Elise Foley was sick of staring at her computer screen last Wednesday. So the Huffington Post reporter walked down the hallway of her downtown D.C. office in search of a cure. She found it in the meditation room, a dimly lit space that beckons visitors to sink into a plush couch or take a seat on the floor in front of a collection of candles.
In that environment, it didn’t take long for Foley to reach enlightenment — at least about expectations at The Huffington Post. “It’s a nice reminder that if I step away from my desk for 20 minutes, people won’t freak out,” she says.
Taking mental health breaks is the sort of behavior editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington has been touting through her “Third Metric” initiative, which emphasizes the role that wellness plays in a person’s success. In addition to hosting a Third Metric conference this summer and devoting a section of the news website to the subject (a recent article by Huffington covered the importance of getting enough shuteye), she’s also putting these principles into practice for her employees.
Huffington Post’s New York office has rooms for meditation, naps and yoga. And after spending a few years in a space that Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim describes as “sterile and corporate,” the D.C. staff moved into new digs nearby with the same amenities in August. There are other perks, too — plump ottomans invite folks to kick their feet up, and the kitchen is stocked with wholesome snacks.
“Newsrooms send signals to people about what’s expected,” Grim says. A message this one’s broadcasting? “We want you to have a life.”
It’s been a process for workers to acclimate to the new options.
“They haven’t dragged me into the yoga room yet. My yoga is bourbon on the rocks,” jokes editorial director Howard Fineman, who refers to the meditation room as “the thing with all the pillows.”
But staffers are exploring how to take advantage of the office. Politics managing editor Amanda Terkel visits the yoga room to stretch after running, and she’s eager to take the regular classes that are starting in the space this week — an instructor will lead both an athletic practice and a more restorative one.
Reporter Sam Stein, who’s often up before 5 a.m. for television appearances, is the first nap-room regular. When he’s dragging, he moseys off for a 15-minute snooze.
And no one’s had trouble figuring out what to do with the office’s other new stress-reducing feature: a keg. “Beer is universal,” Grim says.
Other Approaches to Work-Life Balance
Bethesda’s Honest Tea has a new way to help its employees unwind: a competition. The “Go for the Gold(man)” Contest — named for CEO Seth Goldman — awards prizes in such categories as exploring vegetarian cuisine and spending time with family. The company also hosts yoga classes, sets aside a meditation break during major meetings and employs a wellness coach. “For different people, wellness is different things,” says Debra Schwartz, vice president of human resources.
Wellness could even be beer, notes Noah Brodsky, chief experience officer for WeWork, a national network of office spaces that’s expanding into D.C. in 2014 with locations in Shaw and Chinatown. There’s a keg at every WeWork because socializing “is the way a lot of millennials want to relax,” he says. Amenities vary by location, but for individuals who derive energy from a crowd, WeWork puts in features like the game room in its SoHo office, above. People in need of a quiet moment at the Chinatown office will be able to visit WeWork’s first relaxation lounge. Foam under the carpet will mimic the rolling hills of a park. “Lie down and look up,” says Brodsky, who promises there will be something worth gazing at.