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Time for Recess at KEEN Footwear

Foursquare gameAt KEEN Footwear, the old proverb, "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy," is taken seriously. So seriously, in fact, that the company has incorporated "recess" into its employees’ daily routine.

"What was the best part of your day as a child?" KEEN HR Specialist Sarah Outlaw asks. "Recess, of course." KEEN executives agree that recess shouldn't be limited to the grade-school set, and in 2011, instituted the company’s recess initiative, based on the work of the late UCLA researcher Dr. Toni Yancey, author of Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time.

"KEEN is more than a place to work," says Outlaw. "It's a culture that focuses on a 'hybrid' life. Our philosophy and our motto is to: "Create. Play. Care."

To get people up and moving – both for their physical and emotional well-being – KEEN employees have 10-minute recess breaks every day; some departments take their recess together, while others enjoy more individual activities. "It all depends on the situation and the schedule," says Outlaw. In addition to more organized company challenges such as the "Recess Olympics," there are more casual recess options, such as pick-up ping pong or foosball games.

"Play is an important part of KEEN culture, and it starts at the top," says Outlaw, adding that a supportive management team is essential to creating an environment that values the health and wellness of its employees.

KEEN's location in downtown Portland, Oregon, reinforces the healthy living philosophy of the company. Twenty percent of its employees bike to work (KEEN also has free bikes and helmets employees can check out for a ride around nearby Riverfront Park), while nearby trails are attractive to walkers and joggers.

By encouraging its 210 worldwide employees (162 based in Portland) to be more active during the day, Outlaw says the company has also heard from its workers that they're more active at home as well, forgoing TV, for example, for a game of catch with their kids.

kickball team

"We're creating a high-energy, playful state of mind," says Outlaw. That has even extended to the company's physical environment. Its new 50,000 -square-foot headquarters includes 6,000 square feet of recreation space.

In accordance with its mission of caring for the community, KEEN developed a do-it-yourself "Instant Recess Toolkit" with Dr. Yancey to encourage other companies to get in on the fun. The digital toolkit, which is free of charge, is geared to HR professionals and includes such features as a calculator so that employers can track the benefit of daily activity breaks, tips on the benefits of recess, suggestions on ways to get started, and log sheets to keep a record of staff participation. More than 7,000 businesses have visited the instant recess toolkit site and 104 (such as Chr. Hansen in Milwaukee, Wis.; Minnesota Twist Drill in Chisholm, Minn.; MINDBODY in San Luis Obispo, Calif.; and Summit Publishing in Charlottesville, Va.) have registered to begin their own recess-at-work program.

"We're happy to share with others," says Outlaw of the company's decision to create and offer these toolkits.

After all, why should the folks at KEEN have all the fun?

Download a copy of the Instant Recess Toolkit (PDF)

Published on August 22, 2013

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