing employees across functions and business units to become a true asset to the business is trust. And trust doesn’t cost money. It starts at the leadership level, with the behavior of each and every leader.

But nearly all of my clients overlook this. Instead, they expect to hear suggestions like invest more budget in talent development programs, approve requests for more team-building workshops, hire the latest VR-enabled training gadget, offer more flexible work time and other perks, and so on. These are all good ideas and, for sure, they can pay off, but it is trust that makes the real difference.

Why trust? Because trust has the power to inspire and influence. It’s the glue that bonds us to each other and turns threads of connections into steel cables. Trust is among the strongest known predictors of a country’s wealth and it is the basis for long-term investments, motivation, engagement, and innovation. The 2015 Edelman Trust Reporteven ranked trust as the essential factor for innovation. Yet leaders across the globe do a lousy job in building trust with their teams. Although we know from research that key trust-building leadership attributes are beyond the 50% importance rank, only 20% of leaders meet that expected level.

Can you build trust? Yes, of course! Can you do this easily? No, not at all! It takes time, and the trust and reputation you build over years can be destroyed and ruined within seconds. Nevertheless, there are always a few steps you can take to improve:

Talk open-book.

Don’t tell your people only half of the truth – be honest with them. Tell them the full story, explain where you stand, and demonstrate integrity. Leadership isn’t about being the smart one keeping secrets from a stupid crowd of employees. Be transparent and get feedback.

Correct wrongs.

Remember how you told your kids or were told by your parents to say “sorry” if you did something wrong or to fix the sandcastle if you destroyed it on purpose? How come we forget to apply the same principle as adults in the business world? If we as leaders mess up, we should apologize and try to fix our mistake.

See people, not hierarchies.

In almost all the large, medium and small organizations that I’ve worked with, there is a phrase about demonstrating respect written into each organization’s core values. Make sure that you apply this in your daily business life — play fair, play kind, and be respectful regardless of age and gender, and most importantly, regardless of hierarchy.

Do what you said.

Again, this is one of those attributes that we value most and try to teach our next generation. But it’s all worthless if we ourselves don’t live up to being trustworthy, keeping our commitments, and doing what we promised or said we would do.

Listen with five senses.

We experience a lot of information all day (and night) long. Make time for face-to-face conversations with your team members. Then, make sure you listen first, go back and ask for clarification, and then ask for feedback. Listen with all your senses — because sometimes our eyes and our hearts are better listeners than our ears.

Building trust takes time, but investing in these steps now will help you, your employees and your organization succeed.

This article was first published with Forbes®.com 

5 Pieces Of Advice For Leaders To Deal With Toxic Employees

It is a question that many leaders at different levels and industries keep asking themselves at least on a weekly basis: If research is correct that the quality of my life depends on my social connections, which in return impact my happiness, how should I handle those 40+ hours a week with negative and even toxic people around me? They take away my energy, they kill my vision and positive perspective and they just make me see the glass half empty instead of half full!

Whether hiring the wrong people, organizing teams with the wrong players or simply not dealing with toxic people in an efficient way will impact your personal and your organization’s productivity and performance. Together with some of my colleagues from the Forbes Coaches Council, we tried to find positive solutions to that tension.

Wendi’s advice: Disengage Through Diplomacy and Positive Solutions

Remaining diplomatic, neutral and polite toward a toxic employee is one sure way to extinguish any negative discourse or problem behavior. A great way to expand on this is to consider taking the higher road by not feeding into or clashing with a toxic colleague’s behavior. When the toxic colleague displays negativity, you can address it with positive solutions that disengage their behaviors.

Laura’s advice: Be Bold Enough to Care

I often work with leaders on cultivating curiosity and empathy. A “toxic employee” is also a human being. Start by getting curious about what they are experiencing in the whole of their life and practice empathy that demonstrates support. That alone may be enough to cause a shift, or you could discover that their “toxicity” is reflective of something deeper going on in your organizational culture.

Bill’s advice: Top Leaders Get Beyond Labels

The best leaders understand when they make an inference that a colleague is “toxic” they aren’t ready to “deal with” them until they unpack the word. What does “toxic” look like? What is a person doing when they are being “toxic”? Once a leader can describe the behavior, then they should confront the behavior (e.g., “When you [fill in the blank with such and such behaviors], it has the following impact…”)

Jessica’s advice: Be Direct and Open Their Eyes

Many times people don’t realize they are the ones who are contributing to the toxic behavior. Be direct and make them aware of what you are seeing. Don’t make an ultimatum, but present them with support and solutions allowing them to make the decision to change. If they choose not to change their behaviors, this is when you make a business decision later to part ways.

My personal advice: Listen, Lead and Leave

Normally toxic people aren’t toxic to the entire organization. It is just the wrong minds in the wrong crowd with wrong tasks. Good leaders listen first how their team feels about this toxic colleague and how this person pictures him/herself. Then they take the lead and re-shape the environment. If nothing works, leaders have the duty to protect their team and make toxic members leave the party.

This article was co-created by international executive coaches and initially published on

A Digital Diet to Enhance Productivity

You read diet and you think of losing weight? How come? Well, simple answer because that’s what we normally want when we are interested in reading something about a diet, right? But what if I told you that the next sentences won’t be about reducing your calorie intake, lowering your blood sugar level, doing more exercise and taking the stairs instead of the elevator? What if there are simple steps you can implement in your daily life as of today that won’t hurt, won’t make you change long-existing habits immediately and that will still help you improve, feel happier and get closer to your desired professional performance?

It’s somehow ironical that we live in a world of plentifulness, yet we suffer disease and conditions that were unheard of in our grandparent’s teenage years. Despite all the lifestyle choices available, we have difficulty doing the simple, most powerful things first! Why simple? There must be a complicated solution for sure, after all, we live in a constantly changing, digital world where being overstrained is the norm! If you continue reading, be prepared that those ideas might sound too simple but take me at my word and implement them today….and let me know how much positive change you experienced!

The world’s best diet doesn’t cost you a penny!

This is the best diet you have ever taken! Whether your body mass index screams for a calorie reduction or is in brilliant shape, this diet is just perfect for you: for the next 3 weeks you will go on an information diet! Yes, an information diet! Avoid all the distraction and the time taken away by reducing all the unnecessary information you consume daily. So for the next 3 weeks, do not read any newspapers, do not listen to the radio, don’t touch any online news channel or news on TV, don’t touch your smartphone or computer for pure surfing online, no Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram or any other social media you frequently use! Don’t even watch TV! Give it a try and you will find out how much more time you will get back into your life that you can use for working on projects that bring you closer to your big life’s objectives by enhancing your productivity!

“25” is your new time slot.

Structure your work time and your productive time in blocks of 20-30 minutes. Those time-blocks you dedicate to one topic each and work without distraction on what needs to be done. A very powerful technique to structuring your work in time blocks is the Pomodoro® technique: you set a timer to 25 minutes where you spend your undivided attention on subject A, then have a five-minute break before you go into the next Pomodoro-session of 25 minutes. After four Pomodoros you deserve a bigger break of 15-20 minutes. It is all about working WITH your time, not AGAINST it. It helps avoid burnout and trains you to focus and get rid of distractions, subsequently helping you fight procrastination and foster happy, successful and productive days.

Just close your eyes and recharge.

Forget about all the myths regarding sleeping before midnight or those adults are fine with 6 hours of sleep only. Make sure you get 7 or 8 hours of sleep each night because a rested body is a baseline for performance. Without enough sleep, you can nurture yourself with all good ingredients but your internal system is simply not rested well enough to make use of all the good stuff you put in. Sleeping time is also renewal time for your body, needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite. If it helps, get yourself a sleep app or some smart wearable device that measures your actual sleep time and then make it a priority to push this time in bed to 7+ hours.

I know this is not the typical dietary change or exercise recommendation that you would expect. The digital era is different, traditional answers won’t stick to currently burning questions and that is true for business as well as for private. We need to take care of ourselves again because digital transformation takes place at a fast speed and those who will master this – on an individual as well as organization level – are the ones who realize that innovative ideas don’t grow on trees but in the minds of healthy, high performing talents!