Free Sneakers And Gym Memberships: Just Perks Or Smart Policy?

The Republic of Tea invests heavily in its employees well being. CEO Ron Rubin says it’s not just about lowering health care costs, but about the company living its own values.


Every day at The Republic of Tea, you’ll see our employees–or “Ministers,” as we like to call them–walking outside together. Making regular exercise part of our work day is just one of the many ways The Republic of Tea helps its Ministers embody the lifestyle values we share with our “Citizens,” or customers, through our premium teas. 
Healthy living is something that starts with The Republic of Tea’s leadership. Helping others pursue a healthy lifestyle is the foundation behind The Republic of Tea’s brand–the teas we sell and the lifestyle our teas evoke. Three years ago, when the economy took a turn for the worse, The Republic of Tea made a calculated business decision based on our core values. Rather than cut costs, we decided to invest in our employees. If our promise as a company is to support healthy living, where better to start than with our own Ministers?

Thus, the “Healthy Ministers Program” was born; not with the goal of reducing health care costs, but of embodying the lifestyle of the tea revolution: to live healthy, slow down, and enjoy life sip by sip, rather than gulp by gulp.

This is how it works: The Healthy Ministers Program offers Ministers tools for healthy living: education, support and opportunity. Each year, every Minister receives a new pair of custom-fitted New Balance athletic shoes as a symbol of The Republic of Tea’s commitment to supporting their health and wellness. The program also includes pre-shift exercises: 10 minute walks and stretching, a quarterly gym fee for each Minister and free annual health assessments conducted by a nurse. The Republic of Tea also has a nutritionist on staff who leads monthly Healthy Minister meetings to educate and motivate Ministers to make healthy life choices and integrate healthy living into their daily lives.

Two years ago, with one year of The Healthy Ministers Program under our belt, I experienced a health crisis. As I trained for my eighth marathon, I suffered a cardiac arrest. An episode like this often proves to be fatal, but I survived because of three things–my son’s fast reaction, fantastic care in the emergency room and my own peak physical condition. Doctors have since implanted a small defibrillator in my chest to ensure I don’t suffer another arrest.

I’m proud to say my story has served as further inspiration for the Ministers at The Republic of Tea. The Healthy Ministers Program isn’t mandatory, but a full 95% of employees choose to take advantage of it. The program has motivated Ministers to stop smoking, eat less fast food, reduce their sodium intake and start walking more.

Recently a Minister described how spinach, fresh veggies and nuts are now key ingredients in her lunch salads. Our Minister of Technology (Head of IT) used the Healthy Minister program to get his eating and exercise in balance, and since starting the program has lost 14 pounds. He tells us that the Healthy Ministers Program was an attractive benefit of joining The Republic of Tea, so it’s become a recruitment tool, too.
Another Minister tells us that the program has opened his eyes to what a healthy BMI is for his age, and the danger of carrying extra pounds around. He’s shared what he’s learned with his family and now all their activities and diets have changed. Both he and his wife have lost 15 pounds each.


Although we didn’t start the program to reduce health care costs, it has had some great rewards. Three years into the program, The Republic of Tea’s Ministers are healthier, more enthusiastic about their work and are strong ambassadors for the brand. Our bottom line has been impacted, too. Absenteeism has declined dramatically. Company efficiencies have increased by ten percent. And customer service complaints are all but nonexistent.

This past weekend, I completed the Medtronic Twin Cities Ten Mile Race, the race I was training for two years ago when I suffered my cardiac arrest. I ran as a Medtronic Global Hero, one of 25 runners who continue to pursue our dreams of living an active, healthy lifestyle with the help of medical technology.

Although it wasn’t my cardiac arrest that inspired me to start the Healthy Ministers employee wellness program, being honored as a Medtronic Global Hero has reinforced my desire to inspire my colleagues at The Republic of Tea to live healthy lives.

After all, if the coffee culture is fast-paced, hectic and on-the-go, the lifestyle of the tea revolution is about slowing down, living healthy and taking time to enjoy the small moments in life. The Healthy Ministers program is one small way for The Republic of Tea to help our Ministers lead by example and live a more balanced and fulfilling life.

Ron Rubin (pictured) is the CEO of The Republic of Tea


About the author

CEO of The Republic of Tea