A few goofy diversions never hurt anybody
Athenahealth eases workers’ tension with a little fun
You don’t have to look too hard to figure out that management at Athenahealth wants employees to enjoy their jobs. You just have to scroll through the list of corporate titles until you get to the minister of fun. Company executives at the Watertown, Mass.-based health information technology company say they need to let employees have some fun because the typical workday can be demanding and stressful. Co-founder and CEO Jonathan Bush has said he envisions making Athenahealth, which had focused mostly on providing insurance billing software, the “information backbone for the healthcare industry,” providing a broad set of information technology solutions for medical professionals.
Athenahealth is one of two large supplier companies on this year’s Best Places to Work. It ranks No. 46 in the supplier category and No. 90 overall.
The company, which had $753 million in revenue in 2014, now works on a range of healthcare IT, including electronic healthrecord systems and Epocrates, a suite of software for doctors’ mobile devices.
“We’re making something that is fundamental to our society— healthcare—work better,” said Rosa Carson, who previously held the minister of fun title. She’s since changed jobs and now has the more mundane title of senior manager of administrative services.
“While it’s inspiring to be part of a solution to a problem, it’s not easy,” Carson said. People who work at Athenahealth, she said, can “spend the whole day banging their head against a problem.”
Being able to indulge in a few goofy diversions is a nice way to blow off steam, she said. The company celebrates Ninja Day and Talk Like a Pirate Day (Bush, a first cousin of former President George W. Bush, once conducted an entire meeting in pirate speak.)
“We’re working on hard problems, but everyone is human, and just because you’re working hard doesn’t mean you can’t have fun,” Carson said.
Bush’s almost-evangelistic—but offbeat—methods for building a company that wants to do everything in healthcare IT have raised some eyebrows. Fortune Magazine last year called it a “gonzo approach to corporate leadership.”
But the company’s senior vice president of operations, David Tassoni, said it’s a great place to work, in part because of Bush’s spirited leadership, and because people feel they’re on the same mission. He said the company fosters a cooperative spirit.
“Individual superstars ... don’t really succeed here,” Tassoni said. “We look for people who are really good at bringing others along, helping others succeed. Our core foundation of being teachers and learners, I think, is what makes it such a great place to work.”
Living the “work hard, play hard” philosophy, employees at Athenahealth take pool breaks, and even have a “Talk Like a Pirate Day” to keep work fun.