update: my employer requires us all to do tai chi in the office

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose employer was requiring the whole company to do tai chi as a group in the office? Because the letter-writer had a medical condition that was aggravated by the first session and got a doctor’s note saying she couldn’t participate, the CEO told her she still had to sit through each session. Here’s the update.

Not long after writing AAM and before I could use a bit of the good advice offered, I was informed that I was excused from tai chi observation. My coworkers are now on week 34 of The Endless & Mandatory Tai Chi Experience, and have been told the current session will extend through the end of January. No one was willing to challenge our CEO, although there is plenty of ex camera grumbling and sighing on lesson days. One long-time employee resigned over being forced to participate.

With tai chi becoming a permanent part of our workplace, I’ve grown resentful that I’m the only employee working a 40 hour week. I recently requested flextime so that I can enjoy two hours of wellness activities on my own. I was told to develop a plan for approval, so we’ll see where this goes. I’m incorporating several of the suggestions made by commenters in framing this plan.

I can report that the two-day “Wellness Retreat” held last month was the most disgraceful use of a nonprofit’s funding I’ve ever personally encountered (and I have worked in NPOs for 18 years). Employees were given two weeks’ notice for a mandatory overnight event which was held at a resort about an hour distant from our workplace. The agenda was produced at the very last minute and the schedule offered…nothing but tai chi! I’d been told that, knowing I cannot participate in tai chi, alternative activities would be available. Guess who did not attend?

The issues raised by a mandatory wellness program–our non-existent HR, the lip service about being a “team”, an overbearing CEO who considers the employees (and the org’s finances!!) his personal property–have focused my discomfort with this organization enough to prompt a job-search. Mandatory tai chi is merely a symptom of a larger problem here, and it pains me to see an NPO operating with such a lack of integrity vis-a-vis its stated mission. I do thank all the AAM readers who offered suggestions and insights, but upper management here is dysfunctional and there is no collective will to push for change.

{ 138 comments… read them below }

  1. Esme Squalor*

    Oh, God, this sounds like my nightmare. It’s basically the typical Mandatory Fun (TM) workplace shenanigans, but the health nut edition

    Also, a longtime employee RESIGNED over this, and they’re still not rethinking this ill advised idea? Yikes.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I would probably appreciate the opportunity to do Tai Chi in the office, but the fact that it’s mandatory? And that retreat sounds like *my* worst nightmare.

      1. Esme Squalor*

        Exactly! It’s the mandatory part that’s so awful. My workplace also offers yoga and tai chi to staff, but it’s 100% optional, and it’s a perk people around here are genuinely appreciative of.

        1. dramalama*

          Same! My workplace does yoga, and lately I’ve been too busy to partake but I’m looking forward to having enough time once things slow down. If I was forced to take an hour (or more!) out of my day for it that would probably completely ruin the experience for me.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          I used to do the yoga class at our fitness center and I was always pulling muscles.
          I’d have to get a doctor’s note too.

        3. Lionheart*

          I love yoga. My company offers free yoga as a perk. I DON’T love company yoga. Nothing against those that do, but I prefer to keep my down-dogs separate from my coworkers. If yoga was made mandatory? Boy would I be pissed.

          1. GreenDoor*

            We have a park next to our office and our wellness people offer “yoga in the park”. Thankfully it’s optional. I do NOT need to have my butt up in the air three feet from a co-workers face and in full view of all the traffic (and resulting cat-calling) coming from the street. No thank you!

          2. Glitsy Gus*

            Exactly. I do Tai Chi on my own time, and I really enjoy it, but I would never, ever want to do it in a room full of my coworkers in my work clothes (I do not want to change halfway through the day then change back, either.).

        4. RUKiddingMe*

          I do yoga…because I like doing yoga. I go to a yoga place to do my yoga. I’ve paid for a couple of other people who like doing it as well just as a little “perk.” No way no how would I require anyone to do yoga because *I* like it.

          Want a “wellness” perk that’s not yoga because I paid for others to do yoga? Sure, let me know who to pay. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Or take that couple hours a week and go to a movie, I don’t care. Mandatory “fun time,” particularly less than fully dressed with coworkers “fun
          time”…so much no.

      2. Fergus*

        I have been doing karate for a very long time but having everyone do karate at my office, I would have to be the one to say it should be totally voluntary. No one should be forced to do any activity they do not feel comfortable participating in, end of story

        1. Mickey Q*

          I hate Tai Chi. I hate yoga. I prefer karate. I subtly let everyone know that I can kick a grown man in the face. They generally don’t ask me to do anything out of the ordinary.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          My son was a karate black belt, a brown belt in both jujitsu and aikido. I basically lived at the dojo while he was growing up (6 days a week until he could drive his own damn self), so I’ve seen so many martial arts, particularly karate classes, individual training, weapons training (two handed sticks and a three sectioned staff), plus his short foray into kick boxing etc., etc., etc. I can’t imagine trying to do something like that at work.

          —Yes I did live vicariously through the martial arts that came naturally to him but that I could never seem to grasp. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I agree mandatory Tai Chi sounds terrible, but having a long-time employee resign, and the OP job hunting, may not be a wake up call to management because if the CEO is trying to change the “culture” (cough…demographic…cough) of the organization, getting the old-timers to quit might be considered a feature not a bug. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the OP had come back and said that the whole wellness/team building thing was a ploy to get certain employees to quit rather than go through the process of firing them.

      1. TheBeetsMotel*

        Possibly so, but I for one, as a reasonably healthy 31-year-old who could easily meet the physical demands of tai chi would be having none of it. For me, it would be about the short-sightedness of forcing people to do ANYTHING this unrelated to work during work hours.

        If that truly is their plan, I hope a younger member of staff quite and they scramble to back off from doing it.

        1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          While age and physical fitness might be factors, I meant old-timer as a description of someone’s length of employment not literally their age. For all we know the long-time employee could have started there right out of college and have been physically fit and in their 30s. The fact that this activity is solely focused on Tai Chi but excludes all other forms of fitness sounds reminiscent of bro-culture where everyone fits only one very specific profile — in this case it could be a profile based on age and/or fitness, but it could also include nationality, gender, or religion.

    3. pleaset*

      Mandatory overnights when it’s avoidable. No. I pushed back super-hard on that for one event, and told the organizers I wasn’t staying.

      I just left – I arranged my own transport (a car rental) and drove home after the group dinner, then back up the next morning. I had to eat that cost but it was worth it.

      1. Mois*

        We did mandatory two night staff retreats out in the mountains for years. Think three hour drive. Add that the guys shared rooms and the women shared BEDS. One guy was famous for driving home every night and back the next morning. 4-6 hour round trip.

        Senior leaders got private rooms, natch.

        1. Jennifer85*

          They made the women share beds?!?!!! (Also enjoy the subtle probably-homophobia of ‘it’s fine to make women share beds but not men’). So so awkward.

          My company does get people to share rooms (not beds!!) on company funded *socials* but these are entirely optional – you would never share for something mandatory…

          1. Green*

            Shared room/bed on a work trip only once. The person and I were working on a pro bono matter (so limited budget) and we decided together to use the budget on flying her out too instead of just one of us. Also, she was my real-life-friend vs. my polite coworker.

            For any other scenario, I’d be appalled at room share, much less bed share.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Yeah this I could see. Absolutely I could maybe deal with this kind of thing. But being required to by the company overlords? Particularly if it’s gender based? Nope, nope, nopity, nope, nope, nope. I wouldn’t share with my own sister. I barely allow DH to share my (yes, my) oversized king sized bed, and only if he stays way over there —> I am certainly not ever going to share a bed with a work colleague.

    4. Nate Brune*

      “My coworkers are now on week 34 of The Endless & Mandatory Tai Chi Experience”
      Is probably the best sentence I’ve read on AAM.

  2. MuseumChick*

    My dream for you is for all the following to happen: 1) Find an amazing new job. 2) Win the lotto. 3) When you do resign to basically say that last paragraph to whoever handles exit interviews.

    As a fellow NPO worker this entire things makes me cringe so hard.

  3. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Can you report the CEO to the Board of Directors? Fiscal and time mismanagement are pretty big deals in the NPO world. Those are already stretched enough as it is for NPOs without the Tai chi nonsense.

    1. Greengirl*

      Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. If I was a board member, I’d also REALLY want to know if the CEO was treating the organization’s finances his own personal property.

    2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      Yeah I’m really curious about the revenue streams for this NPO and how many of the funding sources are restricted. Where the heck is this guy getting enough unrestricted funding to cover this? Or worse, how is he reporting it?

    3. Observer*

      That assumes a functional Board. When you see something this over the top, you begin to wonder about what’s going on at the Board level.

      1. NJ Anon*

        Indeed. The non profit I used to work for had far worse going on and the board just looked the other way.

    4. Anonomo*

      Im wondering if this wouldnt also be a tax issue? I know of a few NPOs who lost the designation for mismanagement of funds, and this seems like it would be the same?

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          I feel like folks who are making these kinds of comments don’t have a great sense of how the nonprofit sector works.

          A board shouldn’t be involved with this level of issue. At most, I can imagine making a casual aside to a board member when I was chatting with them about something else: “Have you heard about our tai chi initiative? CEO has the whole staff doing twice-weekly sessions.”

          And there’s no suggestion that any funds have been mismanaged or that there is any cause for an audit. If the organization is using restricted funds (intended for something specific, like food for their after-school program or something like that) to pay for the tai chi instructor, that would be mismanagement. But it’s not illegal (or even “mismanagement”) to spend money in ways that AAM commenters (or even their donors) don’t think are valuable.

          1. Paloma Pigeon*

            This is a good point. However, if I were a board member and there was an annual organizational/program plan or even a strategic plan, I would take a hard look how these mandatory sessions affect productivity and even employee morale – because that can affect the mission.

          2. Greengirl*

            Hi, I’m one of the people who made a comment about talking to the board. I’ve spent my whole career in nonprofits actually. While I agree that the board should not be involved in this level of issue in terms of “stupid management of employees time”, there is a real concern in the letter about the CEO using financial resources as personal property. While that is an off-hand comment that we do not know details about, if a CEO was using nonprofit property as “their” property, that would absolutely rise to the level where the board needs to get involved.

            CEO making bad decisions about tai chi? It’s bad management but not necessarily something the board should get involved with unless it was putting the organization at risk because accommodations were not being made for employees with disabilities (or funding was being misappropriated). Using financial resources as your own? To be fair, that could just refer to using the nonprofit’s money to do tai chi which is a personal hobby in this particular scenario. I’ve also known of a nonprofit where a CEO used money to hire his girlfriend to do a job that didn’t really exist. That was an example of using nonprofit financial resources as “personal property” where the board did get involved and the CEO was fired.

            1. Agnodike*

              I agree, and I’ve also been working in nonprofits for longer than I care to admit. Evaluating the CEO’s performance is a Board responsibility, and if the CEO is pulling work time and financial resources for a wellness initiative that’s alienating people to this extent, that’s a performance issue. If you’re looking at an org where tons of Tai Chi gives you motivated, productive, happy employees and excellent results, then it’s a great use of time and money! But that’s obviously not the case here.

            2. CM*

              Ha, for once an appropriate use of “actually!”

              An offsite wellness retreat funded by the organization where the exclusive purpose is to make everyone do tai chi? If it’s not a huge nonprofit and this costs a significant amount of money, I think it would rise to the level of advising the board.

              Also, while I would be infuriated as the OP, as a bystander hearing this story I am cracking up about the mandatory tai chi retreat. It’s so bizarre.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think the use of organization funds for tai chi retreats would rise to the level of requiring Board approval, though.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Eh, I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t. You’ve got a line item in your budget for “staff development/team-building” or so forth and a lot of discretion in how you use that.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Fair enough! If it’s part of a generalized allocation for staff development or wellness or whatnot, it would not end up on the Board’s radar.

          4. Anonomo*

            Youre completely right, I dont know very much about NPOs but I really appreciate the insight! Thank you for taking the time to explain!

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It doesn’t seem like it rises to the level of mismanagement or a tax issue. If you were really
        stretching, the closest I think one could get is a private inurement complaint. What’s more concerning is whether there are adequate financial controls so that the CEO isn’t just spending org money like it’s his money without appropriate oversight.

        1. Observer*

          What’s more concerning is whether there are adequate financial controls so that the CEO isn’t just spending org money like it’s his money without appropriate oversight.

          That’s what was pinging for me as well. The Tai Chi lessons themselves are not the end of the world. But it’s quite uncommon, enough to make you wonder. Added to the offhand comment about the CEO using the place as his own, and you begin to think about whether appropriate controls are in place.

        2. Anonomo*

          I love all the commentators, yall are simply amazing going over all of the different points, thank you for helping me differentiate!

  4. LadyCop*

    “Mandatory tai chi is merely a symptom of a larger problem here.”

    Hit the nail on the head OP! Looking forward to your ‘I found a new job and I’m so happy!’ update!

  5. Jen*

    This is just so controlling. I like my wellness activities as much as the next person, but preferences change. For instance when I was first pregnant, I skipped yoga for a while because morning sickness made putting my head down an unpleasant activity. Can you imagine, an employee would have to disclose sensitive info like on an illness or injury, or be forced into this activity. This is also infantilizing. Adults gets to pick their preferred exercise.

    I hope OP is quietly sending around resumes to get away from these nutters. I would assume many coworkers are as well.

  6. Amber Rose*

    Time to put a shine on that resume and get the heck out LW. I have my fingers crossed that you get out sooner than later.

    1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      well, it’s a good job i have an ‘in’ with IT as i’ve just spat tea over my keyboard!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        The boss has now found a way for OP to participate in mandatory Tai Chi, rather than sitting and watching!

  7. M_Lynn_K*

    Are there others like me who read about awful managers like this and get so sad and frustrated? Those struggling to break into a management role? People like this guy get the power, position, and status to run organizations into the ground while doing stupid and harmful things to their employees… and I’m just trying to break out of the lower half of the hierarchy and would NEVER do such ridiculous crap. It’s so disheartening.

    1. Busy*

      Yes. A lot of times it is due to cultures promoting people based on idealize charisma. Charisma can be extremely damaging in leadership roles. And “charisma” itself isn’t as universal a concept as one would expect either. Even different work cultures promote different types of charisma as they define it. Some like the “go getters”, and some like people who say things with confidence (without any substance behind it at all – see: politicians), and some like snarky people. It is the effects of this charisma people gravitate towards. The person’s with charisma use manipulation to get what THEY want.


      1. IDon’tRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore*


        My guard immediately goes up around charming and charismatic people.

        1. Mels*

          Oh geez. Some people are just naturally charismatic and it’s no more a reflection on the quality of their character than being naturally quiet. Many people consider me charismatic. However I truly do not know how to be sneaky and couldn’t manipulate someone if I tried. If you’re suspicious of every charismatic person you meet, you might be better off spending some time reflecting on what it is about *you* that causes this reaction.

          1. Bobo*

            Yeah, no. Charisma by definition involves manipulation of others’ emotions and perceptions. Everyone should absolutely be suspicious of charismatic people, especially the hollow shells who are nothing but charismatic.

    2. Lana Kane*

      It gets even scarier when you finally break into a management role, and you get an extra clear glimpse of just how clueless some leadership can be.

      1. JB*

        This is what scares me the most. I’ve been career military my whole life. Leaders are required to go through lengthy mandatory training, there’s a strong culture that promotes good leadership, and each promotion comes with ironclad time-in-service requirements. Sometimes jerks and losers still slip through, but even they have met the minimum requirements.

        One day I was reading about people’s bad bosses, and it suddenly clicked in my head: In the civilian world, anybody is allowed to be a boss. It was a terrifying revelation. There was nothing that said a manager had to have a certain degree, or a certain leadership school, or have a certain number of years as an employee. All they needed to do is convince someone they are competent or have the money to start their own business. Literally anybody could be a boss. That scares me.

        1. Antilles*

          Relatedly, the judgment for competency is often based on competency in *other* skills rather than management – salesmen are promoted to leadership based on their sales figures, engineers based on technical competency in teapot design, etc…which doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to actually be good at actually managing people.

          1. JustaTech*

            Oh goodness yes this! In technical fields it can be particularly bad. Like, “you’re a great software engineer, so we’re not going to let you code anymore but ask you to manage humans with no training!” or “You’ve gotten your PhD through years of work in a lab, now you’re going to teach and be a dozen people’s boss, good luck!”
            Some people are excited to manage and take the initiative (and time) to read books and try to learn. Other people just try to wing it, and yeah, it’s not fun being someone else’s learning curve. (What did I learn from that boss? Ask for help, and listen to what people tell you. Also, listen to what your employees are saying.)

        2. Michaela Westen*

          It is scary, and it’s one of the reasons corporate America is the way it is. People are often made managers because they superficially fit the type, with no checks on whether they’re competent.
          I had a job in which I built a database for claims processing, maintained it and trained and supported users.
          My excellent female manager retired and was replaced by a man in a suit who thought he understood what I was doing, but didn’t. He had the look and the talk but not the substance. When I asked for help with a file clerk who wouldn’t leave me alone, he fired me.
          Several months later a colleague from that job told me they had finally found someone who could get them up and running again with the work I was doing.
          It’s situations like this… we’ve all been treated badly by bad managers. It’s bad for everyone.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            He fired you for asking for help? Were you a senior (i.e. highly compensated) employee he was just trying to get rid of? Was he related to the file clerk? Was it 1965?

        3. SWOinRecovery*

          Yes, but the military also has an “up or out” mentality regarding promotion and time-in-rank. I had a division leading petty officer who openly wanted to spend his career as an E-5 focusing on repairs, which he was fantastic at. Big Navy said, “nope” you’re making E-6 and will start managing. Now, at least the Navy provides training based on that new rank and shifts managing responsibilities over incrementally. But still, it’s unfortunate that he can’t say “no thanks” and stay in until retirement at a lower rank, assuming he’s still performing well. It’s my understanding that this used to be an option, but was done away with as a result of “optimal manning” pushes to lower personnel costs.

    3. Amber Rose*

      That’s why I laugh at them when I can. Because it’s better to see the humor than the unfairness. Life is unfair. You can’t let it get you down.

    4. RUKiddingMe*

      Oh god yes. It was that kind of crap that made me throw in the towel and start my own business. I didn’t even care what kind of business, (and TBH it took a couple/few false starts and failures before I hit on anything sustainable), as long as I didn’t have to answer to people like that anymore. Ok, granted clients/customers can be …challenging… so there’s still some of the answering to ridiculous people thing happening, but it’s…different.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      Yes. I wonder all the time how some of theese yahoos mange to get such high positions.
      My husband says they’re just good bullshitters and/or have goid connections ir family money.

      It’s depressing.

    6. cheluzal*

      It baffles me how controlling (and abusive) some offices can be, and others can be fired for someone telling a fib about them! Such a polarity.

  8. anna green*

    “The agenda was produced at the very last minute and the schedule offered…nothing but tai chi! ”

    Hahaha I burst out laughing at this sentence, I know it’s not really funny for OP, but this is just so utterly absurd. Why on earth? Forget Tai Chi, practice your running, right out of there.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Mandatory Tai Chi will continue until morale improves. If morale falls, the Mandatory Tai Chi will take your entire weekend away. Continue to resist, and it will be an all-Tai-Chi cruise in circles around the nearest body of water.

    2. Antilles*

      Depending on what else was offered at the resort (not on the schedule, stuff offered by the resort itself), I would have considered showing up specifically *because* I’m medically barred from tai chi and other similar activities. Oh, yeah, you guys all have fun with the day-long tai chi session, I’m really sorry that my back won’t let me participate, so I’ll just relax in the room and at the pool. Bummer for me, right?

    3. JustaTech*

      I’ve never done tai chi, so this is a serious question: can you actually do tai chi all day? Like, I know you can’t actually *do* yoga for maybe more than 2 hours before you’re just too tired to do it safely or effectively. And even when I’m racing a half marathon that’s only maybe 3 hours of actual running.

      So can you tai chi for hours at a time?

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Unlikely. I mean you can’t really spend hours and hours and hours doing any exercise without potential strain/injury/damage to muscles and stuff. Disclaimer: Just IMO…I really don’t know.

  9. Editor Person*

    I’m really struck by how many of these updates indicate the initial issue is really just a symptom of something much more widespread.

    1. Holly*

      Or how many employees who letter writers complain of for problem X are eventually fired for problem Y… it’s never just the one thing!

  10. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

    Is the CEO in the pocket of Big Tai Chi? Are there tai chi-based MLMs/pyramid schemes? Is he doing recruitment for a tai chi cult? I need an explanation!

      1. Marthooh*

        You know they monitor this blog, right? They have, like, tai chi-bots keeping an eye on the resistance.

  11. RG2*

    I’m curious, does anyone have good advice for how non-profits can do group wellness well? Obviously this is a disaster on SO MANY levels, but I’m wondering what an example of this done right would look like on a small budget? Asking for a friend, of course, and please assume reasonable sick/vacation days/flexibility already in place.

    (Alison, if this is off topic, please feel free to delete and sorry! I think it’s ok, but I could be wrong).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I just re-read this and still stand by it. Before I clicked through, I was thinking, “Nothing! Do nothing! It’s not your place as an employer. You are not people’s parent or doctor.” But then I read it and I still agree with 2015 me.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Beautiful. I would like to staple this to the foreheads of several managers I know (or who my friends work for).

        2. RG2*

          Thank you! This is a great list. We are doing all of these things, which makes me feel better. Our work involves heavy and stressful subjects and people have a hard time leaving work at work because of the mission, and so we want to be as good on these things as we can.

        3. BelleMorte*

          In addition to this great list, you could also negotiate a group rate or coupons to local fitness place for employees to use if they wish. My union has discount rates at several gyms throughout the city, for example.

          Provide secure areas to park bicycles and related equipment, or provide bicycles for quick jaunts on breaks (with locks and helmets).

          Set up your offices in safe, walkable areas, rather than in industrial parks in the middle of nowhere that you absolutely have to drive to.

          Be flexible in allowing employees to exercise or take classes during breaks/lunch.

          Everything should be optional, and not tracked!

        4. RUKiddingMe*

          All of this. I want to especially stress the vacation. Take your vacation/PTO people. Take a proper (i.e. not connected to work in any way whatsoever) vacation (caveats for jobs that you just can’t do that with). Unplug. Refuse to answer work calls, emails, etc. We do not have to be plugged into the machine all the damn time. We are not the Borg!


    1. Bree*

      Honestly, truly group wellness stuff is always going to be a problem because people have different bodies and things they do and do not want to do with those bodies.

      IMO the best bet is to offer to reimburse a portion of the cost of a variety of fitness activities and let employees use it how they want.

      My current non-profit workplace has optional lunch-time seminars on wellness topics, a fruit basket provided once a week, and plants in the office.

      1. The Original K.*

        One of my favorite perks at my favorite former employer* was a set fitness reimbursement amount per year. I used it toward a gym membership (I’ve belonged to a gym since my family were members of the local Y, so that’s an expense I’d have incurred anyway – it was nice to have it offset), a friend used it for a treadmill (I remember asking her where it fit in her tiny NYC place and she said she had it at the foot of her bed so she quite literally had to get out of bed and get on it). I can’t remember what the criteria were for appropriate items/activities but they were pretty loose.

        Another perk I liked (different employer) was fresh fruit in the kitchens. I remember noting that I spent a little less on groceries because I didn’t have to buy fruit – I just ate the fruit at work. There was a cafeteria onsite with healthy options but I’m a brown-bagger so I didn’t take advantage of it much. That place also had an onsite gym and after-work boot camp classes in the parking lot. The head of my department was very into fitness, especially running, so taking advantage of those perks was actively encouraged – he worked out in the gym midday most days.

        *This employer remains the best I’ve worked for.

        1. JustaTech*

          I would love, love, love fresh fruit at work. There are several companies in my area that do fruit delivery to offices (so it’s not just red delicious apples and brown bananas) and I’ve pushed our HR hard to add this to the in-office food options when we finish our renovation.

          A friend of mine had an apple vending machine at his high school and to this day I want one so much.

          1. The Original K.*

            The fruit at this place was really good, too. Like you say, it wasn’t just red delicious apples and brown bananas. Everybody liked that perk – even if you aren’t that into wellness (whatever that means), everybody appreciates free food.

          2. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

            We do fresh fruit on Tuesdays. One of the high points of the delivery is seeing what we might get beyond the standard apples, bananas, or pears. We’ve had sightings of kiwi, pomegranate (which, admittedly, I don’t even know how to eat properly), mango, and a couple varieties of citrus that I’d never seen before.

    2. ch77*

      I work for the government, and what I saw as a good wellness plan: 3 day a week, extra 30 minutes of wellness time. You also got an extra day off if you had your doctor do a physical.
      Yoga once a week (donation based – so the organization didn’t pay for it)
      crossfit (organized by a different state agency that offered it to us. So maybe another non-profit could work with yours?)
      massage once a week – you signed up for 15-30 minute slots, and paid the masseuse.

      The organization just provided the space and the flexibility.

      Mandatory Tai Chi sounds like torture to me. And the retreat – what a joke. Almost no notice for an overnight? What about single parents, how could they find overnight child care that quickly? Reminds me of the pregnant staffer who didnt’ want to go to a cabin in the woods for a creative retreat. Yuck

      1. ch77*

        to clarify – the 3 day a week, 30 minutes – you can do whatever you want. Maybe wellness time means silent meditation, or maybe it is running. Up to you.

        The yoga, crossfit, and massage – you used your lunch hour (or moved your lunch hour) for any of those. Not extra time off.

    3. CRM*

      My former job had a wellness program, but it was all optional and outside of work. For example, if an employee had a gym membership and checked into their gym 8 times during a month, they could get their gym membership for that month compensated up to a certain amount. There were also groups organized for people who wanted to run or play soccer, volleyball, or softball after work. There were no repercussions socially or otherwise for those who didn’t want to participate, they simply provided incentives for those who did.

      I took advantage of the gym membership perk, which I loved but didn’t feel obligated to use at all. All of the paperwork was handled by my gym and HR, so none of my colleagues even know I was doing it.

    4. rldk*

      My old workplace had an optional yoga class that came to the office and was held during lunch hour every Friday. It was truly optional, though, and we also had a discount group rate to a convenient gym chain and generous leave (including paid parental).

      1. Ealasaid*

        Yessss! I love that kind of thing. Plus, anything that encourages body awareness is a HUGE huge huge component of health. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia thanks to a lunchtime work-sponsored yoga class. I’d been ignoring my pain for a long time, and it was the yoga teacher who told me it wasn’t normal and that I needed to see a doctor, pronto.
        So much of popular culture is about ignoring our bodies’ signals (no pain no gain! being hungry is good!), it’s no surprise that we don’t notice when something is wrong until it’s really really wrong.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          “So much of popular culture is about ignoring our bodies’ signals (no pain no gain! being hungry is good!), it’s no surprise that we don’t notice when something is wrong until it’s really really wrong.”

          Right? WTF is wrong with us? Those signals exist for a reason.

          Something is causing you pain? Can you stop whatever it is? Yes? Then stop. No? Go see a doctor because pain is a signal that something isn’t working as it is intended to work. Hunger? Ummm…open mouth, insert nourishment.

          What’s next…thirsty but don’t drink anything because…it means you’re weak or something. Seriously, we are more or less the top of the animal chain here (intelligence…don’t get me started about dolphins though) and we don’t have the same sense of paying attention to what we need to do to take care of our needs as a mole does.

    5. Snow Drift*

      Subsidized healthy foods, if you have a cafeteria. Our hot line with greasy fried foods in full price. The salad bar is so cheap that I pay less per pound than I would making my own grocery store salad every day. For lunch today, I bought mixed greens/seasoned chicken breast in an 8-ounce container for less than two dollars.

    6. Commenting!*

      Worked for a (small) non-profit awhile back that offered a group seminar and then three private ~1 hour meetings with a nutritionist, (once a month for three months to track progress), during work hours, paid for the by the company. Also complimentary chair massages once a year, (they brought in a masseuse during work hours), and because winter was our slow season, we’d close for one day in December, everyone would carpool to a shopping destination we’d voted on, and our boss would hand out cash bonuses and we’d all get holiday shopping done, meet for lunch, and be home by 5. Great for mental health during what can be a stressful time of year!

    7. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      My office does a decent job. They offer a walking group, yoga, and zumba for those who are interested (with volunteer teachers). They do flu shots and on-site mammography. They offer classes, such as a lot of financial literacy stuff, coping with stress, balancing work-life as a bridge caretaker (kids and parents), breastfeeding peer support, support for new parents, etc.. They do some diet related things, but it is more “Cooking with Diabetes”, “Newly Diagnosed Food Allergies”, etc.

      What is best about all of it is that it is just there. No pressure to take part at all.

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        ^ WE are a public service agency, so most of the classes come from other agencies, often piloting new materials

  12. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’ve been actively mentioning my obsession with DDPY but the idea of demanding everyone participate makes me laugh uncomfortably. What a bizarre thing to force on staff.

    I wish you the best and hope a great new job pops up soon!

  13. bleh*

    While employers paying for your gym sounds great, it is often accompanied by handing over sensitive health data and tracking of your fitness behaviors by outside for profit subsidiaries of a health insurance company. I was trying to sign up once, and the required online form wanted to know my age of menarche, and there was no way to avoid answering the question with an actual number. It did not ask my spouse his age at first nocturnal emission, mind you. Now I know that age at menarche is slightly related to breast cancer risk, but it had absolutely NOTHING to do with me going to the gym. This kind of privacy invasion makes most employer based health programs useless. I will work out regardless, and I’m certainly not talking about my bits in an online form just to get my 30 bucks a month.

    1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I worked briefly for a business that provided on-site health check services to companies–and that meant blood draws, weight, and measurements. It was horribly intrusive. (They didn’t make us go through it, just organized the services for other orgs.)

    2. Cassandra*

      Researchers worth reading on this point include Ifeoma Ajunwa, Kate Crawford, and Jason Schultz. One of their joint-authored papers (open access) linked to my handle. It’s… sobering.

    3. Fish Microwaver*

      My state government employer makes a multi facility gym membership available. We have to pay for it but because it is state wide, anyone who wants to can join and a family membership is available for people with spouses or dependent children.

    4. Lady Kelvin*

      I like the way our health insurance does it. We have a list of gyms they partner with, and various fee scales ranging from just a flat fee at the beginning of the year to the flat fee plus a monthly fee depending on the gym. You go to the gym, tell them you are signing up with your health insurance, pay the flat fee, they tell the health insurance how many times you went each month, and once you reach a certain number (45, almost once a week) you get your flat fee refunded by the health insurance company. My employer knows nothing about it and I find it a good motivation to go to the gym once a week and its an expense I’d have anyways, so doing this is much cheaper. Even if I didn’t get enough visits to refund my fee, the flat fee is less than 3 months at my gym at full price, so I consider it a huge cost savings.

    5. RUKiddingMe*

      Good for you. No one outside of your doctor needs that kind of info. I will be so glad when they outlaw this kind of invasive crap from insurance companies et al that are doing it because they care about denying coverage/charging more/etc. Screw all of that and give me (true) socialized (yeah, I said socialized) medicine.

  14. nnn*

    My brain wrote a story where this employer is getting royalties or kickbacks for tai chi being done. They more hours of tai chi that are done, the more money they pocket.

  15. CAinUK*

    Is there anything about this situation that’s reportable to the state labor board (since it seems there is some consensus that it doesn’t rise to reporting to the actual NPO board)? I mean, I guess they already excused the OP from mandatory activity to accommodate a medical condition, so there isn’t an ADA complaint. But…it feels like SOMETHING here is reportable?

  16. Dadolwch*

    As someone who has worked for nonprofits for almost 20 years, I’m horrified by this CEO’s misuse of resources. I’m not opposed to using some resources to promote employee wellness and make a space for it at work, but this is literally insane. I don’t know if the OP’s organization is membership-based or relies on donations for revenue, but if I were a donor, I would not want my money going to fund such nonsense. This is an unconscionable violation of donors’ trust!

  17. KC*

    I had a professor in a social work class I did in college who opened each class with five minutes of mandatory tai chi. Hated it. He was also a department head at my full-time gov’t job. Luckily he did not make his employees do this.

  18. Todd*

    I’m sorry, but any employee wellness program that is mandated is doomed to alienate those who aren’t interested in the activities. You may as well start performing fitness tests as part of the onboarding process. (you know…like the army).

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