It’s barely 7:45 am and SquareFoot CEO Jonathan Wasserstrum is ready for his morning workout. This isn’t any ordinary morning exercise. There’s no gym and no bikes around and there isn’t any obnoxious background music to boost you through the grind.
Instead, Wasserstrum appears on a Google Hangout where he and eight other employees appear on a laptop, as they get ready for CONBODY’s “Maniac Monday” on a recent Tuesday.
Like many, SquareFoot, a commercial real estate company, was forced to move operations remotely from its New York City and Belfast offices during the coronavirus epidemic. It might sound odd to watch your boss do exercises to start the morning, but Wasserstrum is a forward thinker. He sits in the middle of his Manhattan office to encourage accessibility and it’s a similar principle with SquareFoot’s team workouts while working remotely.
“We’re a 70-person company working remotely,” Wasserstrum, cladded in a blue shirt and red shorts, said before the workout. “We have a Belfast office. How do we make our Belfast office feel like they’re in the New York office? How do you keep 70 people connected with 70 people in their own apartments? A lot of spontaneity at the office isn’t happening right now, so we have to keep that connectivity going.”
Once the 10 or so employees from its New York and Belfast offices who joined this morning are settled, CONBODY founder Coss Marte starts blurting instructions for a prison-style full-body workout that’ll be finished in under a half-hour. A handful of SquareFoot employees watch as the workout is broadcasted on their individual laptops as they work through the first round of exercises.
Twisted-jumping jacks and calf raise with finger flicks are the first exercises. Then comes a calf stretch, where employees stand flat before exploding upward on their tippy toes.
“This is hard,” one employee during the calf stretch.
Then comes a few other exercises like push up claps and running in place. Some employees laugh as the recorded instructor yells obscenities through the workout. Then comes the end of round one.
“We’re going to start this whole routine again,” asked another employee, “What!”
The group repeats the circuit for a second time. They pump through exercises mostly with ease, but some get tired and start to move through each a bit slower. The exercise wraps up in just over 20 minutes, giving workers a quick jumpstart before their 9:30 am start time.
“That was my favorite workout we’ve done,” said one worker.
Another joked: “Maybe on the next one I’ll start sweating.”
It’s a unique way to build team camaraderie through an unexpected channel during the COVID-19 outbreak. SquareFoot has been focusing on exercises that range through many different forms including body workouts, core workouts, and yoga being offered to employees. As many as 17 of the company’s workers have logged at the same time to join the optional group exercises, according to a company spokesperson.
The group exercises also enable workers to interact with others through a different means of communication. Sixty of SquareFoot’s employees work in its New York offices, while the other 10 work in Belfast. During this particular session, one employee from the Belfast office joined the workout during her lunch break, while others were just getting their morning started.
“Being close to the team is important,” Wasserstrum said after the workout. “When I’m sitting at home alone during quarantine, that’s a lot harder to do. Coming up with creative ways of staying in contact with them. We built into our schedule these prompts that are non-business related touchpoints between others and me.”