The Fit Office of the Future

By Mercedes Cordero – July 1, 2015

Turns out you can have it all: a successful career and a healthy lifestyle, all in one place. 

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle in a 9-to-5 work environment can be a greater challenge than trying to wake up to your first morning alarm. Driving for extended periods through traffic, eating out, and sitting at a desk all day are some of the biggest hurdles those in the corporate world have struggled to overcome. Combine those factors with accumulated work stress, little to no time to exercise, and poor eating habits, and you can really put a dent in your fitness goals. 

Times are always changing though, and companies nationwide are looking to promote healthier work environments, in part by providing wellness initiatives and programs for their employees. 

But what exactly does the fit office of the future look like? 

Innovation is key to providing employees with an appealing and time-flexible outlet for fitness achievement. Don’t be surprised if you step into a corporate office complex and see treadmill desks, rooms specifically designated for napping, and on-site Olympic-size swimming pools. 

Companies like the tech service and management consulting company Accenture have implemented a variety of fitness programs for their employees—from free mental health resources, gym memberships, and fitness discounts to a “10,000 steps a day” program that encourages employees to stay active during the work day. Accenture is also connected with the U.S. Fitness Networking website, a place where employees can network with others in the company who are interested in staying fit and active and want to find workout partners.  

Some employers are also opening up on-site gyms with state-of-the-art training equipment. Anadarko Petroleum, based in Houston and Denver, provides their employees in Houston with a basketball court and gym. In Denver, they partner with fitness centers to provide their employees with easily accessible fitness facilities. 

Companies like Johnson and Johnson, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Twitter also provide their employees with on-site fitness centers as well as weekly workout classes and cooking classes. Not many employers can compete with Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy though. They have an impressive 72,000-square-foot fitness center that includes an on-site Olympic-size swimming pool. 

Physical activity has been shown to not only improve one’s overall fitness, but also one’s cardiovascular and muscular health. A recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 37 percent of adults exercise less than once a week—or not at all. But exercise has time and again been proved to relieve stress, reduce depression, and improve cognitive function. So it’s no wonder why companies are working to make their offices healthier. Overall employee health is directly correlated to the overall health of the company. 

Laws like the Affordable Care Act are helping companies make this transition by assisting them in the implementation and expansion of employer wellness programs. Under the Affordable Care Act, “participatory wellness programs” mean employee reimbursement for the cost of membership at fitness centers and incentives for participation in seminars held by the employer. 

Austin-based startup and transportation app RideScout doesn’t offer parking for their employees, but they do cover the cost of them using mass transit. With the company’s growth over the past few years, gym memberships for all employees are in the works. The star feature (and fun topic of conversation) in the office is the Nap Pod. “When you hit that mid-afternoon slump where you feel like getting an unhealthy snack or another cup of coffee, we highly recommend and encourage employees to take a 20-minute nap,” said Erica Brennes, Ride Scout’s director of interactive content. “The power of a 20-minute nap is pretty incredible and does more for your brain and body; it’s like a recharge session.” 

Research has shown that naps are essential for body recovery. NASA studies have found that power napping can improve concentration by up to 34 percent. 

“Sometimes there is a line and we have to call dibs on who is next in the Nap Pod,” Brennes said. 

Baltimore-based Under Armour opened their first Connect Fitness headquarters in Austin in March. Staying true to their brand, the company is revolutionizing the fit office concept with their recreational room, men’s and women’s locker rooms complete with showers, treadmill desks, and a 35,000-square-foot boardroom and meeting space equipped with spin bikes. They also offer workout classes during the lunch hour and after work.

“Austin has a very welcoming culture,” said Allison Glass, the public relations manager for Connect Fitness. “It’s hard to tell people what to do [workout-wise]. I think you have to create an environment that welcomes it.”

Through gym membership refunds, healthy company lunches, or line-forming nap pods, employees are less likely to take sick days. And since exercise releases endorphins and increases energy levels, workers are more likely to have decreased levels of stress and heightened focus on their work.  

Personal fitness is a lifestyle employers are beginning to recognize benefits their employees’ work productivity. Having happy and healthy employees ultimately translates to a happier and healthier work environment.

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