Imagine bringing sodas or chocolate bars to work, only to have a fellow employee toss your junk food in the trash after spotting it in the kitchen.
That's what was happening at a venture-backed start-up called Health IQ, and it was a policy that its workers wanted, according to CEO Munjal Shah. Health IQ's careers page promoted an office with no sugar, candy bars or soda and said, "If you bring some it will get thrown away."
But now the company is lightening up a bit, and this week toned down the rhetoric on its website. The change of heart came after a developer named David Heinemeier Hansson, who is the creator of Ruby on Rails, tweeted to his 280,000 followers over the weekend that he couldn't work at Health IQ due to his candy bar habit.
"I did work out this morning," he tweeted. "But I'm also going to eat a f---ing Twix today. I know, I know, not HealthIQ employee material."
Commenters to the tweet responded by describing the culture as "cultish" and "fit supremacist."
Health IQ, which sells life insurance to what it describes as "health conscious people," was started by Shah after a health scare he experienced while at Google. The company wanted to create a culture with deeply ingrained health habits, including promoting regular use of the gym, which it said was "right in the middle of the office."
Shah admits that Health IQ might have taken it too far, and acknowledged that the company did a poor job in communicating itself to the outside world. Health IQ's "Join the Movement" page now says the following:
"We've received some feedback recently on our Careers page and how we describe our culture and workplace, and we realize we may have missed the mark."
But Health IQ is far from alone among technology companies in pushing healthy behaviors to its employees.
Wellness is a growing trend in Silicon Valley and beyond, with many employers dangling financial rewards in exchange for employee participation in so-called "biometric screenings" or Fitbit challenges that encourage internal competition.