Benefits and Compensation

4 Ways Corporate Gyms Are Adding Value Beyond Wellness 

As more people return to the office, corporate gyms are back on the radar for many companies—and for good reason. Many organizations are using these corporate gyms as a carrot to get people back in the office, even if it’s just for a couple days a week.

However, something interesting is happening as these companies go down this road: They’re seeing that on-site fitness centers are having a much bigger impact on employees than just physical wellness.

Sure, corporate gyms are helping people sweat and get their physical fitness and easily insert it into their workdays. But, these fitness centers are also producing new, previously unfound benefits for employees that HR leaders should be paying close attention to because for some employees, these benefits may even outweigh the primary reason they came to the gym in the first place.

1. Creating Deeper Connections and Community

Many employees have been hesitant to return to the office, but they have also been very excited to return to their fitness center and fitness communities. In fact, many shared that the corporate fitness center was the best reason to return to the office.

An employee with one of our clients said, “My workout motivation starts in the fitness center. I love my gym friends and the staff! We all need community, and the fitness center community is so important to me. I did not realize how much I missed being physically present in the fitness center these past two years.”

Working at home has been a boon for many employees in terms of the better balance between work and life. However, it’s also been extremely isolating in some cases. And, over the last 2-plus years, that’s taken quite a toll.

Another employee with one of our clients recently said, “I was so bummed when I found out I had to go back to the office five days a week, but once I joined the gym, I really loved going downtown every day to get my workout in. I really appreciate the effort the fitness team makes to say hello and build relationships with employees. Best gym experience I have had!”

Yes, corporate gyms are still all about helping employees achieve better physical health. But it seems they’re also playing a large role in helping employees find that connection and community they’ve been desperately missing these last couple years.

2. Addressing Mental Wellness, as Well as Physical Wellness

Since opening an on-site fitness center with one of our clients, Shaylin (HealthFitness employee who manages the on-site fitness center for the client) has noticed a shift in the reasons members are working out. “We’ve had people come back for their physical health as well as their mental health,” she says. “Employees view it as a break from everything. They get to leave their desk and their computer. They come here and feel better physically and mentally. Some people say this place is their refuge—it’s a great outlet.”

I think it’s interesting Shaylin uses the word “refuge.” Employees seem to be viewing their corporate gyms as places to quiet their mind and reenergize—as much mentally as physically!

That “refuge” is becoming increasingly important for employees who are looking for a place to unplug during their very busy days. One employee with another client recently said, “Thank you for your advice and the welcoming community you’ve built at the fitness center. I am beyond humbled to be recognized when in all honesty—and thanks in large part to the staff—coming into the gym consistently has been as much fun as hard work.”

3. Keeping Employees Accountable

For many people, one of the biggest challenges of working out more consistently is accountability. After all, it’s hard to get to the gym or on the bike day after day after day. It’s why many recommend working out with a partner—an “accountability partner.”

But corporate gyms are providing this benefit, too. Many offer regular open houses with free group exercise classes as a way to get more employees involved. In fact, many of our teams typically provide fitness assessments for new members, too. This helps keep employees accountable to their fitness goals. “Once they experience the added value of working out at the fitness center, they are hooked,” Shaylin says. “We’re proud of the work we do because many employees say they are still with the company because they have an on-site fitness center.”

4. Building Relationships and Fitness Goals

The shift back to corporate gyms has also made it easier for employees to build relationships with the on-site trainers who are typically key to helping them achieve their fitness goals.

Most employees would agree that it’s easier to make these meaningful connections in person at the on-site gym vs. Zoom or over the phone. “When an employee checks in at the front desk, we know their name and are ready to help,” Shaylin notes. “We take time build rapport, learn more about them and dive in a little deeper to get to know them.”

And employees clearly seem to appreciate this personal level of service. We hear it all the time from our clients and their employees both anecdotally and through employee surveys.

Corporate gyms are clearly starting to deliver value well outside just physical wellness. And that’s a very good thing for HR leaders looking for added incentives to try to lure employees back to the in-person workspace. As we move into 2023, corporate gyms may take on a whole new light in how companies evaluate these tools in terms of the return on investment they’re delivering to the business, especially as the hybrid work environment continues to evolve.

Ann Wyatt is Chief Client Success Leader at HealthFitness, a Trustmark company.

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