Workplace workouts: A growing trend

Workplace Workouts

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Workplace workouts have become a trend in corporate wellness, and it's not just big corporations bringing the gym to the office. Workers at one local company actually get paid while they're working out.

At Palmisano Contractors in the Warehouse District of New Orleans, you definitely get the sense the team works hard under deadline in what they call a stressful business. The company has been around for decades, now focusing on commercial construction of hotels, apartments, office buildings and huge retail stores. But it's vibe is young and progressive. At the office, some employees rarely sit down. Many have stand-up desks.

"Just because we're a 60-year-old company doesn't mean we can't embrace modern day conveniences and technology," said CEO Wesley Palmisano, who took the helm in 2013 determined to attract and retain top talent.

This EY entrepreneur of the year for 2016 had an idea.

"I think there were some that were skeptical at first and so it was a foreign concept for some people we have around here," Palmisano said. "But I thought it was a great idea because it really provides a lot of benefits."

"It's definitely a different concept," said senior manager Nick Moldaner. "It shows our commitment to balance for employees."

That concept involves hard work and sweat. Three days a week, the work clock stops at 4 p.m. at Palmisano and the workout at work begins.

"We have the trainers come in at 4 o'clock, which is at the end of the work day, and the reason we do that since we're in construction, we want to offer the opportunity for everyone to participate, including guys in the field, not just the office personnel," Palmisano said.

Palmisano brought the gym to the office. Two days a week at the end of the work day, Crossfit takes over the warehouse area of the building. They do jump squats, deadlifts, ball wall, kettle bells, sit-ups and more.

"It actually makes the day feel so much better, just getting a workout," said Alicia Manuel, who works in accounting. "You don't even have to leave work, just come in the warehouse."

Palmisano is doing what large corporations do more than small to mid-size companies. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, 17 percent of employers offer on-site corporate fitness classes, up from 14 percent in 2014.

Cheri Modica loves the chance to get moving, but she sticks to the treadmill because of a back injury.

"I can't do the Crossfit with the back injury, but I do get on the treadmill when I can," Modica said. "Even in the middle of the day if I just need a break, I go get on the treadmill for a few minutes."

The trainer from Crescent City Crossfit said so few people get to work out at work.

"The biggest struggle we hear with working out, getting fit and exercising is the time to do so," Kelsey Briner said. "So to have this opportunity, they're just so lucky and so blessed."

"We understand everybody puts in a lot of time, lots of stress here, so it takes care of something you want to do on your personal time, but you get to do it on company time," Moldaner said.

One day a week, employees also have the option of an hour-long yoga class. It's another way to burn off the stress of the day, and employees say they feel happier and healthier.

"They definitely have more energy here and at home," Briner said. "They sleep better, they feel better, and are just in an overall better mood."

Palmisano said the benefits are immeasurable.

"So the benefits of the program, not only do people get to spend a little bit more time with the family and save money on a gym membership, they're also learning skills that apply to the work we do,"  he said.

Moldaner said he thinks the biggest benefit is the team-building aspect.

"When you're in the office, there are different levels of management and tiers. Everybody has to report," he said. "When you get out there in the gym. it's all equal."

It's a win-win for both the employees and the employer as the trend toward bringing the gym to the office continues to grow. Palmisano has bigger plans for corporate wellness. He said at the company's next office building planned for the New Orleans riverfront, he's going to build a larger gym and a cafe that caters meals to compliment the fitness program.

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