Shari Sandifer, CEO, Avant
Work is stressful. Between deadlines, budgets, meetings and managing different opinions and personalities, it’s easy to get buried under the day’s demands. And for individuals trying to balance their work lives with families and other responsibilities, it becomes all-to-easy to neglect one’s own mental, physical and spiritual well-being. While the expectation in most workplaces is that employees need to push through their workdays regardless of how they feel or what’s going on in their personal lives, research is increasingly showing that this might not be the best approach. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, workplaces that implement and promote wellness initiatives experience a healthier, happier workforce, lower direct costs – such as health insurance and worker’s compensation – and a positive impact on indirect costs – like absenteeism and productivity.
As the founder and CEO of company built on a culture of employee wellness, I couldn’t agree more. Our company encourages employees to take walks and workout breaks throughout the day, frequently provides healthy lunches and snacks, and brings in guest speakers a few times each year to discuss topics related to health and nutrition. And there’s one initiative that brings employees together weekly to nurture the mind, body and soul: Company-sponsored, in-office yoga classes.
I’m a single mother of three teenage girls and between taking care of them, running a company, and meeting my own needs, I often find myself stretched pretty thin. Five years ago, I began practicing yoga and it has become an essential part of my routine. Not only have I reaped numerous health benefits – such as better strength, fitness, agility and flexibility – it’s also proved critical to my mental and emotional health. Regular yoga practice centers my mind, recharges my batteries and has taught me how to declutter my thoughts so I am refreshed and ready to tackle daily challenges with a clear head.
Aware of how yoga has improved my own well-being, I decided to incorporate it into Avant’s wellness programs and four years ago, we began providing free, weekly on-site yoga classes led by a certified instructor. The classes begin at 4 pm, providing employees with a reprieve before they head home to attend to familial and personal responsibilities or a needed break to clear their heads before capping off their work days. Additionally, we have a designated room in our building where staff can go at lunch or any time after 4:30 pm to practice – often several people will gather together for an informal class.
While the number of participants varies, incorporating yoga practice into our corporate culture has provided Avant and its employees with several benefits. In addition to the obvious – that yoga provides followers with mind and body balance – it has given employees a common interest and an opportunity for fellowship and networking. It also shows our team members that Avant is committed to their health and well-being in the midst of a challenging and often-demanding work environment. And – in what will likely be music to any employer’s ears – since implementing our wellness program – of which yoga is an integral part – we’ve seen a substantial increase in productivity and a decrease in absenteeism and sick days.
Whether you want your employees to learn how to better balance their work and personal lives, or are just looking for ways to improve your bottom line, yoga can provide employees with the perfect recipe for improved health, happiness and productivity.
About the Author
Avant Founder and CEO, Shari Sandifer was diagnosed with viral encephalitis at 13 years of age, losing much of her motor coordination. But the challenges she faced and overcame so early in life were just preparing her for the journey ahead. By the time she became a professional, practicing nurse, Shari not only understood the gravity of illness as a patient but she had become intimately familiar with the day-to-day struggles of providing patient care with increasing staff shortages. Inspired by the challenge, years later, Shari transitioned to a position of nursing staff provider. It was then that the need for a more efficient and workable solution to this ongoing problem became her passion. Because of that passion, Shari founded Avant Healthcare Professionals in 2003 as an answer to the highly specialized needs and challenges surrounding professional healthcare staffing.