If you happen to work at C1S Group, a Dallas engineering and construction firm that specializes in sustainability, membership on the company "motion team" is automatic. The end of the day will likely find you on the track in the park adjacent to the office doing wind sprints, timed runs, and power walks. But what's with the team name? "'Running team' was too intimidating to the nonrunners," explains CEO Julie Strong, who co-founded the company in 2009. "We want everyone to participate."
And a lot of them do, at the annual fun run the company sponsors and other 5Ks as well. "We usually have as many as 10 employees at each race," Strong says, out of a complement of 23. "We're competing at different levels, but there's a lot of encouragement and camaraderie. That's the best part."
Strong thinks exercise is crucial for a healthy, happy workplace--both for her and her employees--and she has made physical activity part of the company's wellness plan. She has been a runner since middle school, and her husband and co-founder Matt Strong is a former triathlete, so running made sense. "Running makes you feel good mentally then physically, and often helps me get unstuck on a problem I might be dealing with," she explains. "Plus, my family tells me I'm much nicer when I'm running regularly."
Exercise is especially welcome when the pace is hard on the staff, mostly engineers who sit in front of their computers doing CAD drawings all day. "There are times when our guys are working 60 hours a week," Strong says. "We don't encourage that--but when it happens, our goal is that our employees are not grumpy." Andrew Clendenen, who joined C1S in 2012 as the director of business development and plays in the ultimate Frisbee game every Wednesday, concurs. "The nature of our work is deadline driven," he says. "We spend a lot of time together. It would be really unfortunate if it was all work."
The motion team is just one way the company supports physical activity at the office. Most people run when they want, but the team captain, Luis Reyes, a mechanical designer, makes a schedule for those who want to work out together. Strong also installed a basketball net, and it is put to use often. "Best $150 we ever spent," she says. In addition, five workout stations are scattered throughout the office itself. "Not Pilates bars and mirrors," Strong says, "but easy and available things, like dumbbells in one corner, resistance bands in another, and a medicine ball in another."
Strong encourages physical activity through holiday gifts as well. Last year, every employee got a GoPro camera, which they can strap to a helmet (another gift) to record adventures. The caveat was that each employee had to share a filmed experience with the office. "One employee filmed his family sledding down a mountain. Mine was of my kids ziplining in Costa Rica," Strong says. "Another did record himself drinking a beer. At least he was outdoors." The year before, the company gave "adventure" gift certificates for hot air balloon rides, white water rafting, and other exciting experiences. "We try to give everybody things that prove they are more than engineers," she says. "To encourage their inner Renaissance person."
That exploration is an apt metaphor for the sustainable renovations the company is known for, like a recent project for Frito-Lay that improved the air quality and temperature at a 300,000-square-foot plant in North Carolina, and the conversion of an auto-plant-turned-WWII-bomb-factory into a musical venue in downtown Dallas. "Our goal is to improve both the client's bottom line and the environment," Strong explains.
The shared activities also give everyone in the company insight into what makes their colleagues tick. "Our comptroller plays bass in a band," Strong says. "And our business manager is a Duran Duran groupie. You don't talk about that stuff when you're processing invoices, but you do when you're doing something fun."
Fun is the operative word. "We work too hard to not enjoy what we do," says Strong. "And we're a service company. All we are is our people. It's my job to keep them happy."