A few days a week at Playa District in Los Angeles, a renovated school bus emblazoned with the words “ZenStop” rolls up to the front of the campus and opens its doors to tenants. It’s not a mobile food vendor selling the latest macrobiotic salad, but instead a mobile “secular mindfulness” experience, as its founder, Mara Chaben, describes it. Tenants are invited to step inside the bus to close their eyes and sit on cushions spread across a wooden floor, while a teacher leads them through an hour of meditation. “Our mission is to make group meditation more accessible by bringing it to people where they work,” says Chaben. “We want to help people step away from their computers to refresh and get more clarity.”
Wellness 2.0 is about companies going beyond just physical comfort and considering the health of the whole person, including both their mental and spiritual health.
Wellness as a Workplace Amenity
ZenStop is just one example of how an advanced wellness culture is being introduced into the workday and into office life. Wellness, which embraces physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being, is now at the top of the list of workplace amenities for today’s talent. In an office community, this can include healthy, organic food options, on-site gyms, ergonomically designed workstations, good air quality, light, temperature and proper acoustics. According to the 10th annual Fidelity Well-Being Survey and the National Business Group on Health, two-thirds of survey respondents said that the choice of a workplace that focused on their health and well-being would make them more likely either to accept a new job or retain their current position.
As a result, companies ranging from Silicon Valley startups to global corporations have introduced wellness initiatives that include: flu shots, on-site gyms, jump bikes, nutrition classes, yoga and meditation classes, and spaces for relaxation and focus. No longer considered just perks, these have become vital options in helping workers to feel successful at their jobs, which are no longer characterized only by long hours and managing heavy workloads. Good jobs are now all about the ability to blend life and work into a personalized workday. Meanwhile, workplace wellness has mushroomed into a $48 billion business.
Beyond Lunchtime Yoga: How to Attract Millennial and Gen Z Talent
Millennials and Gen Z are far more concerned than previous generations with feeling well-balanced and supported in the workplace.
Today’s offices are becoming spaces for a generation that never stops blending work and life. Millennials and Gen Z, who are now graduating into the workplace, are far more concerned than previous generations with feeling well-balanced and supported in the workplace. They’ve reported that their mental health and flexibility in their workplace are their No. 1 priorities. To meet their expectations, companies are now moving beyond common amenities like lunchtime yoga and on-site gyms. They are launching or partnering with new programs and wellness options that can fulfill the growing need to give workers convenient options at work for connection, community, and self care. Call it Wellness 2.0, which is about companies going beyond just physical comfort and considering the health of the whole person, including both their mental and spiritual health. Wellness 2.0 includes access to state-of-the-art concentration and meditation spaces, sound healing, biophilia (incorporating plants and the natural environment into buildings), meditations from mindfulness experts, aromatherapy, nap rooms and 24/7 virtual health coaches.
Photo credit: Chris Ozer
Supporting the Mental Health of Millennials and Generation Z
Digital natives spend more time communicating electronically and less time communicating in person.
Ludovic Toinel Via Unsplash
As the most technologically connected generation to date, these digital natives spend more time communicating electronically and less time communicating in person. Many experts worry that this lack of in-person connection is contributing to rising rates of depression and anxiety. A 2019 American Psychological Association survey entitled Stress in America found that Generation Z is significantly more stressed out than earlier generations, reporting higher rates of depression and more visits to mental health professionals.
Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist and professor of ethical leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business and the co-author of the book The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, has written in Forbes: “The country is facing rising rates of anxiety, depression, and fragility among today’s teens and college students. What will happen when they enter ‘the real world,’ where protections will be far fewer and demands will be much greater?”
The Next Generation of Wellness Programs
Many new companies, often led by millennials, are seizing on ways to turn the tide, by developing new services and programs that focus on the need to soothe anxiety, improve mental health and enhance employee happiness. Mara Chaben, founder of ZenStop, founded this mobile mindfulness experience after being inspired by her own experience of finding focus and clarity through meditation. Numerous studies show the benefits of meditation on concentration and productivity, including a 2018 study by researchers at Harvard that found that meditation physically changes the brain in depressed patients. Lunchtime meditation can help improve both mental health and productivity in the workplace. “It helps to have a live person teaching the class and [to] hold people accountable,” says Chaben. “I think the group aspect helps people focus and get in the zone.”
“Millennials are looking for perks beyond a standing desk,” says Morash, now Wellable’s Director of Tenant Experience.
When Lyndsey Morash started her company, Chasing Nirvana Yoga, the idea was to make it easy for real estate companies to bring yoga classes to office buildings. Chasing Nirvana was recently acquired by Wellable, which runs innovative employee health and wellness programs. In addition to yoga, Wellable brings everything from fitness and yoga classes to other wellness 2.0 services, like reiki, a Japanese healing touch technique that aims to restore physical and emotional well-being. “Millennials are looking for perks beyond a standing desk,” says Morash, now Wellable’s Director of Tenant Experience. “I am looking forward to leading Wellable’s initiative into tenant engagement by providing our solutions to properties, so they can better attract and retain tenants.” She adds that Wellable’s leading technology platform will be a great addition to the suite of solutions the company currently offer its clients, making it a one-stop shop for property managers and landlords looking for amenities.
This Seattle-based company has created private virtual studios in which users can design their own micro-retreat to mesh with their work schedule. Using an app, they can choose meditation with ambient sounds, yoga or breathwork and then go to the studio and immerse themselves in a virtual world led by yoga and meditation instructors, with background videos of breathtaking natural settings from around the globe. After the class, they can take a luxurious shower, complete with botanical shampoo and Egyptian towels. “Instead of going on a retreat to Bali for a week, you could go to a micro-retreat at Sanctuary for an hour and a half,” its CEO, Robert Martin, told Geek Wire.
Headspace is a wellness company that offers mindfulness and meditation content to its partners. It includes short meditations, soothing sounds to encourage sleep and guidance from Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe, a former monk. The company recently partnered with Hyatt Hotels to give guests complimentary access to their content. The company will also offer corporate meeting planners the option to add Headspace content and experiences to conference packages.
Another San Francisco-based startup, Modern Health, is offering psychological services to corporate employees in over 60 countries. “Traditionally, people think about mental health on this spectrum of green to red. ... But mental health is not just about people in crisis, it doesn't just mean that people are in ‘the red,’” its founder, Alyson Friedensohn, told Forbes. These new service providers are filling the demand for Wellness 2.0 fpr many companies. For example, the management consulting company Accenture is now giving its employees the option of confidential support for issues like stress, substance abuse, depression and anxiety. They also have access to physicians 24/7, as well as a wellness program that helps employees set health goals by offering rewards for completing healthy activities.
Companies are starting to provide private “nap rooms,” like this one at Frankfurt International Airport. Via Flikr Creative Commons
Napping on the job used to be seen as a sign of laziness — or an earned luxury. Now the opportunity is considered a workplace perk. Asana, the management software company, provides unlimited PTO, daily yoga classes and detox and immunity workshops to improve workplace integration. It has also created “nap rooms,” like the ones international business travelers can use at airports. Employees can step away from their computers for a quick nap in order to rest, recharge and de-stress. Recent studies show that naps boost the immune system, improve mental alertness and even improve the ability to learn new information and skills.
For companies in search of a strong talent pool, workplace wellness 2.0 programs are not only the answer to attracting millennial and Gen Z talent, but the key to workspaces that will support, heal and nurture the talent of the future.