Andy Fromm years ago put some fish tanks in his basement office simply to brighten a windowless space. After two corporate moves, those tanks have grown, literally and figuratively, into the theme around which his Kansas City company’s culture is built.
James Stuckmeyer, an area orthopedic surgeon, read years ago in a medical journal that watching fish swim can lower blood pressure by several points (a recent study confirmed that finding). His new office now has one of the biggest, most soothing tanks one could hope to see in a doctor’s office.
Michael Ketchmark led the planning for a saltwater tank to serve as dividing wall when the Ketchmark and McCreight law offices moved into new space, upsizing from the tank in a previous office.
You might expect fish tanks in restaurants. But you’re increasingly likely to find them in offices in Kansas City and elsewhere that have nothing to do with seafood. They’re placed for art and ambience, for conversation and corporate culture.
Fromm’s little basement fish tanks have morphed into three 500-gallon saltwater aquariums on three floors of the Service Management Group building. “Fish have become a really big part of our culture,” said Kim Klosak, SMG’s vice president of human resources. At 10 years, employees get stipends to spend on vacations, with the requirement that they return with a fish picture.
Jason Gray, an SMG worker who serves as principal fish feeder, said he sees correlations between camaraderie in the workplace and how fish coexist in the tanks. “Each tank is a community — as long as the right fish are introduced.”.
In Stuckmeyer’s office, a 650-gallon saltwater tank greets visitors for two primary reasons: “I’ve been into aquariums since I was a little boy,” Stuckmeyer said. Plus, after reading the studies on fish and blood pressure, he decided it would help his work injury and workers’ compensation patients. “[They] have generally had their lives turned upside down. They may be in bad shape financially or physically, and I didn’t want them to see a sterile doctor’s office.”
Stuckmeyer estimates that he spent about $20,000 to set up the aquarium and allocates another $250 or so a month for upkeep.