These Companies Get It! 5 Triathlon-Friendly Workplaces in the U.S.
We searched for the most triathlon-friendly businesses around the U.S. and came up with five employers who truly understand and support the triathlon lifestyle.
You know how good it feels to hit the ground running—literally—before work. After a swim, bike, or run, you arrive at your desk full of energy, endorphins, and a clear head. You’re ready to rock and roll and take on the day’s tasks, both mentally and physically. But does your boss know that too?
If he or she wants a loyal, dedicated, and productive workforce, the answer is they should. Research from Brigham Young University shows that employees who exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet miss fewer days of work—27% fewer, in fact. The same study also found that employees with good health habits are 25% more likely to have increased performance and be 3.1 times more productive than their less-healthy peers.
Fortunately, employers are beginning to catch on. Perks like gym memberships, standing desks, corporate running or triathlon teams, and flexible schedules all serve to encourage healthy habits and workouts.
For triathletes, who put in more hours of training than most, this support can make all the difference. We’ve found five companies, from a cross-section of industries, who are getting it right and encouraging their employees to live the tri life. What these places reveal is that the best employers understand providing some leeway and perks earns them greater dedication and loyalty. They also know healthy employees are good employees—and triathletes make the best employees!
INDUSTRY: Senior Care
LOCATION: Headquartered in Catonsville, MD
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 14,000
A company that runs senior living campuses around the country might not be an obvious choice for a triathlon-friendly employer, but that’s exactly what Erickson Living is, according to IT professional and employee Jeannie Payer, 51, of Columbia, Maryland.
Erickson’s appreciation of a work-life balance is especially impactful for Payer, who joined the company a little over a year ago. “I was working 70 to 80 hours a week at my old job, and somehow managed to complete an Ironman,” she said. “With this job, training is much easier managed.”
When interviewing for her current position, Payer and Hans Keller, the CIO, quickly found themselves comparing triathlon notes. “I think we spent about 30 minutes of our 45-minute conversation talking tri,” Payer laughed. “Hans convinced me pretty quickly that this was a good fit.”
The Erickson headquarters, in Catonsville, Maryland, is adjacent to the University of Maryland Baltimore Campus (UMBC) and employees can use the pool there at lunchtime, which Payer frequently does. The company also offers employees $250 annually to use toward any health-related expense they want.
Keller, who began competing in triathlons three years ago, said that a flexible schedule is particularly helpful for training. “We’re not locked into a Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule,” he said. “If Jeannie needs to work from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. so that she can get in a group ride, that’s fine.”
Most of Erickson’s 19 senior living communities across 11 states have aquatic centers for residents, along with weight rooms and cardiovascular equipment. Employees can join for a nominal fee—around $10 a month, Keller said—an incredible deal.
The Erickson leadership team is made up of about 80 people, many of whom live an active lifestyle, and they frequently form teams for nearby races and events. “We often start our days with group runs,” Keller said. “We all know someone here who rides or runs, and that makes it easy to form solid working relationships.”
Payer agreed: “At my last job, when I’d take my bike out for a lunchtime ride, people thought I was strange. Here I can talk triathlon and know that I’ve got support.”
INDUSTRY: Women’s activewear
LOCATION: Headquartered in Emeryville, CA
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 300+
It may be no surprise that a women’s activewear brand is tri friendly, but for Title Nine, based in Emeryville, California, it’s more than just a few fun perks.
Jessica Russell, 48, has been working with the company for five years as social media and PR manager.
“I had a background in non-profits, and when I decided to look for a new job, I wanted a company whose mission I believed in, and also supported my lifestyle,” she said. “I couldn’t have found a better fit.”
When you walk into the Title Nine headquarters, the first thing you see is the gym. “Everything is centered around working out and playing together, with the idea that it makes us better teammates,” she said. “We have structured workouts at lunch—even now as a team online.”
If you’re a competitive athlete who needs to travel for races, Title Nine not only offers moral support, but subsidizes the trip, too. New to triathlon? The company offers bike rides, nutrition clinics, and transition clinics. For more seasoned athletes, Title Nine puts together opportunities to take on races together, such as XTERRA events or Ragnar relays. There’s also the “play together/stay together” program—recruit four other employees to participate in a race and Title Nine foots 75% of the race fees.
All of the Title Nine perks extend beyond the headquarters and into its 17 retail stores across the country, which means 300 staffers of all levels are empowered and supported in their athletic endeavors. And as you’d expect, all employees receive discounts on the wide array of clothing and gear the company sells, plus vendor discounts.
Everything is centered around working out and playing together, with the idea that it makes us better teammates.
INDUSTRY: Athletic Recovery
LOCATION: Headquartered in Santa Monica, CA
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 15
While she’s only 24, Kristin Jenny has been involved in triathlon since her teenage years, so it’s an ingrained lifestyle. Until recently, her public relations/ social media career had been centered in higher education and telecoms, and she was hesitant to make a jump to a small company for fear it wouldn’t align with her lifestyle. But since joining Addaday four months ago, she’s been able to put those fears to rest.
“My boss is an Ironman athlete, and I knew he understood the lifestyle,” Jenny said. “I’m in a highly competitive age group so I invest a lot of hours into my training. He gets that.”
Even before the pandemic, Jenny carried out her job duties fully remotely from her home in Denver. The company—which makes a full line of massage products—is located in Santa Monica, California, which about 70% of the staff calls home. “Not having a commute opens up hours for training each week,” Jenny said. “Before joining the company, I was setting a 3:45 a.m. alarm so that I could get in a masters’ swim session or another workout and be in the office by 7 a.m.”
Addaday, by contrast, allows employees to work a flexible schedule. There’s also unlimited paid time off, and most of the small team of employees is involved in some sort of endurance sport. Jenny—who will be training for Kona next year—said that getting the time off for the long hours of training, plus the trip to Hawaii for the race, won’t be a stressor.
Even better, there’s a full-time biomechanist on staff. “Anytime something hurts, I can tap into his knowledge,” she said. “We are a team that lives the lifestyle and uses our own products. There’s no one here that simply shows up and collects a paycheck.”
LOCATION: Headquartered in Bethesda, MD
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 176,000
When your CEO is an avid triathlete, the trickle down effect can be pretty powerful. That’s the case at Marriott Hotels, headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, where CEO and triathlete Arne Sorenson leads the company. Leslie Anchor, a 57-year-old director of IT at Marriott, said this has made her multi-decade career as a triathlete much easier.
“We have an amazing community and corporate environment, where taking care of the employees is a big focus,” she said.
At the center of this philosophy is the Take Care wellbeing program, which extends beyond the headquarters and to its employees at thousands of managed properties. Established in 2010, the Take Care program offers a holistic approach to employee mental, physical, and emotional health, along with career development. “We have tons of programs and resources,” Anchor said. “We have 5K training programs that are available to employees and their families, a run and triathlon group on Facebook, and a group that trains together at lunchtime and on the weekends.”
Within the headquarters building, employees have access to a Pilates studio, numerous treadmill desks, a meditation room, and a heavily discounted massage therapist. There’s also an on-site gym, where, for $12 a month, members can use Peloton bikes, a spin studio, and a full locker room with showers. “This is really helpful in winter,” Anchor said.
She added that the Marriott leadership team encourages everyone to take advantage of the healthy perks and programs. “When you see the senior executives making it doable, you know you can fit it into your schedule, too,” she said.
We have 5K training programs that are available to employees and their families, a run and triathlon group on Facebook, and a group that trains together at lunchtime and on the weekends.
Ford Motor Company
LOCATION: Headquartered in Dearborn, MI
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 190,000
Henry Ford was ahead of his time on more than just cars. The founder of America’s first automobile company apparently bought into the idea that employees should have the ability to participate in extracurricular physical and family activities—so much so that he endowed the human resources department with money that employees could use for just that. Decades later that legacy continues.
Ken Gutkowski, 61, a now-retired Ford employee, remains on the Ford Employee Recreation Association (FERA) executive board and is president of the 250-plus member FAST Swim and Tri Club, a spin-off from the Ford club program. “We began as a masters’ swim group as part of the FERA program,” he said. “Then others in the area wanted to join, so we opened it up to outsiders as well. But we remain under the Ford umbrella.”
In action, that looks like Saturday masters’ practices for just $5 a piece, weekday evening and Sunday afternoon Zwift indoor group bike rides, long runs on Friday mornings near the Dearborn headquarters, and more. During triathlon season, that expands to include weekly brick workouts, open-water swims, weekend group rides, and free super-sprint training events.
During a normal season, the Ford triathlon kits generally dominate local races, and it’s not unusual to see Ford jerseys on cyclists’ backs on the weekends. Gutkowski says that in addition to feeling supported by Ford, the camaraderie the triathletes form outside of work carries over to the 9 to 5. “It breaks down barriers in the office and makes you a better employee,” he said. “Having facilities on campus made it so that I always arrived at work energized and ready to go, too.”
Intermountain Healthcare’s CEO is Spreading the Love
There aren’t many triathletes who can match Dr. Marc Harrison’s race streak. Since completing his first race back in 1982, the Utah-based physician has never gone a year without a triathlon in his life. From sprint to Olympic to Ironman, he’s covered thousands of miles in the 36 years he’s participated in the sport. And his passion carries over into every corner—including his role as president and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare.
“Triathlon has been the one constant in my life,” Harrison said. “It’s been there through med school, marriage, children, cancer, and several moves around the country.”
When you combine Harrison’s passion for the sport, his leadership role, and Intermountain Healthcare’s headquarter location in Salt Lake City, Utah, it’s easy to see why developing Intermountain Tri in 2017 was a natural fit.
A registered USAT club, Intermountain Tri has grown to include nearly 1,000 members across several western states, who meet regularly for coached workouts in all three disciplines.
Harrison said Intermountain’s support of the local tri community makes sense from both a business and a health standpoint. “As an insurance company, we’re invested in keeping people well,” he explained. “We believe part of that is keeping people connected through community—everyone wins, and we contribute to an economically sustainable healthcare system.”
On a personal level, as Harrison continues to pull through cancer treatments and still dons his Intermountain race kit, he’s had more than a few club members express their mutual appreciation for the sport—along with the training opportunities the company provides. “It gives me great pleasure to put on our kit, go to a race and hear from Intermountain athletes who have been inspired to race,” he said. “There’s intrinsic good in that.”