continued is a company with a unique setup. A leading provider of online continuing education and career opportunities for health professionals in audiology, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, and physical therapy, the company does not have a central office. All employees work remotely.
That might sound great if your office is next to someone who blasts show tunes all day, but for health and wellness professionals, the lack of a central, shared space makes generating engagement in well-being initiatives a challenge. To further complicate the issue, recent data show that incentives like gym membership reimbursement do little to improve exercise habits. Whether getting to the gym is a challenge, desirable classes are scheduled at inconvenient times, or people feel uncomfortable working out in a crowd, 67% of gym memberships never get used, and 64% of people identify home as their primary workout location.
At continued, some employees asked specifically for a program that would allow more flexibility, including the option to work out at home. And with technology playing an increasingly important role in health management, continued health and wellness manager Amy Martin saw an opportunity to try a new approach to well-being.
Martin made the case for change at continued’s annual Innovation Incubator, an event that encourages all employees to submit ideas to company leaders. She suggested a solution that would give employees and their dependents free access to a variety of exercise classes whenever and wherever they feel like working out.
A Virtual Solution
continued wanted a solution that eliminated barriers to exercise and appealed to a diverse employee group with a range of fitness levels. The company also wanted a solution that offered a variety of classes, that was easy to administer and use, and that allowed it to track engagement and employee successes.
So, the company capitalized on its virtual roots and introduced its employees to virtual fitness. On-demand, virtual fitness classes allow employees to work out when and where they choose and offer options for users at all fitness levels. By making the switch, continued also opened the door to a range of content that goes beyond traditional fitness classes like cycling and interval training to include stress management, stretching, and quick fitness breaks employees can take at their desks.
Virtual fitness is gaining traction among individuals looking for more convenience in their workouts—or just hoping to avoid the gym. In fact, the digital fitness market is expected to reach $2.6 billion by 2022, which is up from $849.5 million in 2017.
“As a virtual community focused on health and well-being, continued is uniquely positioned to appreciate the appeal of virtual, on-demand fitness. The classes fit easily into employees’ lives and allow them to explore a variety of activities they might not otherwise try,” said Martin. “People often think of well-being as an effort to improve physical health, but there are many other important aspects to addressing an individual’s needs. That has been evident in employee response so far. Office breaks and stress reduction have been the most popular classes, and those are options employees wouldn’t have access to under other formats.”
The switch to virtual fitness seems to be working for continued. Six weeks after the program’s launch in January 2019, 72% of employees were engaged and active with their new virtual fitness offerings. There was an average of 17 app engagements per user—nearly 3 engagements per week for each user. In comments, employees said they liked having the ability to squeeze in a quick workout when they’re short on time or to exercise at their own level. They also appreciated the opportunity to try workouts they wouldn’t otherwise have attempted.
“I’m loving barre,” one employee said. “I always wanted to try it, but it was never offered when I could go.”
“Nice way to get in a sweat in a hotel room,” said another. “I’m a beginner, and I was able to do the workout at my own pace with the modified moves.”
continued has been pleased with the response to its new virtual fitness offerings.
“Virtual, on-demand fitness gives our employees the option to work out on their own schedule and at their own level. There has been tremendous response based on user engagement and on the comments we’ve heard from employees,” said Martin. “Employees appreciate having a fitness option that fits their lives, and that offers options for their spouses and children as well. That family engagement is especially important considering that individuals are more likely to improve their health if they have a workout partner at home.”
As technology changes the way we work, virtual workforces like continued’s are increasingly common. With individuals currently looking for options outside of gym memberships for staying fit, there are opportunities to rethink the way employers engage their employees in fitness. continued is finding success by giving its employees access to a range of classes and offering them opportunities to exercise on their schedule. The goal is to create happier employees, better engagement, and improved fitness. So far, the results are encouraging.
Jason Von Bank is President and CEO of Wellbeats, a content and software-as-a-service company that delivers on-demand, virtual fitness programming for corporate wellness programs. Wellbeats is committed to delivering “fitness that fits” through more than 400 fitness classes that can be accessed anytime through iOS, Android, Windows devices, Apple TV, website portal, or on-site options. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.