Home Adidas shop Adidas lured its employees to campus with free meals and fitness classes

Adidas lured its employees to campus with free meals and fitness classes

  • American Adidas employees returned to the office on a hybrid schedule on April 18.
  • They return to a renovated campus with amenities such as free lunches and fitness classes.
  • Research suggests that office perks can be beneficial but have limitations.

On a recent sunny afternoon, some employees at Adidas’ North American headquarters in Portland, Oregon spent lunchtime playing soccer on a new field in the middle of the 13.2-acre campus.

Others took part in free high-intensity classes at an adjacent new fitness center or sat outside sipping coffee or eating a free lunch at one of the company’s cafes or restaurants. In the early afternoon, employees could take a yoga class, also free.

“We wanted to make the return as smooth as possible, putting health and safety first, of course,” said Rupert Campbell, President of Adidas North America, “but using our brand and our facilities so that people feel at home.”

The sportswear company welcomes back its American employees with a variety of equipment and 220,000 square feet of new office space. Adidas’ attempts to bring workers back to its campus comes as many organizations are embroiled in a tug of war with their employees over back-to-office policies. After two years of working from home, many workers are reluctant to return to a physical workplace, while many executives, eager to find employees in their cubicles, have issued warrants.

The roughly 1,700 employees at Adidas North America headquarters returned to the office on April 18. They have been on campus three days a week, with the option to work the other two remotely. The company is also offering workers two weeks a year of fully remote work. Adidas employees choose the days they come to the office.

Meanwhile, crosstown rival Nike is facing a setback as its back-to-office policies have changed frequently. He took a more prescriptive approach, requiring employees to be in the office on certain days. Nike employees also have the option of working from home four additional weeks per year, but only in one-week increments.

Football game at Adidas North America Headquarters

A football match at Adidas headquarters.


“Generate long-term commitment, not just temporary compliance”

Like many companies, Adidas moved its U.S. team to remote work in March 2020. The company had planned to bring workers back earlier this year, but delayed reopening when COVID-19 cases escalated. increased due to the Omicron variant.

Connie Hadley, an organizational psychologist at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, said research generally suggests that carrots such as free lunches and workout classes can encourage both compliance and commitment. employees.

But she said in a high-turnover job market like this, organizations should focus on “generating long-term engagement, not just temporary compliance.”

In other words, she said, employers should “lead with carrots, but also align employees with the general reason people need to be back in person.”

Otherwise, the risk is that people get used to perks like free food and games. “The real substance of the work, the reward system and the culture are much more important in the long run,” she said. “Remember Hansel and Gretel? They were also lured into the building with treats.”

Campbell said bringing workers back to campus is important because of the creativity that can be sparked by closer connectivity. The campus was designed to encourage activity; the fitness center, for example, is in a corner of campus that was previously underused. He said the new layout allows workers to move around more.

But some research suggests that working alone can boost productivity and creativity. That’s why companies need to be sensitive to employee preferences and consider how and where people work best, said Ariane Ollier-Malaterre, a management professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal.

“Yes, there are times when it’s better for creativity to have employees together in the same room – when, for example, they need to solve a problem or brainstorm on a whiteboard,” he said. she declared. “But there are people who have their best ideas at home, or while walking the dog, or when they’re at the beach.

“Leaders really need to think about the nature of the work being done and whether it really warrants people coming back to the office.”

Adidas North America Materials Lab

A materials lab on the Adidas campus.


Rethink the office

Adidas’ return to the office coincides with the unveiling of a campus expansion that began in 2018. At the time, Adidas was in the midst of hiring and didn’t have enough space in Portland, forcing it to rent space across the city.

The renovated campus includes a new meeting and dining space called Intersection, a five-story office building called the Gold Building, and a three-story fitness center known as the Performance Zone. The last of the new buildings was completed in 2020.

The company says the space is divided into “neighborhoods” and is designed to be flexible, including movable partitions and various types of seating, such as bookcase carrels, maker’s tables and traditional desks.

Sheela Subramanian, vice president of Future Forum and author of “How the Future Works: Leading Flexible Teams to Do the Best Work of Their Lives,” said leaders “have to be much more intentional about how they use the office”.

Indeed, many organizations are rethinking what the office should look like. Future Forum, Slack’s research consortium, reported that in a survey of knowledge workers last year, more than 80% said they wanted access to a desktop for collaboration and building teams, while around 20% said they see the office as a place to focus. work by themselves.

Campbell said teamwork is one of his goals in bringing employees back to the office.

“We are a sports company,” he said. “We are about connections. We believe that through sport you have the power to change lives. If you connect with people, you are more creative.”