Alternative employee well-being at work: saunas and mandated push-ups

Picture of three colleagues enjoying a coffee break
By Alex Burden, Student Blog

16 February 2017

Employee health and well-being is taking centre stage in business, and around the globe there are some 'unusual' methods of bonding at work – after-work saunas anyone?

Or at least that’s what you could be doing if you work in Finland, Holland, Sweden or Germany, where visiting saunas are a stalwart of work activities and generating new ideas.

It’s considered a normal practice to have seen your employers sans three-piece suit, and plenty of companies in Finland even keep on-site saunas to satisfy the demand for this steamy activity. 

The saunas are usually divided by gender (unlike Germany, where both genders are welcome), and help to soothe muscle and joint pain. They are not used for work meetings, per se, but there is an opportunity to discuss issues or work ideas while you detox and give your brain a break.

Any Finn applying for a job in a Finnish company would expect that there is a sauna.  Tommi Uitto, Nokia

“In the sauna there are no titles, no clothes,” said Tommi Uitto, senior vice president of Nokia. “There are no egos. It’s only you and your thoughts and your words and the same applies to the other person, so it’s much more human being to human being and all the unnecessary decoration is gone. 

“Any Finn applying for a job in a Finnish company would expect that there is a sauna.”

The culture has changed in recent years as more people would prefer to see integrated bonding times between colleagues, and realise the sauna may not be the most appropriate setting (especially when the sexes are segregated).

Compulsory exercise and sleep battles

If you’re more of a health buff than a sauna enthusiast, then you might fancy working for the unnamed tech company in China who are reportedly asking employees to walk 10,000 steps a day to keep them fit – with a push-up penalty for failure to reach the required amount!

An official, known as Guo, said: “Many of our staff sit in an office all day and sometimes have to work overtime. Many of them are young but are already having health issues such as neck and shoulder problems. We make walking 10,000 steps compulsory so staff can have a healthier life.”

Those of you who would prefer a little more shut-eye time may prefer Japan’s practice of ‘inemuri’, which means ‘being present while sleeping’. 

In a country where lengthy hours can be the norm, it is accepted that employees can fall asleep at their desk as long as it looks like they are trying to stay awake. Power naps are being encouraged, however, as an aid to performance and bettering the health of employees.

Fika break by Barbro Bergfeldt

'Fika' breaks

If that’s not for you, you may want to embrace the ‘fika’ in Sweden, known as a ‘mandatory’ coffee break with pastries, with up to two fika breaks a day.

The Swedes love of coffee partially stems from an outright ban, when in 1756 King Gustav III prevented his subjects from obtaining the grounds, partially because of health ‘worries’ and the Swedes refusal to pay high taxes on the drink. 

The king even ordered an experiment on a set of twins in exchange for dismissing their execution charge – if they agreed to life imprisonment where one twin would drink only tea, and one would drink only coffee.

The coffee-drinker lived longer (than even the researchers and the King!), and the ban was lifted in the 1820s. And so these were the bizarre beginnings of Sweden’s coffee addiction and the fika break to indulge their love.

Recently, Sweden was nudged out of the top coffee-consuming nations in the world: Finland is now number one for saunas and coffee consumption!


What is the strangest business practice or custom you have experienced? What would you like to see introduced to fuel performance?

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  • CA Student blog

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