The pain and nerve medications that doctors prescribed to Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini following a serious ski accident interfered with his ability to think and function clearly. So he turned to yoga. Paired with other complementary therapies, including acupuncture and naturopathy, he weaned himself from the drugs, got his focus back, and was able to get down to business.
In fact, the results of these drug-less approaches so impressed Bertolini that he wondered how they could benefit his staff. Working with eMindful and the American Viniyoga Institute, he authorized a 12-week study, where Aetna employees practiced mindfulness meditation and therapeutic yoga to reduce stress.
Employees who are facing the highest levels of stress cost their employer an average off $2,000 a year more in health care costs than the average employee, Bertolini recently told CNBC. The study revealed that employees who participated were not only less stressed, but more productive, too, which adds up to a savings of approximately $3,000 per year.
"The other part that we couldn't measure that I think is far more important is being present in the work environment. And by being present, making better decisions for the organization, and those decisions depending on where you are in the company take a longer time to have an impact, and we'll see that over time," Bertolini said.
More companies need to pay attention to this finding, Ariana Huffington wrote this week on the Huffington Post. Although a growing number of companies like Aetna are offering their employees mindfulness programs, it's not enough. She notes the World Heath Organization estimates that costs associated with stress cost American businesses as much as $300 billion. And self-reported stress levels are sky-rocketing, increasing 18 percent for women and 25 percent for men over the last 30 years.
"There's nothing touchy-feely about increased profits," Huffington wrote. "This is a tough economy, and it's going to be that way for a long time. Stress-reduction and mindfulness don't just make us happier and healthier, they're a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one."