In the somewhat fictional 1960s of TV shows like Mad Men, or even on the very real Wall Street of the 1980s, companies encouraged coworker camaraderie with seven-martini lunches and after-work highballs. But these days, the big new thing in corporate bonding, according to Courtney Rubin in The New York Times, is group juice cleanses. The fad is reportedly all the rage at among financial-services powerhouses, ad and TV production companies, and fashion houses. Here's what you should know:
What is a corporate juice cleanse?
Juice cleanses are a form of fasting and detoxification in which you get all your nutrients for several days from nothing but fruit and vegetable juices. In the corporate realm, anywhere from a handful of employees to an army of 150 band together to do one- to five-day juice cleanses together.
Who does this?
Rubin names several organizations where employees have bonded with juice cleanses: Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Ralph Lauren, Shape magazine, and Oprah Winfrey's entire production crew — though she notes that "office cleanses are rarely corporate sponsored, subsidized, or sanctioned." The majority of individual juice fasters are women, according to the juice companies cashing in on the trend, but in company cleanses, most participants are male. "These Type-A men have an all-or-none perspective," BluePrintCleanse marketing director Jina Wye tells The Times. "If they're going to commit, they do it whole hog," These alpha males' most popular choice is the "Excavation cleanse," which BluePrintCleanse describes as its "most intense level" of cleansing, cleaning out your insides "down to a cellular level" with small amounts of juices made from citrus, green veggies, "and ahem, 'sweepers'" — a reference to the frequent bathroom trips cleanses entail.
Is this more pleasant than it sounds?
Not really. Company-wide fasting draws descriptions like "team-building torture," employee abuse, and "workplace-enforced anorexia." The juices — made from things like beets, kale, and grass — don't taste very good. Plus, fasting eats into your social life, it's expensive, and one cleanser described the experience as similar to jet lag. "If you're lucky enough to have a job and coworkers that you don't actively hate and wish ill upon," says Virginia K. Smith at The L Magazine, corporate cleanses seem like "a handy way to fix that."
So what's the point?
Some colleagues band together for moral support and to have someone to share their liquid lunches with. But some companies also treat the fasting ritual as a team-building exercise. Michael Godshall at Brooklyn production company Project Dstllry and his partners held a company-wide juice cleanse during "a week when we were slammed, and we just needed to pull together as a community," he tells The Times. "It was something we could do where we thought, 'We're all in this together.'"
Come on. Is this a real trend?
Well, sales of commercial juice cleansers are growing. Organic Avenue, plugged by Gweneth Paltrow, and Cooler Cleanse, a company cofounded by Salma Hayek, say about 30 percent of their orders come from office cleanses. And the growth appears to be largely organic: The "huge increase in popularity" of cleansing with co-workers, says Cooler Cleanse cofounder Eric Helms, is that in certain businesses "everyone knows someone who's done one, and they realize they're a lot easier to do with colleagues during the workweek."