November 11, 2013
2013 Top Workplaces

Employee Health & Wellness: Chitika

By now, most people know that sitting in front of a computer for eight hours straight is not the healthiest idea. And if you work at Westborough's Chitika Inc., there's no reason you need to. Employees at the Internet advertising company can do their jobs from treadmill workstations, head for the office gym, or challenge a co-worker to a game of ping pong.

Bill Huertas, demand side platform product manager for the company, said frequent ping pong competitions keep his heart rate up, helping him to stay focused on the job. At the same time, he said, it offers a psychological benefit amid days crammed with meetings, deadlines and unexpected situations.

"It kind of gives you something you have control over," Huertas said.

The health benefits of working at Chitika, which has almost 60 workers in Westborough, go way beyond ping pong. The company's "Performance Zone," opened last year, offers space for workers to play basketball and practice yoga. Chitika has a soccer team, a kitchen stocked with healthy food, and catered lunches from local restaurants — not just for special occasions but every day.

"I think if you look at the West Coast, this is really common with companies ... to compete," said Joe Sharron, head of Global People Assets, Chitika's version of HR.

Sharron said offering these kinds of perks has direct benefits for the company, including keeping workers healthy and productive, and it seems to also help with the cost of insurance.

"Over the last couple of years, our premiums haven't increased at all," he said.

Huertas said there are also productivity benefits in bringing workers from different parts of the company together. When employees from two departments get together for a soccer practice or at the gym, he said, it allows for a flow of ideas that wouldn't happen otherwise.

"Having those two people talk is very important."

Sharron said being able to paint a picture of an active, fun work culture makes a big difference in recruiting.

"People want to feel that they're not just going to a company and punching the clock every day," he said.

At the same time, though, Sharron said Chitika works to bring in employees with diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

Although none of the active, teambuilding activities at the company are mandatory, Huertas said the programs are put together in ways that encourage participation even from introverts and people who are not particularly athletic. He said the Chitika soccer team actually didn't win a single game in its first season.

It was just about the kind of people that like to go out and have fun," he said. "The fabric of the culture here, I think, helps people open up."

Huertas said workers are judged not on the number of hours they spend in the office but on their concrete contributions to the company. It cultivates a sense of common goals that helps push employees to do their best.

"If you come in in the middle of the day you're likely to see someone playing ping pong," he said. "If you come in at 9, 10 at night you're likely to see some people at their desks.... You feel like you're part of something and you want to contribute."

Honorable Mention

Hanover Insurance Group, Worcester

The property and casualty insurer encourages employee health through its on-site wellness and fitness centers. It also structures unique programs such as on-site wellness coaching that help employees through their own health challenges. The company also hands out rewards for those who achieve personal health goals.

Read more

General Excellence: Hanover Insurance Group, Worcester

Innovative Benefit Programs: The Training Associates, Westborough

Employee Rewards & Recognition: World Energy Solutions, Worcester

Education, Training & Career Development: Fallon Community Health Plan

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