Stand-up desks, wellness committees and taking part in Tough Mudder competitions are increasingly common in the world of startups, but our top three picks - Quickleft, SendGrid and ReadyTalk - have health and wellness priorities baked in to the heart of their culture. Read on to find out about super fit CEOs, beer brewing, Marathon Relays and a spot of frisbee, too.
Quick Left team on a group mountain bike ride
“Solving tough software problems can be really mind-numbing,” said Rachel Scott, VP of Marketing Communications at Quick Left, “which is why we believe in depleting the physical batteries to recharge the mental ones.”
For the employees at Quick Left, a full cycle web and mobile development shop based right on Boulder’s Pearl Street, cycling and biking are a major part of every day. The name itself came when one of the original founders thought about taking a quick left on Left Hand Canyon and the name just stuck. Fittingly, co-founder and CEO Ingrid Alongi is a national Velodrome champion.
Another reason they love to cycle? Boardrooms are so boring. “If we can have a meeting on a bicycle rather than in a boardroom, all the better,” reasoned Scott, herself a competitive cyclist on the same team as Alongi. Bike to Work day takes place once a week, though this is common for much of the team to do daily. As such, the company's facilities include indoor bike parking and showers.
An average day in the Quick Left offices sees employees hiking 4-5 miles on the Sanitas trail together, which starts right outside their door, or doing a yoga class together. The majority of the office has standing desks, and meetings are often held walking or, obviously, on bikes.
While fitness is a major part of the culture, it’s not a requirement. “Some people love brewing beer on our team, and that’s totally fine, too,” Scott said.
In celebration of National Bike Month, the company also created the Start Up Strava Challenge, a friendly competition amongst fellow bike-enthusiasts at local startups to raise money for their preferred non-profits. Over $2500 went to charity.
At fellow Colorado startup SendGrid, Kristi Walthall giggled a bit when talking about these fun activities while describing the company’s own fitness-first culture.
Walthall, a personal trainer before coming to work at the Boulder-based transactional email delivery and management service, emphasized how serious SendGrid is about supporting a healthy culture. “Working out enhances mood, increases productivity and reduces stress. So it makes sense this would help our overall productivity, too!”
65 SendGrid employees formed 8 teams to take part in the Sweat Equity Pursuit Challenge. Workout duration and intensity was tracked over two months and $250 was donated to the charity of the winning team’s choice. The 8 teams worked out for a total of of 1,177 workout hours and burned roughly 771,379 calories!
Today Walthall spearheads a committee the company has put together to create specific fitness goals each quarter, which focuses on how employees can grow personally, socially, professionally and intellectually.
In addition to physical fitness like yoga, crossfit and in-office personal trainers, elements of the quarterly goals include guided meditation classes and seminars on time management to reduce stress in all areas of life. Later this year there will be a focus on the community and the environment as well.
The company has workout spaces in each office and reimburses each employees’ gym memberships and race entry fees, plus they sponsor Tough Mudder races. “Throwing a bunch of people over walls is good for bonding,” Walthall half-joked.
They also sponsor kickball games, hosted a couple of Zumba classes for fun around the holidays.
“Oh, and we play frisbee on Wednesdays…” she said.
And the stand-up desks? Of course! All desks are adjustable and can be made into stand-up desks. After all, Walthall emphasized, “sitting is the new smoking, right?”
Members of the ReadyTalk team on a hike together
How does fitness play a role in the culture at Denver-based startup ReadyTalk? “We’ve got marathoners and three [employees] who have completed an Ironman. There are cyclists, mountain bikers, skiers, plus co-founders Dan and Scott King both ran track at Colorado University,” listed Bo Bandy, Marketing Managing at the audio/web conferencing company.
Oh, and founder Dan King won the World’s Fittest CEO title in 2012.
At ReadyTalk, It’s not uncommon for employees to go out for a run together at lunch or gather around the smoothie machine in the kitchen stocked with healthy snacks, organic fruits and vegetables and free of high tructose corn syrup. And beer, of course.
Headquartered in Denver’s Union Station, employees can take advantage of free in-office yoga classes twice a week, an on-site gym, office bikes available to run errands or just get in a quick leg stretch and massage therapy during work hours. Employees plus dependents have access to 100 percent paid health care as well.
The company covers $300 in race fees and $300 for health and fitness, plus there are daily fitness challenges and team-building competitions with proceeds going to local charities. Groups of employees participate in the Colfax Marathon Relay each year - some are very competitive, while others participate just for fun. Either way, said Bandy, “it’s a great way to stay active and bond with fellow employees.”
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