The Blue Zones Project Fosters a New Corporate Environment

The Blue Zones Project Fosters a New Corporate Environment

Can a corporate culture become known for longevity and increased happiness?

Last spring, contract-staffing company Sálo approached National Geographic Fellow and Minneapolis resident Dan Buettner about bringing his Blue Zones Project—which attempts to codify the forces that drive well-being and longevity in different pockets of the world—to the workplace. (Sálo’s partnership with Mayo Clinic resulted in the installation of 10 office treadmill desks in 2007.)

Should 80 percent of its 345 employees complete this six-month project, Minneapolis-based Sálo has the opportunity to become the first Blue Zones worksite. Between its Minneapolis and Chicago offices, 200 self-selected employees signed a pledge in September and took initial online assessments in three areas: well-being, happiness, and vitality. Participants received a book that contains nine principles, with tasks in each category.

Suggestions range from the simple (using 10-inch instead of 12-inch plates) to the complex (learning a new hobby). Each task is supported by statistics that show its correlation to longevity.

The biggest challenge is creating habits and not framing the project as a mandate, says Sálo Co-Founder John Folkestad. “For example, a while back we limited candy in the office. It resulted in a culture of hiding. We want a system that individuals will want to participate in, not a forced, unnatural environment.”

At the end of the six-month period, participants will re-take the assessments to gauge any change, including the projected number of years they “added” to their life. Sálo’s goal is 1,000 years in aggregate. In addition to individual metrics, Sálo’s business team will track measurements such as profitability, unsolicited resumés, health care claims, and employee engagement to see the initiative’s effect on the bottom line.