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How Can You Reverse Your Company's Work-Life Imbalance? Through Yoga. Time to check your workplace "Yamas," or rules of living, and make sure that you and your employees are on track.

By Elyssa Seidman

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


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.

Related: 9 Yoga Poses You Can Do At Your Desk Without Looking Really Weird (Infographic)

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.

Related: How To Create a Culture of Mindfulness

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.

4. Brahmacharya: Respect yourself and others .

This can be interpreted in a few ways, but generally refers to honoring the best in people and being committed to the best version of yourself, and not exploiting or objectifying others. It also refers to valuing people for their contributions and respecting their commitment.

So often, the people who spend evenings and weekends in the office are not acknowledged for their effort, only their output, and this leads to turnover and, eventually, burnout. But when your staff feels appreciated, trusted and respected, (as shown in this study conducted in a hospital that aimed to improve its quality of care and reduce operational costs), you'll retain the best employees because you'll be making mutual respect part of your workplace culture.

5. Aparigraha: Don't hoard ideas.

Sometimes, we cling to business formulas that are familiar or that worked in the past, instead of being open to new ideas. We might even hold on to a concept from a previous round of revisions. But any time we grasp for something behind us, that act holds us back from creating something amazing today.

Leaning on the past gives us only evolution, as we saw in the history of the Sony Walkman. Only when Apple threw the formula away did a revolution begin. Non-hoarding, in essence, is the ability to let go and become open to new ideas or ways of living -- or in this case, new ways to run our business.

Companies like Johnson & Johnson, Pepsi and McKinsey are investing in approaches like Design Thinking to help teams let go of familiar formulas and find innovative ways of solving problems.

Further along the non-hoarding scale is greedless-ness. While we must be greedy to obtain the best talent, generate new business and industry recognition, the question we have to ask ourselves is, "When do we have enough?" And that question should come before we reach a point of extreme stress, or feel overwhelmed and unhappy. When a career stops being fun, it's time to ease off the gas, regain our perspective and find that entrepreneurial spirit again.

Related: What Yoga Can Teach You About Entrepreneurship

So, practice these workplace yamas. These principles will not change our culture tomorrow, but bringing them into the workplace, especially early on as an entrepreneur, can help you build a foundation for sanity, and pave the way for a happier, more innovative culture.

Elyssa Seidman

Senior Manager, Strategy

Elyssa Seidman is an L.A-based Senior Manager of Strategy with a background in creative marketing. She has served as co-chair of SheSays LA and is a student of improv. She is a registered yoga teacher and loves mixing her passion for solving business challenges with health and wellness.

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