From in-office yoga to step challenges, here's how Chicago tech companies bond over fitness

by Andreas Rekdal
October 26, 2017

It’s coming up on 5 p.m., and you’re getting ready to check off the last to-dos on your list. Your workout clothes are in your bag, but a night of Netflix and takeout doesn’t sound half bad, either.

Recognizing the importance of maintaining a healthy workforce, many companies create incentives for employees to make healthier lifestyle choices. But some go the extra mile to turn their wellness initiatives into team bonding opportunities. Here’s how.

 

SPINS chicago fitness technology company

SPINS is a consumer insights and data analytics company that specializes in working with organic, natural and specialty foods brands. The company’s internal wellness program, Vibrancy 360, combines an in-office gym with perks like meditation, cooking demonstrations and volunteer opportunities. But for Nick Nordman, who is SPINS’ controller, one fitness perk stands above the rest.

What is your favorite company fitness initiative?

I’ve tried yoga, HIIT and run club, but I really like our personalized training sessions. With one-on-one guidance, I know I’m doing the right “moves” at the right cadence. There’s a weekly check-in and I’m able to schedule personal workouts anytime in the SPINS gym. We also have access to an app through Vibrancy360, so I’m also able to keep a food diary and get personalized nutrition tips in one place.

How does the initiative help your team grow closer?

The program gave our team a common dialogue around personal goals instead of just talking about work. We’re able to talk about a challenging or fun class we took and, if someone gets off track for the week, we’re able to motivate each other. We see our team members and other co-workers in the classes, too, so we immediately have something in common that doesn’t have anything to do with work, even though we’re all at the office.

What is your favorite part of working at SPINS?

We have fresh produce delivered every week and are surrounded by experts who help us understand more about nutrition and healthy eating. I get to see new products that our clients and partners are developing with innovative and sustainable packaging that I wouldn’t notice in a store during my regular trips. I’m able to try things that are out my typical comfort zone before I commit to a product or buying everything to try a new recipe. The chef demos are always informative and make things that sound really complex or difficult more accessible. It’s very rewarding to surprise my family with new dishes and cooking methods at home.

 

dose chicago team planking fitness bonding

Headquartered in Chicago with another office in Los Angeles, Dose uses its fitness initiatives as an opportunity to foster employee bonding across locations. Employees from both offices come together as teams to see who can rack up the most steps — and talk smack along the way. Dose also has a generous monthly fitness reimbursement.

What is your favorite company wellness initiative?

Brenna Olexa, senior HR manager: One perk that stands out as a team favorite is our flexible reimbursement benefit, which provides each employee with up to $100 every month toward the wellness activity of their choice. The benefit can used on anything from Pilates to rock climbing, and we’ve found that our team also uses this perk as way to share a new experience. One of our visual designers was able to try out a new boxing class at a local gym and said it’s an opportunity to try out something new that you might not have tried without access to the wellness benefit.

How does your team bond over fitness?

Olexa: In addition to the wellness benefit, Dose puts on several step competitions throughout the year. We split up into teams to see which team and individual can log the most steps. The step challenges have fostered quite a bit of office competition. We have a lot of fun with it, from creative team names — Red Hot Chili Steppers, anyone? — to some friendly smack talk among teams.

Hunter Stuart, senior editor: It’s nice to see a different side to your co-workers and connect with the people on your step team, who aren’t necessarily people that you regularly work with.

What is your favorite part of Dose’s culture?

Stuart: The office vibe here is awesome — from the startup aesthetic and mentality, team members are encouraged to try new things and have fun. If there’s a better way to do something, we feel empowered to improve something or make it more efficient.

We have a tight-knit team, and we’re able to closely collaborate and see projects through to fruition. We’re a group of smart, fun and motivated people working together toward a shared goal.

 

higi chicago fitness technology company

As a maker of health and fitness tracking tools that go beyond tracking steps or calories, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that higi takes a broad view of health in its wellness initiatives. The company’s “Fit and Fresh Fall Challenge” rewards employees for making health-conscious lifestyle decisions. But the best part of the challenge, said SVP of corporate business development Russell Benaroya, is that it encourages employees to collaborate and share ideas, rather than compete against each other.

What is your favorite company fitness initiative?

We recently launched a challenge that will track your grocery purchases, fitness activity and weight and blood pressure to provide a more holistic view into health and wellness. In the Fit and Fresh Fall Challenge, employees will be eligible for rewards upon hitting certain milestones. Because we are a technology company, we have automated pretty much everything, so even purchases at a grocery store can be captured through a shopper loyalty card.  

How does your team bond over the challenge?

This initiative wasn't set up as a head-to-head challenge, meaning that the competition is really with oneself. When it comes to health and wellness, it is a balancing act between competing against others versus collaborating with others to shared success. We at higi tend to favor shared success. Initiatives like the Fit and Fresh Fall Challenge create camaraderie in the workplace and an appreciation that what we do at higi is truly about improving people's lives.

What is your favorite part of higi’s culture?

We are very intentional about our culture and are designing it to align with some key standards that drive what we do and why we do it. Areas like welcoming opinions, celebrating new employees, prioritizing the well-being of team members, having fun and laughing, and striving for clear purpose are examples. My favorite thing about our culture is that we're all part of making it how we want it to be, and every individual has a say and impact on shaping higi into the best place possible.

 

yello chicago technology company volleyball team

Mustering the motivation to head to the gym after a long day at work can often be the biggest obstacle to self-care. But for employees at Yello, a fast-growing recruitment software startup, in-office yoga classes cut additional commuting out of the equation. HR director Jen Meza said the yoga is great because it’s a way for everyone on the team to get involved.

What is your favorite company fitness initiative?

We do a lot of great things at Yello to focus on wellness, from Divvy memberships to healthy snacks and flag football and beach volleyball teams. But I would say my favorite wellness benefit is the yoga in the office. One of our employees is a certified yoga instructor and leads vinyasa classes for all levels of experience. She also keeps it fun with different themes each class like “Oldies and Om” or “Tropical House and Meditation.”

How does your team bond over yoga?

We've seen people from every department participate, and many people connect with folks that they don't interact with much day to day. Yoga also is a great option for some of our employees who want to participate in group wellness activities but aren't necessarily up for beach volleyball.

What is your favorite part of Yello’s culture?

Yello has preserved the camaraderie and excitement of a startup as we've grown rapidly over the last two years. One of our core values is to enjoy the journey, and we do a great job of celebrating both the company's success and that of individual employees — whether that is through company events and outings, learning opportunities, or internal mobility. There are 150 people in the company, and I still know everyone's name and what they do.

 

powerreviews chicago tech intramural softball team

Already established in the city’s intramural sports scene, PowerReviews recently added a weeklong wellness event to its list of healthy lifestyle initiatives. HR operations specialist Ana Reeves said the company’s focus on health boosts its overall culture because it provides natural bonding opportunities for employees across multiple teams.

What is your favorite company health initiative?

In May, we had our first ever “Wellness Week,” which included cold press juice deliveries, a self-defense class and a presentation about work-related stress. This, in addition to all of our intramural sports teams, our annual participation in the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge and our on-site gym, helps us all stay healthy year round!

How does the PowerReviews team bond over wellness?

Initiatives like the ones mentioned above allow employees to come together, have some fun outside and improve overall wellness. This in turn directly contributes to forming stronger relationships with the people you work with, and creating a more productive environment. Finding the other early morning gym rat, cycling commuter, vegan or yogi has formed organic relationships across teams and departments.

What is your favorite part of PowerReviews’ culture?

The diversity. There are so many different perspectives and representations. It is nice to see so many different people working collaboratively from vast backgrounds.

 

Images via featured companies. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Know of a company we should cover? Shoot us an email or follow us on Twitter @BuiltInChicago.

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