How To Give a Spark to Your Brew Offices

Michael Ertischek, a controller with SweetWater, works behind his desk in the brewery's office on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, at SweetWater Brewing Company in Atlanta, Ga. (AJ Reynolds for The Brewer Magazine)

Many times when we think of a brewing business we only think of the people responsible for the equipment side of the business. However, for almost all growing breweries throughout the U.S. there is a whole other side that doesn’t get as much love, but is crucial to a thriving company.

While some brewery employees are laboring away in the brewhouse or canning lines, there are a whole other group of thinkers pushing the company up the hill in offices either overlooking the brewhouse, or stationed very close. And, without these individuals, your great beer may be for not.

To energize this segment of the company SweetWater Brewing in Atlanta has taken it upon itself to discover a new model that seems to connect right along with the brewery’s mission as a whole. “SweetWater culture is all about having a good time, whether it’s indoors or outdoors in nature,” said Joe Simmons, the Warden of Human Resources for SweetWater. “A certain level of activity comes with that — when our people aren’t at work, they’re climbing mountains, paddling, running, biking. Having things like a collaborative work environment where you’re not confined to a desk, and you have an option other than sitting, is important to the employees here.”

Joe Simmons talks on the phone at his desk on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, at SweetWater Brewing Company in Atlanta, Ga. (AJ Reynolds for The Brewer Magazine)

The standing desk has long been discussed in blogs and articles. Additionally, the health benefits have been touted — with sitting being called the smoking of a new generation.

SweetWater has been on board with standing desks since 2013. “We gave employees convertible standing desks so they could choose whether to stand or sit,” said Simmons. “Our rationale behind it was based on the research that sitting all day is terrible for your health, productivity and energy. Our employees pay attention to wellness, so they were eager to try the standing desks.”

Additionally, the standing desks provide a different office environment than the traditional. “Because standing desks are convertible, everyone can work however is most comfortable for them, which adds to the positive vibe of the office,” explained Marcie Khalil, the Heady Hunter within Human Resources.

“The positive response to standing desks has inspired us to do more wellness-minded initiatives,” continued Khalil. “For example, we have a #SweetLife monthly contest where employees submit photos of themselves doing things that personify our culture. The person with the ‘best’ photo wins $100 gift card to REI. We also have free monthly yoga classes at the brewery for employees, and periodic educational seminars and biometric health screening.”

SweetWater is also working towards further developing its incentive program which rewards longevity through gifts like paddle boards, kayaks, excursions and adventure trips.

“We’ve noticed that if people are already standing up, they’re more likely to walk over to a co-worker to talk to them — resulting in less email and Skype IM; more face to face,” said Simmons. “We’re generally a happy crew to begin with, but standing desks do contribute to the overall positive vibe in the office. In addition to the physical benefits of having the option of working while standing, our employees appreciate that SweetWater is mindful of their well-being.”

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