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A Minnesota GC offers workers Wellness Pods as a mental health option

Contractors

A Minnesota GC offers workers Wellness Pods as a mental health option

The 6x8-foot steel boxes provide workers with Gardner Builders a temporary, anxiety free sanctuary for private activities. 


By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | November 27, 2023
The interior of Gardner Builders' steel Wellness Pods
Workers are using Gardner Builders' Wellness Pods for phone calls, telehealth conversations, and other private activities. Photos: Gardner Builders

The mental health of workers has emerged as an urgent topic within the construction industry, with firms considering the issue as part of their employee wellness initiatives.

One such firm is Minneapolis-based general contractor Gardner Builders. Three of its jobsites currently include Wellness Pods, 6x8-ft steel boxes that provide workers with a temporary, anxiety free sanctuary for private activities. The heated and cooled pods are wheelchair-accessible, with a mini fridge, desk and chair, and rug.

The concept for the pods dates back to last year, when Gardner Builders noticed that its employees engaged in activities that might be best served by having a private space to retire to. This need was expressed further during a meeting of the company’s internal Pulse group, which discusses employee concerns. A 20-year-old female laborer pointed out that she had nowhere to go while at work to pump breastmilk. “The idea for the wellness pod was borne from this,” says Jessica Stoe, Gardner Builders’ Brand, Wellness, and Marketing Director, and Wellness Pod Lead.

The first pods, built in May 2022, were small plywood boxes within Gardner’s offices. Stoe says the goal, then and now, was to create a place that is soundproof, comfortable, and accessible for everything from meditation, telehealth, privacy, and prayer. Based on worker feedback, most employees seem to be using the pods for private calls.

Future pods will be mobile

A steel Wellness POd
Gardner Builders is developing a ground-up climate-controlled pod for exterior use.

The pod is more of a concept than a static structure; some are on wheels, for example. Gardner has also partnered with the furniture supplier Teknion to develop its steel pod with a glass door. Stoe estimates that a plywood pod costs Gardner $3,000; the steel model runs between $12,000 and $16,000.

Right now, a jobsite’s foreman or superintendent handles the scheduling for using jobsite pods. Stoe says Gardner is looking into scheduling software similar to what office workers use to book meeting rooms. 

Future iterations of the pods, says Stoe, are likely to be more mobile so they can be moved around a jobsite as needed. And Gardner is developing a ground-up, climate-controlled model for exterior use. That model, says Stoe, would have an iPad mounted to it that allows workers to schedule the pod themselves.

Gardner Builders has gotten inquiries about its Wellness Pods from the local YMCA and Chamber of Commerce, and wants to share the concept with other contracting firms.

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