The Scene: Week of May 5


Astronaut and physician Dr. Margaret Rhea Seddon at the Advising Women Executives Forum. (Evy Mages/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
May 4, 2014
Wellness: Designs for keeping healthy

Many companies are looking to take a bite out of health-care costs by providing robust wellness offerings for their employees. At an event last week called “Well-Being in the City,” experts from a variety of industries gathered at Gensler’s downtown office to talk about the ways that workplace design can support and be a part of such efforts.

Panelists agreed that it was crucial to listen to employees and include them into the process of reimagining the workspace. At Capitol Hill Medical Center, the incorporation of natural light and the use of earth tones in the color scheme came in part from talking to staffers and the broader community about what they’d want to see in the facility, according to Douglas Van Zoeren, the chief of adult medicine for Kaiser Permanente’s Maryland and District medical centers.

At Bayer, vice president of U.S. internal communications Mary Lou Panzano said the company surveyed its staffers as it moved to transform its New Jersey headquarters into what Panzano called “the Epcot Center of Bayer.” It was those survey responses that encouraged them to add walking and running paths to the campus, as well as a medical suite and fitness center. When employees expressed enthusiasm for standing desks, Bayer moved to find $1 million in its furniture budget to purchase them. And in order to more deeply involve employees in the transformation, the company held a “Chair Fair,” in which employees could try out ergonomic chairs from a variety of manufacturers and could order the one that suited them best.

The panel also weighed in on the utility of the WELL Building Standard, a relatively new system for measuring whether a building is conducive to healthy living. Creators hope it will become as widely recognized as the LEED certification, which indicates a building meets certain standards for green and sustainable design.

“I do think there’s credibility in having a rating system,” said Randy Fiser, chief executive of District-based American Society of Interior Designers. Fiser added that since LEED buildings are now often able to pull in more dollars per square foot than other buildings, perhaps WELL buildings might eventually be able to do the same.

— Sarah Halzack

Astronaut advice: Looking at the world from another perspective

Don’t be afraid to go first.

That was the message Margaret Rhea Seddon, one of the first female astronauts to go into space, had for a roomful of lawyers.

Seddon knows a thing or two about firsts. Seddon, who is also a physician, was the first woman in the University of Tennessee medical school’s surgery program in the 1970s. In 1978, she became part of NASA’s first group of astronauts that included women, and she would go on to fly on three space flights as a mission specialist and payload commander. The first was on the Discovery, which took off April 12, 1985.

“When you see the world that way, it changes the way you look at life and history,” she said of being in space and seeing Earth from afar.

Seddon, who spoke at Ris last week at a dinner hosted by law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge, later became the first astronaut to marry another astronaut, Robert Gibson, in 1981. Their first child, Paul, was widely referred to at the time as the first “astro-tot.”

“Don’t be afraid to do it your way,” she said. “And don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself.”

After NASA, Seddon became assistant chief medical officer at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in her hometown of Nashville, and now works with LifeWings, a company that applies aviation safety practices — such as simulation training — to help doctors reduce errors in the medical field.

— Catherine Ho

Moving story: Three men and a charity

Three local businessmen have been on a mission to do good. Moving company Two Men and a Truck chief executive Martin Pollack, Chief Financial Officer Adam Slack and General Manager Zach Kildall recently created their own “Do Good” program that supports local charities. The Alexandria company is donating a percentage of its sales each month and is organizing volunteer efforts for charity. Two of the charities it supported were the Yellow Ribbon Fund and Bread for the City, where the three men helped plant vegetables and weeded the rooftop garden.

— Vanessa Small

Peet’s Coffee & Tea: Welcome to D.C.

Who says coffee is just for breakfast?

More than 100 guests sipped java-fueled cocktails Thursday evening to celebrate Peet’s Coffee & Tea’s arrival to the District. Guests included Reps. Jackie Speier and Loretta Sanchez, both Democrats from California, and CNN correspondent Dana Bash. The reception was held at Peet’s D.C. flagship location on 1701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, which opened last month. The company is in the process of opening 23 area stores, many of them former Caribou Coffee locations.

The drink list included the Peetnik, an iced rum cocktail with coffee and cherry liqueur, and American Revolution, an earl grey tea-and-bourbon concoction.

— Abha Bhattarai

Money school: Bank employees help out

Capital One dispatched about 30 employees to volunteer at Finance Park, a financial literacy center in Fairfax, where they helped students learn about personal budgeting. The service day celebrated Capital One’s recent commitment of $1.8 million donation to Junior Achievement of Greater Washington, which created and operates the park. The donation will be distributed over six years. Another volunteer event is scheduled May 15 at the facility where a new Finance Park facility is set to open in Prince George’s County.

— V.S.

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