Vitabot Online Nutrition Redefines Corporate Wellness

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With a seemingly endless health care debate raging on Capital Hill, the staff of Vitabot is doing their part to ensure a healthier tomorrow.

Corporate Wellness

Daily workouts keep Vitabot employees fit and focused

Beyond just improving performance, I consider the well-being of our employees to be a moral responsibility

In the midst of the worst recession in recent history, many companies are faced with economic uncertainty and struggling just to keep afloat. Don't tell that to the staff at Vitabot. By embracing a strong corporate culture centered on employee wellness, Vitabot has become a rare success story in these tumultuous times.

Since Vitabot's inception in 2003, health and wellness has been the company's primary focus, both in preach and practice. The path that lead Vitabot to become a national leader in online nutritional tracking and journaling has had significant impact on it's own corporate culture. In the early days of the company, before moving into their current 7,000 square foot office space in Beltsville, Maryland, Vitabot was run out of a basement near the University of Maryland in College Park.

Joseph Graves, a NASA robotics engineer, and graduate student at the UMD Space Systems Laboratory, founded the company as a spinoff of his work in NASA robotics. In the early days, the company was run by a staff of 8 out of Graves' basement. Graves' background in the space program, along with his wife's background in Kinesiology and personal training created a strong culture where employee health and fitness were considered an integral part of the success of the company. "Beyond just improving performance, I consider the well-being of our employees to be a moral responsibility", Graves said. Even in the early days in the basement office, employees were encouraged to get up from their desks several times a day and take walks around the block to keep active. "I find that stepping away from your work for a brief exercise break several times a day helps you refocus your mind so that you tend to work on the important things."

The demand in the corporate world for real solutions to improve employee wellness caused the company to rapidly outgrow the basement office. As facilities expanded, the culture of fitness grew as well. The regular walks continued, but the company also added mid-day exercise classes, exercise equipment, and a employee kitchen that produces some remarkably healthy foods. Along with regular "power walks", employees are encouraged to take a 30 minute mid-day workout break, either on their own, or as participants in daily, one o'clock fitness classes. "My productivity would be half of what it is, if it weren't for the workouts", Dason Atkins, an employee who has lost 50 lbs. since working at Vitabot, said. "I feel better and more energized after the classes. Not to mention, it gives me time to connect with the team."

Of course, all employees have access to the Vitabot's technology as well, a web-based nutrition tracking and journaling program, which compliments their fitness regimen. "While exercise is important, what your employees eat largely defines their health, mental drive, and attitude", said Graves. "We've created a culture that encourages healthy eating. Unlike most offices, instead of cookies and chips, our kitchen is stocked with wheat germ and flax seed. Believe it or not, healthful foods actually taste better than junk food... unfortunately, most people just haven't learned how to cook." To encourage the spread of techniques for healthy eating, the company has "Thankful Thursday" every week, where everyone brings in a healthful dish, and they have an employee potluck. It's great fun, and helps to build the culture." Graves said.

This commitment to employee wellness has brought about tremendous results for Vitabot. The company has experienced 700% growth over the past 3 years, and was recently named one of NASA's Top Spinoff Technologies for 2009.

"The past few years have been great for us," Graves said. "It's a testament to the team we have, and the strong culture that they've helped create."

Vitabot is currently private-labeled by over 900 health clubs, wellness centers, companies, and universities across the globe. Their client list includes many well known organizations such as, Gold's Gym, Warner Brothers Studios, UCLA, and the United States Military.

http://www.vitabot.com

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Heather Graves

Robert Chernow
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