The office revolution that might make you actually excited for work

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Americans spend a lot of time at work. Like, nearly nine hours a day (or roughly 1,800 hours a year). And, as we all know, office jobs are notoriously terrible for well-being. There’s all that sitting, which has been found to cause chronic health issues, even if you exercise in your free time. Then, of course, there’s the stress and the slouching in front of the computer, not to mention the dodgy vending machine filled with anything but healthy options, Shall we continue?

Fortunately, forward-thinking companies across the country are no longer ignoring employee health, or even just paying lip service to its importance. They’re providing a wealth of wellness perks and attempting to transform the office into the next wellness frontier—fluorescent lights and recycled air be damned.

Why? For starters, wellness programs have clear ties to better attendance and bumped-up profits—and the more companies become aware of this fact, the easier a sell they’re becoming.

Just look at Aetna, the huge insurance provider, which famously ran a pilot study offering its most stressed workers (who were costing the company thousands of dollars per year) access to yoga and meditation classes. They found greater productivity, lower heart rates, and it helped the company’s bottom line. Those are the kind of results even the most skeptical boss can’t argue with.

Intrigued? Here’s what you need to know about the game-changing workplace wellness trends making their way to your office.

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Photo: MetroNaps
Photo: MetroNaps

The new vision for office wellness is holistic

The biggest names in corporate America now have robust wellness programs that look at health through a wide lens. Wanna catch up on some all-important sleep in the office? Google and Uber have nap rooms, some equipped with high-tech nap pods like the one pictured above, where employees can tuck away to catch up on ZZZs.

Major companies like Target and Ford have instituted mindfulness programs at their HQs (the practice is good for more than just your workouts), while Reebok recently banned white bread, soda, and other junky foods from its premises. And then there’s Zappos, which is well-known for sponsoring what it calls “wellness adventures.” Employees are taken off-site during the day for a quick break to, say, take a golf lesson or bounce on a trampoline. The company even offers recess on Tuesdays. The takeaway: Businesses have realized that true health means way more than just hitting the treadmill—it’s about both the mind and the body.

Photo: NicholsBooth Architects/Kontor

Companies are getting creative, design-wise.

Yes, a lot of offices have tiny gyms tucked away somewhere, but a few pioneers of workplace well-being are kicking things up a notch. Mia Lewin, CEO and founder of Kontor, a trend-spotting site for office design, says she’s seen a huge uptick in interesting wellness spaces, from yoga rooms to bike storage. Manhattan’s new Primary co-working space, for one, is decked out with living walls and rooms dedicated to healing services like acupuncture and massage.

Companies are also looking to make healthy upgrades to their workstations, Lewin says. “The trend toward standing desks is the most prominent example,” she explains. (This “Chief Happiness Officer” is one expert who swears by them). “But it also [extends to] creating a variety of flexible workspaces that encourage movement throughout the day and allow people to work in a variety of postures, whether perched at a high table or reclining in a lounge.” Just don’t forget to bring your essential oils!

Photo: AKT In Motion

Your office perks may soon include boutique fitness

For a long time, workplace health meant a five percent discount at a totally inconvenient gym that no one wanted to use—but that’s changing thanks to HealthKick, a wellness start-up that sets companies up with discounts for boutique wellness brands.

“It became so clear to me that there was a disconnect between what companies were offering [for wellness programs] and the behavior of me and my peers,” says founder Erika Zauner, an ex-corporate finance gal and self-professed boutique fitness junkie.

HealthKick partners with high-profile wellness names (think AKT In Motion, Swerve, and Daily Harvest) to give employees access to those services at exclusive rates. Which means it’s now super easy for HR managers to offer wellness perks that employees actually want to take advantage of—not to mention that nothing says “team bonding” quite like doing the Rocking Horse together.

The only downside? It might get way more difficult to convincingly call in sick when you’re feeling so good.

Even if your office hasn’t yet jumped on board the wellness train, you can still make your work day healthier. Take five for a #workdayworkout—or learn how to be the happiest person at the office.

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