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On any given day, workers at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson can take a yoga class, work their abdominal muscles, and chow down on a low-carb lunch in the firm’s cafeteria. The firm is thinking beyond the usual offerings of flu shots, in the interest of keeping its employees healthy. The exercise classes, weight-loss programs and healthy menu in the in-house cafeteria are all part of a range of wellness programs that support the idea that healthy employees are happier employees. Since Fried Frank began its wellness programs, productivity has increased, absences from work have decreased, and morale has continued to remain high. The firm has a strong retention record as well: Close to 50 percent of the staff have been with Fried Frank for 10 years or longer. According to a 2004 survey of Washington, D.C., law firms conducted by Towers Perrin, the average annual turnover rate for nonattorney positions in D.C. law firms is 16 percent. By comparison, the staff turnover rate at Fried Frank is less than 8 percent. While many companies have become increasingly aware of the importance of promoting healthy lifestyles for their employees, Fried Frank has a long history of supporting its staff in their pursuit of healthy living. For more than 15 years, the firm has offered smoking cessation classes and Weight Watchers programs to help motivate employees to achieve healthier lifestyles. In recent years, yoga classes were added, scales and a blood pressure monitor have been purchased, and seated massages (massages of the neck and shoulders) were offered during Staff Appreciation Week. The in-house cafeteria has introduced an extensive healthy menu. In addition, all of these programs are paid for in full or subsidized by the firm. STOP TIME Perhaps the most popular health-related initiative at Fried Frank has been its “Fitness Challenge,” offered by the firm for the last four years. More than one-third of the office has participated in the challenge. The theme of the challenge most recently has been “turning back the clock” by increasing life expectancy through healthy living. This 11-week competition requires employees to form teams of four people, choose names for their groups — “Any Given Sundae” and “Dances With Doughnuts,” for instance — and participate in individual health assessments to calculate their fitness. The teams then try to “turn back the clock,” by improving life expectancy, earning points at the same time. Team members attend wellness seminars, eat five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, drink at least 32 ounces of water each day and, of course, exercise daily for at least 20 minutes. At the end of 11 weeks, all participants are re-tested and the results of their labors are revealed. The winning team is the one that earned the most points and, as a result, increased their life expectancy. Additional awards are also given out to acknowledge individual accomplishments. The Fitness Challenge has been an extraordinarily successful program, in part because it involves both lawyers and staff — including all three managing partners of the D.C. office. In addition to the obvious health benefits, the firm has found that the program goes a long way toward building healthy working relationships as well. Employees, no matter what their position in the firm, spend their lunch hour or break time working out together or discussing new weight-loss strategies. Since this program has been so well-received, Fried Frank decided this year to challenge another law firm, Crowell & Moring, in a competition. For 11 weeks, employees from both firms exercised, dieted, and competed to see which one would emerge victorious. In the end, Fried Frank prevailed by a slight margin. But more important, in the process, both firms lost 964 pounds and increased their life expectancy by 792 total years. They also had a lot of fun: For instance, they sent 15 dozen doughnuts and more than 40 Big Macs back and forth between the firms in attempts to sabotage the competition. JOIN THE CLUB In 2003, Fried Frank also decided to subsidize fitness club memberships for all employees. Employees can choose to join a fitness club of their choice and the firm will reimburse them for half of the annual membership. Sixty-four employees, including both attorneys and staff, have signed up for this program. The most recent addition to the schedule of fitness programs offered at the firm is the “Back-to-School Fitness Program” initiated this fall by the firm’s senior benefits coordinator, Tissie Boland, along with Underdawg Fitness, a personal training company based in Kingstowne, Va. The premise behind this new program is individualized training to address the specific fitness needs of each participant. “Having these programs at work over the lunch hour,” Boland says, “gives employees who otherwise might not have this opportunity — because they feel they cannot afford it or can’t spare the time — the chance to be more physically fit.” Each person who signs up for the program is assessed by a personal trainer and given an individual exercise and weight training program designed to target particular problem areas. For a 10-week period, training sessions with titles like “ABC’s of Abs Training” and “Back to Basics” are held to instruct employees on weight lifting (weights purchased by the firm, of course), important exercises and stretches to target their back and abs. At the end of the program, participants are tested to determine their progress. The goal of the programs, of course, is to foster a healthy and employee-friendly workplace, and, ultimately, attract, motivate and retain hard-working and loyal employees. Nita Gordon is director of human resources in the Washington, D.C., office of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. She is a member of the Association of Legal Administrators and can be reached at [email protected]

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