Utah tech businesses provide yoga outlets, gyms for employees

This doTERRA facility in Pleasant Grove is one of many Utah agencies that offers fitness accommodations to its employees to manage the stress of long work hours sitting down. (doTERRA)

Some employees spend their workday in front of a computer screen in the confines of a tiny office, thanks to the technological revolution of the 21st century.

Software developers spend about 90 percent of their workday sitting, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Across all jobs in America, the average employee spends about 39 percent of their time sitting down. But what happens when long periods of sitting turn into depression from a lack of physical activity? Several Utah tech agencies have responded to concerns by offering their employees gym access on company premises.

A 2013 study conducted in Australia by the University of Tasmania found employees who sit six hours or more per day are more likely to report emotional distress and patterns of depression, regardless of their exercise outside of work.

Janeen Martin is a clinical therapist in Provo who dedicates her time to helping patients develop positive lifestyle practices to overcome anxiety and depression. Her experience, she said, has reinforced to her the essential role of physical activity to a healthy, fulfilling life.

“We have a limited capacity of energy each day. When we are not practicing good self-care to restore our energy, that energy depletes, and our ability to function well at work and in our relationships significantly declines,” Martin said.

BYU public relations student Suzzy Kalu said the pressure of efficiency can lead employees to feel they have no choice.

“I’ve had jobs where I feel like I’m not allowed to get up from my desk, otherwise my boss would think I’m not working hard enough,” Kalu said.

Her eventual employment at Workfront, a tech company providing software to other businesses, dismissed her concerns.

“Workfront provides several mind and body benefits,” Kalu said. “Every Wednesday and Friday they have hired massage therapists in one of our meeting rooms to help us decompress whenever we need them. They also provide reimbursement for gym memberships, including daycare memberships so you can go to the gym.”

Other companies like Workfront have implemented similar programs. Some of these companies include Ancestry, Entrata, Domo and doTERRA. The type of physical exercise offered differs from business to business, with many opting for yoga over traditional weight-training gyms.

Jenny Liddiard is a yoga instructor in Mapleton whose work partially centers on cooperating with businesses incorporating yoga practices. She argues the practice of meditation found in yoga provides a more direct approach to mental well-being than most other physical activities.

Martin agreed.

“Yoga is a fantastic form of exercise because it includes the practice of mindfulness and relaxation techniques such as deep breathing patterns,” Martin said. “Studies have shown these practices to be highly effective in decreasing feelings of anxiety and depression and increasing overall well-being.”

Liddiard said that her role in helping employees find an outlet through yoga has shown her first-hand that these programs create positive changes. The participants, she claims, feel happy and well cared-for.

The access to physical fitness in the workplace, Liddiard said, “creates a wonderful sense of community as the participants cheer each other on in their fitness goals and create friendships among each other.”

As technology advances within Utah Valley bring along new jobs and ideas, community members like Liddiard, Kalu and Martin said they hope employers implement healthy practices for their employees and make physical and mental health a priority.

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