Fiat Chrysler gives behind-the-scenes look at health initiatives inside their headquarters

Posted at 5:27 PM, Feb 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-08 17:27:59-05

February marks American heart month.

It’s an annual awareness campaign for the nation’s number one killer: heart disease.

Over at the Fiat Chrysler headquarters, the work to keep employees healthy starts with the building itself. After earning eight straight awards from the National Business Group on Health for “best employers for healthy lifestyles,” 7 Action News took a closer look to see what they’re doing different.

While most have seen the Chrysler building from the outside, few realize just how big the complex is. The more than 5.4 million square foot complex houses more than 15,000 employees under one roof. Only the Pentagon can claim to be a larger single-business building— and with that size comes opportunity.

“We have total fitness novices to iron-man athletes,” said Stephanie Ervin, a fitness professional inside the gym that sits under the Fiat Chrysler tech center. “We get new people everyday.”

At any point in the day you can find dozens of people in the fitness center. There’s machines ranging from elliptical to treadmills. You’ll also find free weights, classrooms with personal trainers, and a small track.

So many people use the gym that they’ve actually started a laundry service. If you’re an employee you can work out, leave your clothes and return the next day to find them already cleaned and placed inside a locker!

Of course, not everyone feels like using the gym — so, it’s not uncommon to find employees taking advantage of the walking space. While the 15-story building is visible from I-75, the tech center stretches roughly 1-mile long. A handful of workers joked that you almost have to be in shape to work there, but others said they specifically carve out an hour for lunch so they can walk the halls.

Meg Kennedy has worked as a paralegal at FCA for a little more than a year. She’s become known as the “walking lady.”

“Five loops, so about five miles every day,” said Kennedy, laughing when asked how she covers so many miles in a day.

Not surprisingly, she’s had trouble finding walking partners.

“Most have dropped off! I can’t get anyone to do it every single day, I did have someone for about three weeks, but that’s the longest someone has ever kept up.”

Along Kennedy’s daily walking route you’ll find other benefits you wouldn’t expect in a workplace: a spa, a hair salon, even a CVS pharmacy with a doctor on staff.

Cafeterias aren’t uncommon, but FCA has gone a step further in that regard. A staff of 29 chefs are on-hand and they cook most of their stuff from scratch.

You’ll find burgers, pizza and traditional foods; but you’ll also find healthy options. They’ve even designed their drink display so that healthier options are eye level, as you look lower the health level of the options drop — a constant reminder of what you’re taking into your body.

“We call it stealth healthy,” said Chris Richter, the head chef who is in charge of everything inside the cafeteria. “We’re trying to make healthy stuff that tastes great so you don’t know it’s healthy.”

That approach includes a salad bar that draws more customers than the “greasy” foods on the menu. Even the less healthy food options are healthier than you’d expect, trans fats have been eliminated from almost every item on the menu.

“We like to keep fresh, different products,” said Richter.