It’s 6 on a Thursday evening and a yoga instructor is sitting cross-legged on his mat, waiting for his students. We are at the Airbus office in Whitefield, Bengaluru, where the aerospace company occupies four floors. The yoga-cum-zumba room on the ground floor is a relatively new addition. It was introduced about nine months ago following an online survey of close to 500 employees. “A couple of years ago, Airbus set up a ‘balance for business’ team at the global level that was tasked with finding ways to improve work-life balance, gender diversity, etc. In Bengaluru, too, we formed a ‘balance for business’ team, which is a voluntary group comprising people from different departments," says Srinivasan Dwarakanath, president, Airbus Commercial Aircraft in India. Apart from requests for a pool table and table tennis table, zumba and yoga came up as two popular exercises that employees wanted conducted on the premises.

To facilitate this, the company took over the ground floor’s 1,700 sq. ft cafeteria space, run earlier by the owners of the building. This was converted into a multi-purpose hall that also doubles up as a cafeteria and an auditorium. In fact, earlier in the day, two doctors from Manipal Hospital had delivered a talk on stress management there. About 100 employees attended the talk, which addressed the importance of minimizing stress through physical activity and maintaining work-life balance. Sessions like these are held on a regular basis.

Half the space—about 800 sq. ft—in this multi-purpose hall has been kept aside for yoga and zumba classes. The flooring is also different—a softer wood-finish vinyl floor as opposed to the harder tiled surface on the cafeteria side to avoid injuries and boost traction. The talks happen in the zumba section which has a small podium and a screen. Large glass walls cover two sides of this hall; the blinds are lowered during class as the hall overlooks the entrance to the building.

Since the average age of the Airbus employees is just about 31, the company encourages extracurricular activities such as inter-department sports competitions too. The management also has tie-ups with indoor sports arenas and playgrounds to facilitate badminton and football matches for employees interested in these sports.

Jegathambigai Balaji, who is a member of the “balance for business" team, is a regular at the yoga and zumba class. Not surprisingly, the 42-year-old is quite the athlete: She is part of Airbus’ delegation for the midnight marathon every year and usually manages to complete the 10km run in around an hour. Balaji, who has been working as a quality control manager for Airbus for seven and a half years, is conscientious about her workouts. She attends zumba classes thrice a week; two days are reserved for yoga. “This is a bonus for people who don’t have amenities near their homes for working out. I am now addicted to yoga," she says.

They have even formed a WhatsApp group of zumba and yoga regulars to keep track of schedule changes and motivate each other. “There’s only one rule—no good morning messages and forwards!" says Balaji with a laugh.

On a more serious note, she talks about how these classes have helped her bond with people from departments she may not have interacted with much.

The class strength for both yoga and zumba typically ranges from 10-25. There are more takers for zumba—given that it’s a more rigorous workout. The instructors are provided through an agency Airbus has tied up with. This is to ensure that they are certified and there is always a replacement available.

“People are our assets. When they come in to work and leave (at the end of the day), there should be minimal stress," says Dwarakanath, explaining the company’s flexi-time policy that allows employees to come in and leave according to their convenience.

Describing why Airbus is driving the concept of fitness at the workplace globally, he concludes, “Physical and mental balance is very important for employees to be at the top of the game."

The Wellness Room is a series on how employers are creating designated areas in offices for employees to engage in wellness practices such as workouts, yoga and meditation.

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