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New Blue Cross headquarters focuses on healthy work environment

An employee uses a walking station while working at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.
Lane Turner/Globe Staff
An employee uses a walking station while working at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

White walls, fluorescent lights, and drab cubicles are no way to energize workers.

So when executives at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts went about designing their new headquarters in the Back Bay, they covered a two-story wall in a thicket of green leaves, a surprising splash of nature in an otherwise typical office tower. The pothos plants are supposed to help employees relax a bit during busy work days.

“There is a mental health and de-stressing benefit to having this living wall,” said Kyle Cahill, the insurer’s director of sustainability and environmental health. “People respond by seeing nature and seeing green.”

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The green wall is one of a number of things Blue Cross incorporated into its new offices to promote health and wellness. While many employers encourage workers to stay healthy, it is even more logical for Blue Cross to take such initiatives. It is, after all a health insurer.

An open lounge area at Blue Cross headquarters.
Lane Turner/Globe Staff
An open lounge area at Blue Cross headquarters.

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Cahill described the thinking this way:

“We are a company that stands for health, so how can we really walk the walk in creating an environment that focuses on employee health and community health and the health of the planet?”

The office, which extends through 14 stories at 101 Huntington Ave., has lots of reminders to encourage a healthy lifestyle. There’s a mural of the city, with a biker and a runner in the foreground. Other walls are plastered with large photos of plump red apples, crisp green lettuce, and other fruits and veggies.

Most of the floors are connected with large internal staircases, to dissuade workers from relying on the elevators.

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Everyone has a sit-to-stand desk, and every floor has a treadmill desk, which employees can sign up for if they want to spend a portion of their days walking while they’re typing.

A jug of cucumber mint water invites people into the cafeteria, where there are lots of healthy options for lunch. Nearby, there’s a room for employees to sweat during a Zumba class or to unwind with yoga.

Fresh fruit is available in a walkway near employee cubicles.
Lane Turner/Globe Staff
Fresh fruit is available in a walkway near employee cubicles.

Blue Cross moved about 1,000 employees to the new offices in May, after 15 years in the Landmark Center in Fenway.

The new digs will save the company about $1 million a year in rent, thanks to a smaller and more efficient footprint.

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey

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