Healthy Employees Make Happy Employees
Social networking startup, imo, believes in wellness. So much so that they have treadmill desks available, and on employees' first year anniversaries they are given a pair of custom Nike shoes. I spoke with CEO Ralph Harik about how this all plays out in the office. Starting with the treadmill desks.
Turns out that his brother and co-founder, Georges Harik, modified an exercise bicycle so that he could code and bike at the same time. This worked so well for him, that they decided to bring a similar concept into the office. Enter the treadmill desks at imo. About half of the company's employees take advantage of the treadmill desks regularly, allowing them to get in a bit of exercise while working.
And if they don't want to walk on the treadmill while working, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company's workers get a subsidy for living so close to the office they can walk to work. Seventeen out of the 20 employees, take advantage of this subsidy.
However, perhaps the best perk in imo's wellness package is a membership to a concierge physician's group. They even make house calls.
All of this sounds great, but recent studies have shown that wellness programs don't really help a company's bottom line. Does this worry Ralph? Absolutely not. "There are always news articles and reports coming out about the benefits of regular exercise, including the impact on your health, energy and overall happiness," he says. We find happier employees who enjoy coming into work everyday tend to be more productive."
Are happier employees going to affect your bottom line? It should. Happier employees make better workers, and it lowers your turnover costs, which does affect your bottom line, even if it doesn't affect insurance premiums.
But does all this focus on fitness and health drive away good candidates who don't care for walking on treadmills? Ralph is skeptical. "Our employees are our greatest asset and they work really hard," he adds. "Perks like the treadmill desks, gym membership and concierge medical group send a message to candidates that we really care about their well-being." While not every employee uses the desks and other accoutrements, those that do see benefits. One intern lost 20 pounds during his three month stint with imo.
Ralph admits that his focus on health isn't a panacea. Still, creating an environment that helps employees feel valued builds loyalty to the company, which helps the bottom line.
SUZANNE LUCAS | Columnist
Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.