In addition to general health coverage and a CSA subscription, 37signals employees get a monthly fitness allowance to put toward whatever helps us stay in shape.

What makes this benefit awesome (and effective) is that we get to choose how to make the most of it for ourselves — it’s inspired by the same ethos behind our practice of hiring Managers of One, then leaving people alone and counting on them to do good work. Unlike company wellness programs that include discounted memberships at a particular gym or other specific incentives, the laissez-faire approach trusts employees to decide what works best for them.

While a few of us rarely spend the money or use just part of it, many of us leverage it toward activities that might otherwise by cost-prohibitive: primarily gym memberships, classes and personal trainers. Michael goes to Fulton Fit House in Chicago; Joan belongs to a capoeira group in Portland; and Eron and I are both CrossFit cult members, in Durham, NC, and Austin, TX, respectively. He recently did his first muscle-up!

Andrea uses her stipend toward horseback riding, and Scott puts his toward entry fees for cycling races—when he’s not racing, he uses it to replace stuff that wears out or breaks (tires, tubes, chains, etc.) in the course of training. Other employees use the money for gear as well: Will just bought some weights; Kristin purchased a yoga mat; and Merissa just started tracking her sleep, activity, and diet with Jawbone’s UP band.

Andrea on horseback, Michael at Fulton Fit House, and Kristin in an extended side angle pose. graph
Speaking of Merissa, she wins for most inspiring success story: She used the benefit to hire a personal trainer, works out five times per week at a small club near her place, and is now using UP for motivation to be even more active:

Even doing jumping jacks for one minute every hour or so (during my workday) is making a difference. I’ve lost around 70 pounds in the last year. It’s not even about that number, though — it’s about how healthy I am feeling. It’s incredible to work for a company that supports me just as much outside of work as they do at work.

How does your workplace encourage wellness?