A sign by the elevators informs readers that taking the stairs burns an extra 50 calories every day. Stickers in the vending machines identify the healthiest snacks. A personal trainer prepares to teach a zumba class.
Though this sounds like the interior of any reputable fitness club, it actually describes the offices of Infinite Energy, a Gainesville-based energy company. With a 2,500-square-foot gym and numerous wellness initiatives, Infinite Energy emphasizes health as part of the corporate culture.
“I believe that wellness is really just about quality of life,” said Rich Blaser, co-founder and CEO. “Anyone can pay employees, but to really make them feel appreciated and want to stay with the company, you have to give them something intangible. Wellness is one of those, and we try to provide programs to promote that.”
This focus on employees hasn’t gone unnoticed. Florida Trend magazine recognized Infinite Energy as one of Florida’s Best Companies to Work for in 2009, 2010 and 2011. In addition, Outside magazine also rated Infinite Energy among its Best Places to Work for 2012.
The company’s sophisticated personal wellness program has evolved over time. It began with the on-site gym and full-time personal trainer. Then, to provide the same services to employees in the Atlanta and Houston offices, Infinite began providing employees with memberships for their local gyms.
As the result of an employee suggestion, the company implemented a walking program, aimed at rewarding employees for staying active. Participants monitor their steps with a pedometer, and those who meet their goals for 12 consecutive weeks are rewarded with a new pair of sneakers.
The company also introduced its own version of an annual Biggest Loser contest. Employees wanting to lose weight can compete with one another over a nine month period. The person with the greatest percentage of weight loss, dubbed the “Infinite Loser,” wins a grand prize of $3,000.
But the commitment to wellness is apparent year round at Infinite—experts on a variety of health issues give free speeches at monthly Lunch-and-Learn meetings and department potlucks feature fruits and vegetables. And not all programs are fitness-based—from blood drives to volunteer opportunities to discounts on the popular Dave Ramsey program Financial Peace, employees are given tools to improve many aspects of their personal lives.
Infinite Energy switched to self-insurance a couple of years ago, and the company is beginning to realize the savings.
“Healthy and energetic employees are good for employers,” Blaser said. “They’re happier. They’re more productive. They don’t take as many sick days.”
Blaser is no stranger to the kind of lifestyle he supports for his company. He completed the notoriously grueling Ironman triathlon in November 2011, finishing 166 out of 3,000. In August of this year, he spent a week climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with the Climb for Cancer Foundation.
“It starts from the top,” Blaser said. “Employers have the ability to help their employees get fit too when they walk the walk.”
Blaser holds himself accountable to his fitness goals by sharing them with his employees and encouraging them to do the same. While Blaser was training for the Ironman, an employee made a comment that he had always wanted to run a marathon. Blaser helped him sign up on the spot.
When Blaser completed the Ironman, that employee no longer worked for Infinite Energy. However, he still sent a congratulatory email, citing Blaser as the inspiration for starting his own fitness regimen.
If not for Rich, he said, he’d still be sitting there thinking about signing up for his first marathon instead of training for his second.
“I had tears streaming down my face,” Blaser recalled. “You never know how you can affect other people.”