Nowadays, lots of companies are promoting the physical and mental well-being of their employees. In 2017, the relationship extends beyond the regular 9am to 5pm shift. Companies believe that if their staff are in rude health in both mind-and-body, the work benefits. But when you think of the sort of companies who offer meditative services alongside their basic employment package; it’s the likes of Facebook, Google and Apple that spring to mind.
Not, with the greatest of respect, Ardee Coach Trim. However, pay a visit to the companies base in Artnalivery outside of Ardee on a Tuesday morning and you’ll be greeted with a small but enthusiastic group of employees who now consider their weekly yoga session as part of the routine. This is a progressive local company looking after their employees and having fun while they’re at it.
So, what is yoga? A Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, it’s widely practised for health and relaxation. It includes breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures and the benefits of practicing yoga are both physical and psychological. It tones the body, makes it flexible and strong while it also helps to calm the mind and improving a person’s breathing.
Employees at Ardee Coach Trim have been undertaking yoga sessions before work every Tuesday since March after Eoin Lennon stepped in to try and alleviate the spate of back injuries suffered by his workforce. Eoin is an open-minded soul and his journey to better the physical condition of his staff led him, eventually to yoga.
There were a couple of different reasons for it but the main reason was we had a lot of back injuries,” he tells ThisIsArdee.ie. We paid a visit to Ardee Coach Trim early on Tuesday morning and were greeted with a small band of employees who were intent to make the most of their early morning.
“We do all manual handling. Everyone is standing at a bench all day and twisting to their side,” he explains. “When you go and play a game of rugby, you do a warm-up but you don’t do one for a day of work. It puts you in the mental frame of mind for work, as well. We’re going strong now. We have no back injuries. We had two and those two were people who didn’t do yoga.”
The company saw 11 employees fall victim to back injuries between December 2016 and March or this year. Whilst mercifully none of those were serious, each saw staff members having to take two or three days away from work. “They’re workers and we’re without those workers for that time so there’s a financial cost to it as well,” Eoin admits.
Ardee Coach Trim was established in 1989 and Eoin’s father Frank was been there since the very beginning. In 1995, he bought the company outright and has been at the centre of it’s expansion and growth ever since. You’d never have seen yoga mats lined out outside the main building 20 or 30 years ago – and it can still be a struggle to get some employees involved, Eoin admits.
“If it was called bog-stretching, we’d get more people at it!” he laughs. Perhaps he’s right but having settled on yoga, he’s more than happy with his choice. It even appears to have changed his own mindset about physical preparation in the fourth months since it was introduced to the company. Eoin credits Munster and Ireland rugby legend for putting the idea in his head.
“We were looking at doing things for the company, team bonding stuff. I knew Paul O’Connell does yoga and you can’t get much more manly than that! I heard an interview about him years ago doing yoga with the Munster team and the benefits they got from it,” he explains. “It was kind of stuck in my head. It’s not something I would ever have done myself.
“There’s professional athletes, but there’s professional workers as well. You stretch for a game but you don’t stretch for work. Even if you’re sitting at a desk, you should still stretch. Everyone should stretch.”
“This is the way companies in Ireland should think. They say to think outside the box. We think there is no box. Be open to anything. Yoga works very well for us. There was a couple of lads there – older generation – and I didn’t think they’d do it but they did it and they love it. Once they done it, they love it. Young and old do it.
“We looked at hundreds of other things as well, all sorts of things. Jogging wouldn’t suit everybody, but yoga does. The boys used to do five-a-side soccer and that’s all great and well but we’ve lads who are 60-years-old and they won’t play it,” he continues.
When we visited on Tuesday morning, the sun was out. On a morning like that, the area outside the main building suffices. Down plop the yoga mats and away they go. If the weather isn’t quite adequate, the team clear out an area in the upholstery shop. An hour or two later, that is one of the busiest areas of the factory. This week, eight members of management and staff are in attendance and following teacher Joanna Smullen very closely.
The course comes at absolutely no charge to those taking part. The yoga is laid on by Ardee Coach Trim and all costs are covered. Even Joanna brings the yoga mats. All the staff need are themselves. “It’s an added benefit to them,” Eoin says.
“You’d be foolish not to do it – especially as we provide it free. It’s money well spent because we’re down to two back injuries. One of them is starting when he’s back from his injury,” he says. “It’s more than just stretching, it’s a positive mindset as well. It’s a good kick-start to the week. To me, that would be the week started off properly.”
The kick-start to the week has had to be delayed somewhat. The yoga initially began on Monday mornings as a way to get the working week off to the best possible start but the Monday blues soon derailed that idea. Whilst enthuasiam among the staff for yoga, meditation and physical well being is high – the general consensus was; not on Monday. Now, Tuesday morning’s are the date in the diary.
“Joanna starts you off with a really bubbly attitude and gets you into the frame of mind. Even on a wet rainy day, you have that mentality. It’s tough. You’re under pressure. It’s a workout.” Eoin can’t praise instructor Joanne Smullen enough. He says regardless of how participation fluctuates week-to-week , the yoga isn’t going anywhere.
“We booked Joanne and we’re continuing indefinitely,” he tells us. “I don’t care if there’s one person there or 20 there. If one person goes, they’ll get the benefit. It doesn’t suit everyone the whole time. It’s up and down.”
Admittedly, some of the Ardee Coach Trim staff are travelling form further afield so an early morning yoga session doesn’t suit. But Eoin, brother Domhnall, Frank and wife Anne are all there experiencing the benefit. Eoin is adamant more businesses should follow suit and over this or similar to their employees.
“Everyone can do it. A shop, a butcher, a bank, whatever. Businesses in Ardee should look into it or ask their employees are they interested. I couldn’t think of one company in Ardee who couldn’t or shouldn’t do it. If your employer offers it, you’re mad not to do it. It’s an hour in the week. The idea is you do it yourself then. It’s encouraging it physical and mental health.
“Just because you’re a small town company, doesn’t mean you can’t have big thinking. If you think small, you’ll stay small.”
All photography by Adrian Crawley Photography.