In today’s evolving business world, corporate culture and unique benefits are often big draws for prime talent.
New hires want to know what employers can provide outside of standard medical and dental coverage, and that’s where the latest HR buzzword “wellness” comes in.
For decades, businesses like the Pullman Company, the NCR Corporation, and Hershey Foods have instituted employee fitness programs, complete with employee gyms, recreation parks, and daily exercise breaks, though some of these perks were reserved for top executives only.
But now, wellness plans exist for many employees and deliver a broad spectrum of desirable offerings.
Research from Fidelity and the National Business Group on Health says employers are dramatically expanding corporate wellness programs in recenty ears, spending an average of $693 per employee on incentives in 2015.
Many companies have already implemented enviable wellness initiatives. Last year, we looked at a few perks we wouldn't mind having in our office, but here are some others we want to steal:
1. Nap pods
Arianna Huffington, the latest crusader for solving what she calls a “sleep deprivation crisis,” literally wrote the book on getting enough shuteye.
Her book examines how lack of sleep affects almost every facet of a person’s life, and how sleep deprivation links to diabetes, heart attack, stroke, cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s, lower productivity and creativity, as well as poorer quality of relationships and sex.
For a country that has long held the saying “time is money” in high esteem, Huffington (among many others) is advocating for workers to regard sleep as equally important to other healthy living adjustments, like eating well and exercising.
According to Sleep.org, 29 percent of workers report falling asleep or feeling sleepy on the job, costing the U.S. $63 billion each year in lost productivity. To address the issue head on, some companies are taking a page out of Huffington’s book and encouraging workday snoozes.
Zappos, the online shoe retailer, has a nap room in its Las Vegas headquarters. Nike’s Portland, Oregon office has a quiet room where employees can sleep or meditate. As for the Huffington Post HQ? Rest spaces require reservations and are often booked solid.
2. On-site workouts
After a full day of work, the prospect of physical activity can be less than enticing, especially if you’re in my camp: the perennial fitness avoiders.
The reluctance to work out is a bit of a catch-22, as increased activity heightens blood flow to the brain, resulting in higher alertness and energy, lower stress, and improved concentration.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise that some companies opt for physical activities on-site. Clif Bar, based in Emeryville, California, boasts an 115,000-square foot fitness haven.
Chock full of physical activity stations, the space is home to a rock wall for climbing, loaner bikes for errands, a yoga room, two massage rooms, a dance studio, and a workout room that offers 33 different health classes.
And if you’re thinking, “Oh, well that just means I’ll have to be at work longer to work out,” that might be true, but Clif Bar encourages workday workouts by offering two and a half hours of paid gym time per week. That allows employees to meet FLOTUS’ “Let’s Move” requirement of 30 minutes of activity per day for adults.
3. Catered meals
When workdays get busy, it’s easy to opt for quick snacks and caffeine boosts from sugary sodas that leave much to be desired when it comes to health.
While this type of nonchalance has created habits that give the illusion of efficiency (unhealthy options are often readily available, cheap, and allow workers to quickly get back to tasks at hand), poor eating can lead to a shortage of work productivity and mental clarity.
“Poor meal programs and poor nutrition underlie so many workplace issues: morale, safety, productivity, and the long-term health of the workers and nations,” says Christopher Wanjek, author of “Food at Work: Workplace Solutions for Malnutrition, Obesity and Chronic Diseases.”
One Silicon Valley startup, Asana, a work tracking app company, offers organic meals for lunch and dinner prepared by a full-time in-house chef. Campbell Soup Company provides its employees with healthy cooking lessons and subsidized costs on healthy meals.
Kaiser Permanente revamped its cafeteria to meet Partnership for Healthier America guidelines, providing healthier food options and eliminating sugar-sweetened drinks in cafeterias and vending machines. KP also offers more than 50 in-house farmer’s markets across its offices.
Not only does catering meals for employees ensure they are eating well, it also can heighten productivity, as employees are less inclined to go offsite for long lunches.
4. Parental leave and fertility treatment
For too long, Americans have had to choose between a booming career or being readily available at home.
It’s no secret that U.S. family leave polices lag behind the rest of the world (most countries offer paid maternity leave, while a growing number offer paternity leave), but some companies recognize that family is a major part of overall employee wellness.
Netflix recently made headlines when it announced all employees would be provided one year of paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child. Etsy is now offering six months of paid leave. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg famously used his company’s parental leave to take two months off after the birth of his daughter (the company provides paid leave for 17 weeks).
Fertility is another issue that can arise when families decide to put off child rearing to reach career goals. Apple and Facebook are two companies looking to help.
Both offer up to $20,000 in egg freezing procedures for female employees. Advocates say this initiative gives women the power to “level the playing field” with men by alleviating some of the pressure of answering to a biological clock.
5. Stop smoking initiatives
Helping smokers quit can save lives — and money. According to the American Lung Association, workplace smoking cessation initiatives can lower health care costs, increase worker productivity, and prevent premature deaths.
Moreover, the Association says all workplaces should ban smoking, as secondhand smoke can cause 41,000 deaths per year, and can result in lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, respiratory infections, and asthma.
Mitesh Patel, a University of Pennsylvania professor in its medical school, says that while encouraging smoking cessation can be difficult (either you quit or you don’t, he says, it’s not like weight loss where there are quantifiable variations in success), incentive-based initiatives have proved helpful.
"Some work led by my colleagues, Kevin Volpp and Scott Halpern, has tested ways to use financial incentives for smoking cessation — one large study with General Electric, another with CVS Health — and found that financial incentives in the range of $700 to $800 over the course of a year can triple smoking cessation rates.”
6. Dogs at work
Dog-friendly workplaces are quickly becoming a trend as pet ownership grows among millennials, the workforce’s largest generation. In fact, many younger millennials are opting for pets instead of children (yes, there is actual statistical data showing this fact).
All generations regard their pets as family, so it’s no surprise employees would want their four-legged friends nearby, but would you believe having dogs in the office can actually enhance health and wellness?
Pets lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, and improve one’s general mood by releasing dopamine and serotonin, the brain’s feel-good chemicals. (I mean, seriously, hasn’t everyone oo-ed and aw-ed over a new puppy?) Studies even show that those with dogs are less likely to be depressed.
Zynga, a mobile gaming company based in San Francisco, encourages employees to bring their dogs to work, and even offers partial insurance coverage for employee pets. In fact, Zynga’s founder, Mark Pincus, is such a dog fan that he named the company after his own pup.
As an added bonus, having a dog in the office means at least a few times a day, you’ll be required to take a 10 minute break so he can do his business, giving you an opportunity to stretch your legs and maybe even add some steps to your tracker.