(Above: The Play Well Stairs at CNN Center in Atlanta / Photo Credit: Turner Broadcasting)

As part of Turner Broadcasting's commitment to exploring new approaches for a more engaging workplace that supports an active lifestyle for employees, the company recently introduced "Play Well Stairs" at its CNN Center headquarters in Atlanta.

We wanted to know more, and thankfully Amber Hosch, from Turner’s Talent Rewards & Engagement team took time to answer a few questions about this innovative wellness initiative.

See what she had to say below and watch the time lapse video for the installation of these musical stairs.

TW Blog: Tell us a little about yourself and the work you do in the Talent Rewards & Engagement group.

Amber Hosch:  I’m a Wellness Consultant on Turner’s Talent Rewards & Engagement team. It’s my responsibility to create an engaging work culture that is rich with opportunities that motivate and encourage employees to lead a healthier lifestyle in and outside of work and to make Turner a great place to work overall. I’ve been working for Turner for over 8 years and truly love what I do.


TWB: So tell us, what exactly are the Play Well Piano Stairs?

AH: Inside CNN Center, Turner’s headquarters, there is a set of stairs alongside escalators at one of the main employee entrances. As part of our wellness initiative to encourage employees to be more active at work, we transformed the 36 step-staircase into a fully working “Piano Staircase.” The staircase is wrapped to resemble a giant piano keyboard, and each step or “key” plays a note as someone steps on it.  We also installed a real-time step counter that shows how many steps employees have taken since the installation.  Additionally, a live webcam is set up so that employees from our other office locations can watch a live stream of the action through our company intranet.


TWB: The stairs were a pretty big initiative for you.  Tell us about the process of assembling the team and who you got to help.

AH:  This project was truly a collaborative effort between so many different departments from various divisions throughout the company.  We first stumbled about this concept a few years ago through Volkswagen’s “Fun Theory” initiative, which tested the theory that people would choose the stairs over the escalator if they made it more fun to do so.  At the time, it was just a “wouldn’t this be cool?” concept. But then we met with the Insights and Inspirations team who approached us about incorporating play at work. We started brainstorming what “play” could look like at Turner, and the piano staircase idea resurfaced. From there, we formed a project team with Corporate Communications, Properties, Turner Studios, IT strategy group and the Turner Makers, the company’s maker space for employees, and the idea quickly started to become a reality. The Turner Makers are the real geniuses behind the project. This group of employees works outside of their day-to-day roles to bridge their love of inventing, creating and tinkering with Turner business initiatives. They created and installed the technology behind the stairs to transform them into a fully working piano.


TWB: There's a lot of talk in the air about the "culture of play."  Can you tell us what it means and how it benefits both employers and employees?

AH: We all are very busy with our jobs, and we actually spend a lot of time working. Overall, there is an increase in stress levels among employees in corporate environments, and it’s particularly important to my team and to  Turner that we provide our employees with tools and outlets to relieve anxiety and stress. Incorporating a little bit of playfulness and fun in the workplace can actually go a long way in improving overall wellbeing and mental wellness.

If employees are well physically, emotionally and mentally, they are happier and thus perform better at their jobs, have better morale and are more productive.  So the piano stairs are really a win-win for employees and the company.


TWB: A recent survey by Virgin HealthMiles and Workforce Management magazine found a strong link between the wellness of an organization and the wellness of employees, something Turner recognized long ago.  In what other ways does Turner promote employee wellness?

AH:  Turner’s wellness program focuses on providing programs that encourage being active, eating well and mental wellness.  The Piano Stairs tied into an 8 week walking challenge where employees have a goal to walk 10,000 steps a day.   This walking challenge is part of our Time Warner Fit Nation program providing incentives and resources for employees to walk and participate in sponsored 5Ks and triathlons.  This year we hosted our first annual Turner 5K with over 500 employees and guests and had over 200 employees train and compete in triathlons in LA, DC and Atlanta where professional group training was provided.   To help employees with mental wellness, we offer customized offerings by location, whether that was relaxation/meditation classes, onsite chair massages or yoga.  A key ingredient to our program this year was a newly formed team called Turner Activate, a cross functional group of employees who serve as wellness champions.   We hope to make an impact on employee health at Turner, whether that means helping someone choose the stairs over the escalator every day or by providing ways to achieve a less stressful lifestyle. 


TWB: Here's the real question:  Are more employees taking the stairs?

AH:  We definitely notice that employees are choosing the stairs over the escalator.  We hope to see just how much an effect it has had by comparing the weekly steps taken over the 8 weeks the piano stairs has been up. We will also review time-lapse video of before/after the piano stairs creation to compare the difference in stairs vs. escalator usage.  But all in all, employees really seem to love the piano stairs and are already asking what fun thing we plan to do next!

See what people are saying about the Playwell Stairs.