Employers around the region are getting creative about ways to keep their staff healthy, happy and connected with their colleagues. Some offer naps, some give out treats, and some help employees brew their own beer.
It’s in the cards
At Energi, entertainment and exercise come together to form Fitness Poker. When the weather allows, participating employees are encouraged to stretch their legs by walking a loop around the company’s sprawling Peabody campus. For each half-mile lap completed (and confirmed by a walking buddy), participants receive a playing card. On Friday, the player with the best hand wins a $25 gift card to Whole Foods.
About 20 people participate in Fitness Poker at any time, but the competition engages people across the company, said vice president of human resources Mary Beth Heffernan. Even staffers who aren’t playing attend the Friday gatherings to cheer on and advise participants on assembling the best hand, she said.
“It’s a great way to get people up and walking,” she said. “There’s more productivity and higher energy levels when people get out every day and take a break.”
HubSpot chief executive Brian Halligan is fond of naps. More specifically, he is a fan of those dreamy, fertile seconds right before drifting off and right after waking up.
“He would argue that that’s when you have those really great ideas,” said Hannah Fleishman, spokeswoman for the maker of marketing software.
So Halligan decided to make the inspirational power of a midday doze available to everyone on the HubSpot team by creating a nap room at the company’s Cambridge headquarters. Employees facing the post-lunch doldrums or a late night at the office can book the space for 30-minute “meetings” to help them recharge. Called Van Winkle, after the famously somnolent character, the room features a hammock, soothing lighting, and palm tree wallpaper.
“You can’t even look in there without wanting to take a nap,” Fleishman said. “The idea is to have a setting to create big ideas.”
Putting their best shoe forward
Gabriella La Monica’s favorite sneakers are comfortable, versatile, and carefully handmade in New England — by La Monica herself. Last year, La Monica was one of 125 New Balance employees to attend “Shoe School” at the footwear company’s factory in Skowhegan, Maine.
Students at the shoe school — which has been a part of New Balance in Brighton for more than 10 years — spend a day cutting leather, stitching, inspecting sneakers, and packaging the final product. They work alongside experienced factory employees who show them the ropes; at the end of the day, they get to take home the shoes they created.
“You start with just a piece of fabric, and then at the end you see these beautiful shoes,” said La Monica, a learning and development manager. “I don’t wear them too much — I want them to last.”
The program is so popular, the company said, there is a waiting list to matriculate.
An amazing race
In the nine years Stephanie Kessler has worked as a copywriter at Canton’s Triad Advertising, her tasks have included singing on the steps of Quincy Market, downing a dozen oysters in rapid succession, and swinging through the air on a flying trapeze.
“It was excellent,” Kessler said of her high-flying adventure.
This unusual assortment of activities came her way as part of Triad’s annual holiday party, an “Amazing Race”-style competition that has employees exploring the Boston area, completing challenges, and bonding with their co-workers. The race-based event was born of creative director Michele Debatis-Killion’s love of the CBS reality show. Planning starts two months ahead of time, and Debatis-Killion uses her graphic design skills to create game materials that mimic the show’s iconic yellow envelopes.
“Everybody seems to really enjoy it because it’s so different,” she said. “It gives them something to look forward to during the year.”
A generous piece of pi
Joanne Chang, founder of Flour Bakery + Cafe, is obsessed with pie — and not just of the dessert variety. Chang got interested in the other kind of pi when she was studying math at Harvard. She has memorized many of the number’s infinite digits and likes to work it into the business in whimsical ways.
As a result, the bakery has instituted a pi anniversary celebration for employees at each of Flour’s four locations who stick around for 3.14 years (three years and 51 days). Honorees are given what human resources director Aimee Francaes describes as a “generous financial benefit.” They are also asked to choose a charitable organization; Flour then makes a donation in the employee’s name. Money has gone to hospitals, public schools, medical research organizations, even a penguin rescue group.
“It’s a really great thing,” said Erin Barry, an assistant pastry chef who recently hit the 3.14-year mark at the Fort Point location. “Not only are you getting some money from it, you are getting to donate.”
Make less? Pay less
The highest earners at Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program have a rather unusual perk: They get to pay more for their health insurance.
Four years ago, the Boston nonprofit was looking for ways to rein in its health insurance spending without sacrificing the quality of coverage available to its 400 employees. The answer they settled on was to create a sliding scale that gives more help to the employees earning less.
“It just seemed fairer,” said Jessie Saacke, the group’s director of human resources.
The program covers 90 percent of the premium for workers earning less than $45,000, 85 percent for those making between $45,000 and $90,000, and 80 percent for those with salaries over $90,000.
The reaction from the staff was — and continues to be — overwhelmingly positive, Saacke said, even among those who are paying the highest rates for their insurance.
Brew-your-own happy hour
A fridge stocked with beer is a pretty sandard feature at young tech enterprises. Health care software business NaviNet is no exception; since the beginning, its employees have observed a Friday happy hour. Recently, however, the Boston company decided to take this perk a step further and have employees brew the beer themselves.
“We have a budget for Friday beer,” said Dave Drexler, NaviNet’s director of engineering documentation and unofficial beer guy. “We realized we could either give that money to the liquor store or we could go brew our own.”
In September, a group of 11 employees went to Barleycorn’s Craft Brew in Natick and brewed up three batches: an India Pale Ale, a porter, and a Hefeweizen. In addition to the beer — 18 cases in all — the process yielded a new sense of cooperation and communication across departments, Drexler said.
“It brought together a cross section of folks,” he said. “It was a team-building fun thing to do.”
The halls are alive ...
At Bose, the Framingham-based company known for its speakers and headphones, the sound of music is an important part of the job. So the company makes a point of bringing it into the workplace.
Musical groups made up of Bose employees are given the opportunity to perform for their colleagues at periodic luncheons at three corporate locations in Framingham and Westborough. In addition, professional musicians are brought in regularly to play for workers and their families in the acoustically engineered auditorium at the company’s headquarters. The performances encompass a range of styles from chamber music to rock.
The musicians, of course, use Bose products to project the sound, an arrangement that helps employees feel connected to the technology behind their jobs, said Donald Baptiste, director of corporate human resources.
“It brings a bit of fun and lightness to the workplace,” he said. “It also reminds us of the core of why we’re here.”
The smoothie patrol
About once a month, PeoplesBank employees Linda Parlengas and Malina Barrow go on smoothie patrol. Armed with berries and bananas, kale and spinach, the pairvisit a few of the bank’s 17 Western Massachusetts branches and blend up surprise afternoon snacks for the staff.
“It’s a way to get them excited about trying something healthy,” said Parlengas, an executive administrative officer at the Holyoke headquarters.
The smoothies started as an offering at the bank’s annual wellness fair last fall. They were such a hit that Parlengas and Barrow, an assistant branch manager in Springfield, decided to take the smoothies — and the message of healthy eating — on the road. While they whip up the fruity treats, they talk nutrition and recipes with employees, encouraging them to try incorporating produce into their diets.
“People have said it inspired them to start having healthier snacks at home,” Parlengas said.
What’s on the smoothie patrol’s menu now? Apple pie and pumpkin smoothies for fall.
A walk while you work
About a year ago, managers at Philips North America’s Andover headquarters noticed that a lot of employees had taken to standing during conference calls. So the technology company decided to make it even easier for workers to stretch their legs by installing a treadmill desk.
The walking station, as the desk is called, consists of a standard treadmill, equipped with a phone and a platform that can hold papers or a laptop.
The addition is part of an ongoing initiative aimed at creating a more fluid workplace. Employees can book a block of time at the desk just as they would a conference room. And they do so often, said spokeswoman Lea Armstrong, herself a frequent user of the station.
“Any time you walk by it, there’s somebody walking on the treadmill,” she said. “It gets used so often that employees have requested additional stations to be added.”