Is This Philly’s Healthiest Workplace?

Healthcare consulting firm Vynamic is aiming to be the healthiest office in the city—and it's well on its way.

Vynamic CEO Dan Calista demonstrates his treadmill desk. Photograph by Dana Ricci

Last week I got to see a treadmill desk in real life. Even better: I got to see the head of a Philly company actually use it.

Let me back up for a second. Several weeks ago, a friend of mine had dinner with an old college buddy, who works at a healthcare consulting company in Center City called Vynamic. When I asked her how the dinner went, she began telling me what her friend had said about his company. “They want to be the healthiest workplace in Philly,” she told me. So of course I had to investigate.

When I finally got over to Vynamic last Wednesday, I repeated what my friend had said to CEO Dan Calista.

“Actually,” he explained, “we want to be the healthiest workplace in the world.”

Well, okay then.

I chuckled at his comment but could tell Calista was only half joking. I began to understand why: He’s the type that dreams—and dreams big. Why stop at Philly when you can be the healthiest workplace in the country—no wait, the world? You have to admire that kind of enthusiasm.

Looking around, you can tell Calista is trying to practice what he preaches. The office, which has undergone some recent renovations, is practically illuminated with hues of vibrant green. It looks a lot like a brick-and-mortar version of the Be Well Philly blog. I liked it.

At each of the work stations and in various conference rooms, there are stability-ball chairs and backless accordion-like stools that bounce and move just enough to force your core to stabilize your body. Employees say they spend time in the chairs everyday. The kitchen, officially called the Balance Bar, is stocked with healthy KIND granola bars, Lara energy bars, dark chocolate, and a make-your-own trail mix station, along with coffee and tea—all gratis. In the back of the office, there’s a carpet with hopscotch squares—Calista was happy to demonstrate—and a large meeting room with yoga mats (they looked more decorative than functional, but something tells me no one would bat an eye if you paused for a few down dogs in the middle of a staff meeting).

A basket of KIND and Lara bars, free for employees—how's that for a midday snack? Photograph by Dana Ricci

The pièce de résistance, however, is the treadmill desk. Calista says employees will hop on the treadmill, which tops out at a moderate walking pace, during long conference calls with clients. He’s planning to get a second one to go next to the first, so employees can have meetings with while they walk.

Then there’s the stuff you don’t see on the office tour, like the Vynamic Fitness Committee, which encourages employees to exercise and eat healthy whether they’re in the office or not. On an intranet site, the committee posts daily wellness challenges, like turning off cell phones for an hour before bed (“unplugging”) and taking the stairs whenever it’s feasible. Last year, employees had the option to participate in two eight-week fitness challenges with a trainer at Relentless Fitness in Washington Square West. And once a month, Vynamic hosts an out-of-the-office event—January’s was an improv workshop—where employees can have fun, blow off stress and learn something new.

“Work-life balance is really important to us,” says Calista. “Most people get out of our industry because it’s so unhealthy”—the constant traveling, the long hours—”so I dared to dream.”

Calista almost became one of those burnout stories 10 years go. Before founding Vynamic, he was working at Accenture, putting in long hours in a windowless office under a corporate structure he says was “hierarchical, almost like a caste system.” Working late one night, Calista had what he calls his “Jerry McGuire moment”—a realization that, wait a minute, things don’t have to be this way. He began listing out all the things that were wrong with the consulting industry, and all the ways he could change it with a company of his own. Vynamic was born.

A decade later, Calista is up to 60 employees and an annual revenue of about $15 million. According to an industry magazine, which profiled the company last spring, Vynamic is on par to become a $60 million firm by 2016.

Something’s clearly working.

“For me, it really came down to this,” says Calista. “There are plenty of not-fun places to work—does the world really need another one?”

I can answer that: No. No, it does not.