Business of Well-being

How Facebook Empowers Workplace Wellness with 'Smart' Vending Machines

It's no secret that healthier, more engaged employees are more effective at work than their peers. A recent Gallup research survey found that already-engaged employees experience even higher performance outcomes when physical wellness programming is added to the mix. The logical question we should all be asking is: how can leaders empower their employees to be the best versions of themselves?

Workplace wellness programs have become commonplace, from on-site gyms to fitness stipends. In addition to helping employees include fitness in their daily schedules, a culture of fitness can become a powerful recruitment tool - one reason why Facebook is adopting unique methods to keep employees active. At its Menlo Park headquarters, Facebook helps promote bike commuting by using vending machines to supply its resident cyclists with spare bike parts should the need arise.

This complements a bike-repair shop that already serves employees on campus.Traditional vending machines-replete with snacks and sodas-aren't ordinarily associated with health. However, Facebook's partnership with IVM Inc., an Indianapolis-based 'smart' vending machine manufacturer, is putting a new, high-tech spin on the traditional vending machines of old.

While IVM has been developing lockers and vending machines for years-mainly to distribute everyday office, tech and safety supplies to employees-its clients often approach the company with innovative applications for vending. Recently, IVM branched out into corporate wellness, meeting an emerging need.


Facebook originally approached IVM to provide vending machines that vend common office tech supplies, such as keyboards, and lockers that stored cell phones for the company's developers to beta test. With the swipe of a badge, employees can grab all the tech equipment they need without the hassle of placing a formal tech request. The company leverages these new processes to help with recruitment.

After having integrated these systems, Facebook looked to the supply vending company to provide a solution to the management of its on-campus bike repair shop. As a way of encouraging bike commuting to employees at the company's Menlo Park headquarters, Facebook had contracted with a bike shop to help provide service to employees with bike troubles.

Prior to having a vending machine that sold spare bike parts, available 24/7, employees were at the mercy of the on-campus bike shops store hours if they needed a spare part. Whether it was a new bike seat, chain, brake lever or CatEyes cycle computer, employees could only retrieve these parts while the store was open.

With the vending machine, employees receive the gear they need within seconds of swiping their badge. When it comes to invoicing Facebook for the parts vended by employees, the vending machine sends the data directly to Facebook so they can invoice the bike repair shop directly. Minimizing the headache of invoicing for all parties involved.

Like its customers, the employees at IVM also walk the walk. A handful of machines at IVM's corporate headquarters are reserved for fitness equipment and yoga mats. Lunch breaks have become popular times for employees to walk away from their keyboards, socialize and achieve their wellness goals.

Vending as a means to incentivize employee wellness

Indianapolis-based financial services firm Hull & Knarr has devised its own employee wellness incentive programming using IVM lockers. Each employee is assigned a locker, where bicycles and accessory gear is stored. Every time a locker is opened and the gear is checked out-lunch breaks have become a popular time for bike rides-the machines take note.

Hull & Knarr uses the data to regularly reward its most active employees.Out of the company's 13 employees, six of them use bikes daily. The incorporation of this wellness program has translated to happier and healthier employees, which has in turn positively impacted the company's workplace culture. The biking incentive program has also created a sense of comradery outside of the office.

What's next for corporate wellness programs

With 70 percent of companies offering workplace wellness programs and an estimated 60 percent of employees reporting a positive impact on their health and well-being, it is safe to say workplace wellness is here to stay.Undoubtedly, technology will continue to influence how these programs are instated and assessed.

Fitness trackers are perhaps the best example. Based on research conducted by the National Business Group on Health, nearly one-third of all employees are offered subsidies for fitness wearables to encourage active living.Undoubtedly, technology has lengthened the workday for some, tempting employees to peek at emails at all hours of the day.

As companies like Facebook and Hull & Knarr have shown, technology can also be a liberator, empowering workers to untether themselves from their screens to do something positive-for themselves, and in the long run, for the companies that employ them.

About the Author

Mike Pitts is the president of Indianapolis-based IVM, Inc. IVM offers "smart" vending and locker solutions for the internal distribution of products to employees. Whether it's personal protective equipment (PPE), maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) products, or IT and office supplies, some of the world's biggest companies rely on IVM for their supply needs.

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