Apple’s $5 Billion Office Complex Offers an Important Lesson About Employee Well-Being

Apple’s $5 billion headquarters, Apple Park, is a space-age wonderplex designed by Steve Jobs to serve as a vehicle for innovation. Beyond its out-of-this-world splendor are seemingly small details that make some of the biggest differences in the lives of those who spend their days there–increasing workplace satisfaction, general well-being and overall happiness. 

Said to be one of Jobs’s favorite parts of Apple Park is the 10,000-square-foot fitness center. What’s genius about the space is not its innate splendor and lavish design, but that any business can recreate it without spending a fortune–or in some cases, without spending anything. 

With one empty office space you can offer staff a simple space that many actually prefer over an entire in-office gym. As appealing as an on-site fitness center might sound, the reality is that few actually want to work out alongside coworkers or stay at the office after a long day to exercise. But that doesn’t mean employers can’t enhance well-being in the workplace

Breaking Up the 9 to 5 With Breaks 

There’s no debate that sitting for hours is bad for your health, and yet Americans sit an average of 10 hours per day. We sit during breakfast, on our commute to work, all day at our desks, on our commute home, during dinner, and we sit to relax before bed. We repeat this day after day, year after year. The solution? Break up the workday. 

Numerous studies concur that working out boosts brain health, as it causes the release of endorphins and other neurotransmitters responsible for human happiness, such as serotonin and dopamine. And it’s not just the infamous runner’s high you get from an intense workout. The stillness of meditation has also been proven to release endorphins, according to Healthline

Introducing the New Workplace Workout 

Meet the new workplace workout: micro-workouts. These are quick, 10- to 15-minute workouts. Much like a standard work break, but in the 21st century where millions sit all day to work, the break is not to get off our feet for a bit like they once did, but to get up and get on them. 

In terms of human health, multiple short workouts are the equivalent to one long workout, according to an article published by Livestrong. And compared to sitting for eight or more hours straight, by breaking up your day, you can actually extend your lifespan, mental well-being, and help you come back to work with more mental clarity, focus, and productivity. 

Small Spaces Make a Bigger Impact 

On-site fitness centers are wildly expensive. And as appealing as they might sound, they’re often not overly utilized. After all, 63 percent of gym memberships in the U.S. go completely unused. When more than half of paying members don’t use a gym, chances are neither will your staff. 

About a decade ago I worked for a Fortune 100 company that offered an on-site gym. Though I liked the idea of working out, in my years there, I never once used the on-site fitness center. Most of my colleagues didn’t use it either. 

What people will use are small, private spaces. A space where people can practice yoga, meditate, do those stretches their physical therapy told them to do, do some body weight exercises, or follow a workout video on YouTube by themselves. People want privacy to recoup, refocus and re-energize in peace and without having to feel self-conscious with coworkers as witnesses. 

Make Room For Employee Happiness Without Any Room 

You don’t need to get a bigger office or clear precious space if you don’t have it. But you should be thinking about ways you can help increase employee happiness and well-being while at work. If you don’t have the luxury of an empty office space or are a fully remote company, it can be as simple as encouraging staff to take breaks and get up from their desks throughout the day. Or for those with physical jobs, encouraging staff to rest. 

Ultimately, it means being mindful of staff’s general well-being. Consider what really matters to you and your team. Chances are, it’s not about having a massive on-site gym. Sometimes it’s the seemingly minor changes that can make a bigger impact.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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