We spend a third of our waking life at work, so it makes sense that our office environment should support us in our pursuits of optimum health and all-round well being. As humans we were built to move thirty kilometres a day; in our modern day we cover an average of a single kilometre. Such sedentary lives are a given symptom of our globalised, technology-aided and desk-bound working days and have become a symbol of the state of modern health. Yet it is entirely possible to integrate healthy habits into the office to reduce the negative effects of being seated at the computer for long periods of time, eating fast food on the go and generally missing out on that all-important work/life balance.

One company is making it its aim to demonstrate that the workplace need not be a contributor to the general decline of global health: Better known for its yellow-coded gym equipment, Technogym is now leading the way in eradicating the synonymous relationship between the corporate environment and poor health, as demonstrated with its head office in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. The Technogym office is the icon of the Technogym lifestyle and a forerunner in the drive to change workplace health.

Referred to as the Technogym ‘ecosystem’, or ‘Wellness Village’, the space which physically represents the company philosophy and houses 1000 of its employees has been designed as a futuristic idyll, because, according to company founder Nerio Alessandri, inhabiting innovative and comfortable environments is integral to employee happiness. The human-centric design of the village utilises natural light and draws from the architecture of its green and hilly surroundings which are mirrored in the use of natural, high performance materials inside the building to remain as close to nature as possible, therefore providing a calm and tranquil working environment.

As a brand, Technogym promotes a focus on the concept of ‘wellness’ over the more body-specific ‘fitness’. Wellness, it says, is an inclusive term referring to overall holistic health, thus encompassing the full spectrum of total wellbeing which it strives to represent. ‘Wellness’, says Nerio, ‘is not three times per week in the gym, it is 24 hours in terms of approach, culture, design, quality of life’.

To utilise the village’s facilities each of the company’s workers is given a leisurely two-hour lunch break in which they are encouraged to workout in the state-of-the-art, fully equipped, dual-floor gym. Because ultimately, its gym products are what the company is known for above all else. Employees can make use of the vast array of Technogym equipment from every product line, including every runner’s dream, the new MyRun treadmill, which choreographs personalised workouts and training plans and adjusts the user’s playlists to match their running paces, making it a revolutionary in the concept of static running. There is also the almost-too-beautifully-designed-to-sweat-on mirrored Kinesis (Madonna has one..) to have fun building muscle with. When a vitamin D boost is required, there’s the outdoor running track and wooded trail and basketball court to enjoy in the Italian sunshine.

Every employee’s physical activity is logged in the ‘wellness cloud’, the most active employee is given a movement reward and, for added benevolence, all exercise is transferred into points which are converted into food donations for charity through their #letsmoveforabetterworld campaign. So not only do workers improve their own physical health, they are giving back to their communities and getting a good dose of charity-induced well-being to boot. Collecting movement points is not difficult for those working out of the Wellness Village. All offices and meeting rooms are chair-less, meaning only standing or balancing on balls, to lengthen the spine and engage the core, is possible. There are also jugs permanently filled with filtered water and vending machines stocked up with clean snacks in all communal spaces. Quirkier details to encourage healthier choices include lift doors which instruct you to take the stairs and food pyramids decorating the subsidised staff canteen, which represents the integral role nutrition plays in wellness with its locally-sourced, seasonal and organic menus.

Whilst the majority of corporate settings are, of course, unable to provide such lavish emotional and physical benefits to staff, the waves Technogym is making in the quest to eliminate work-related stress and inactivity is proving that even small changes in the workplace can contribute to improved wellness and that work need not be a barrier to a fulfilling an active and healthy life.

Words by Rachel Bednarski

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