Smart managers are always looking for ways to improve the bottom line performance of their company or team. But you may have overlooked a powerful business tool that can reduce work-place stress and absenteeism, in addition to improving performance and creativity. Best of all, it requires no new hardware or software licenses, and only minimal training.

That tool is the breath.

Breathing techniques have long been a fundamental tool of yoga practitioners and alternative healers who have been touting the many benefits of conscious breathing for literally thousands of years. But now recent science and research are confirming the positive effects on our health, performance, creativity, and overall well being.

Businesses around the world have discovered that in order to be competitive their workforce needs to be healthy, happy, high performing, and creative. Considerable money and resources are expended each year developing and maximizing these characteristics in employees as it directly affects individual and organizational chances for success.


As businesses try to cope with increased competition, shorter business cycles, and tighter margins, employees find themselves under more and more pressure, and that can have a significant impact on performance. According to American Sports Data, 26 percent of Americans feel stressed. That is especially significant as stress is an important contributing factor in heart disease, hardening of the arteries, and high blood pressure which together are responsible for well over a million deaths each year. In addition the depressive effect of stress on our immune system is well documented. People who are stressed have nearly twice the infection rates when exposed to a common colds compared to those who are not stressed.

The direct effect of stress on the balance sheet was illustrated recently by a decades long study at the University of Michigan. The study found that a startling 60% of all workplace absenteeism was directly caused by stress at a cost of nearly $300 billion! Similar studies have shown similar results in the Canada, the U.K., India, South Africa, and Australia. In addition, a recent three year analysis of over 46,000 workers from six major U.S. companies, found that depression and unmanaged stress emerged as the top two most costly risk factors in terms of medical expenditures -- increasing health care costs by 2-7 times as much as physical risk factors such as smoking, obesity and poor exercise habits, according to Occupational Environmental Medicine.


Although there are many effective stress-reduction methods such as proper diet, plenty of sleep, and regular exercise, these are often the first habits to fall by the wayside when we become stressed. On the other hand, conscious breathing can be practiced anywhere, at any time, and can be effectively used to combat and counteract the negative effects of stress. That is why nearly every stress-reduction program emphasizes deep breathing. The Wall Street Journal reported recently that deep breathing exercises practiced regularly for as little as 10-15 minutes can be an effective treatment for high blood pressure and hypertension. What's more the effects were found to be cumulative.

The breath may also play a key role in our ability to heal. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center found that patients suffering with severe psoriasis, who practiced stress reduction techniques including controlled breathing and meditation while being treated, healed as much as four times faster than the control group. In addition, the Journal of Cellular Physiology found that a cell's ability to heal is directly affected by the amount of oxygen that is available to it.

With health care costs steadily becoming a bigger burden to the balance sheet, it may be worth pursuing these simple techniques for the health benefits alone, but conscious breathing techniques offer several other benefits that can improve performance and the overall work environment. Breathing techniques play a fundamental role in anger, grief, pain, and depression management. Their ability to soften intense emotional swings and allow us to step back and act objectively rather that react emotionally makes for better decision and better leadership, and can set the emotional tone for the rest of the team.

Ultimately, the success or failure of any organization rests on the people, their creativity, productivity, and decision-making. Providing tools they can use to fundamentally improve their performance on every level while enhancing their quality of life can be one of the best investments you can make and can truly breathe life back into your bottom line.

Author's Bio: 

Don Campbell and Al Lee are the authors of Perfect Breathing: Transform Your Life One Breath At A Time (Sterling Publishng/2008) and write, speak, train, and blog tirelessly on the subject. Discover more ways you can improve your health, performance, and wellbeing at Reach them at or call 1-888-317-6718.