WELLNESS (n) A state of good health, encompassing mental, physical, and emotional well-being

CITIZEN

  • 32 Portland employees
  • 8-figure revenue
  • 1 communal tandem bike

It’s almost 2014. If you haven’t been regaled on the glories of sitting on a yoga ball or switching to a standing desk, consider your workplace behind the times. “Wellness”—the revolutionary notion that healthy employees make better workers—has become office culture conventional wisdom. Everyone’s walking at lunch. Everyone wants an office shower so they can run in the afternoon.

But Citizen, a low-profile Northwest Portland firm that creates mobile software and strategy for enormous global brands, is determined to stretch the trend to radical new lengths.

“The world is saturated with products that measure fitness and exercise activity,” says Quinn Simpson, the company’s user-experience director. “We want to talk about why.

Last year, a group of Citizen workers—guinea pigs, or pioneers—volunteered to let the company track their exercise habits. (Thanks to wearable products like Nike’s FuelBand and Fitbit, the tech-savvy can now easily compile and upload daily run distances and calorie burns.) The company wants that information so it can measure, with increasing precision over time, just how fitness affects job performance. 

“It’s more than just data,” says Drew Klonsky, who has steered the company he started in his basement in 2005 to contracts with Adidas, Intel, AT&T, and ABC/Disney. “It’s seeing how your fitness affects the organization.” Klonsky, a 47-year-old whose own triathlon training helped inspire the project, hopes transparency could create positive peer pressure. “We hire people in their 20s, but the irony is, they’re not always the most fit,” he says. “Maybe they’ll feel the kinship of their peers, spiritually and culturally.”

Eventually, the company hopes to track every factor that affects productivity, and use that knowledge to shape the perfect office environment. “If one team is doing well, maybe they’re getting a lot of sleep,” says partner Scé Pike. “Or maybe they’ve got their lighting set perfectly.” That vision echoes the “scientific managers” of 100 years ago who used film to make assembly lines more efficient. In the near term, Citizen’s fitness push is having tangible results. 

“My hamstrings are killing me,” Klonsky says.

See Citizen’s fitness plan in action

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