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Lying down on the job: new measures to reduce stress at the office

WeWork’s game room in its SoHo location in New York; WeWork is a  growing national network of shared work spaces in funky urban buildings. Illustrates HEALTH-WORKPLACE (category l), by Vicky Hallett (c) 2013, The Washington Post. Moved Wednesday, November 06, 2013. (MUST CREDIT: WeWork.)

WeWork’s game room in its SoHo location in New York; WeWork is a growing national network of shared work spaces in funky urban buildings. Illustrates HEALTH-WORKPLACE (category l), by Vicky Hallett (c) 2013, The Washington Post. Moved Wednesday, November 06, 2013. (MUST CREDIT: WeWork.)

Elise Foley was sick of staring at her computer screen last Wednesday. So the Huffington Post reporter walked down the hallway of her downtown Washington office in search of a cure. She found it in the meditation room, a dimly lit space that beckons visitors to sink into a plush couch or take a seat on the floor in front of a collection of candles.

In that environment, it didn’t take long for Foley to reach enlightenment – at least about expectations at The Huffington Post. “It’s a nice reminder that if I step away from my desk for 20 minutes, people won’t freak out,” she says.

Taking mental health breaks is the sort of behavior editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington has been touting through her “Third Metric” initiative, which emphasizes the role that wellness plays in a person’s success.

In addition to hosting a Third Metric conference this summer and devoting a section of the news website to the subject (a recent article by Huffington covered the importance of getting enough shut-eye), she’s also putting these principles into practice for her employees.

Huffington Post’s New York office has rooms for meditation, naps and yoga. And after spending a few years in a space that Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim describes as “sterile and corporate,” the D.C. staff moved into new digs nearby with the same amenities in August. There are other perks, too – plump ottomans invite folks to kick their feet up, and the kitchen is stocked with wholesome snacks.

“Newsrooms send signals to people about what’s expected,” Grim says. A message this one’s broadcasting?

“We want you to have a life.”

It’s been a process for workers to acclimate to the new options. “They haven’t dragged me into the yoga room yet. My yoga is bourbon on the rocks,” jokes editorial director Howard Fineman, who refers to the meditation room as “the thing with all the pillows.”

But staffers are exploring how to take advantage of the office. Politics managing editor Amanda Terkel visits the yoga room to stretch after running, and she’s eager to take the regular classes that are starting in the space this week – an instructor will lead both an athletic practice and a more restorative one.

Reporter Sam Stein, who’s often up before 5 a.m. for television appearances, is the first nap-room regular. When he’s dragging, he moseys off for a 15-minute snooze.

And no one’s had trouble figuring out what to do with the office’s other new stress-reducing feature: a keg. “Beer is universal,” Grim says.

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