Learning & Development

3 Reasons HR Leaders Should Keep Corporate Fitness Centers Running in 2024

We’re almost four years removed from the first days of the pandemic. But the work world continues to evolve. And HR leaders continue to evaluate their employee benefits and what they believe will attract—and retain—key employees. One of those benefits that’s being evaluated are corporate fitness centers.

Budgets are top-of-mind with many corporate teams right now, so fitness centers are drawing attention. Because they do require an investment—in space, equipment and people. HR teams are also thinking about the number of employees who are actually coming into the office. Some companies are asking employees to come into the office five days a week. Many are hybrid. Others are remote. But is the corporate fitness center a reason employees are visiting the office more often? That’s the question.

These are all good questions to ask and great conversations to have as an HR team. Evaluating your benefits offerings should be a regular—if not annual—exercise. But I’m a firm believer that the value of the corporate fitness center has never been greater. And it can be an extraordinary benefit to employees in 2024. Three big reasons support my thinking:

1. Human connection is key to employee retention.

According to Gallup, nearly 1 in 2 employees are open to leaving their organization. We’ve seen all sorts of stats like this since the pandemic. Companies are having a real tough time hanging onto employees. And it’s really no surprise, right? Because more employees are working remotely in 2024, people feel more disconnected from their employers than ever before. Work has become more transactional than I ever remember it. So, companies are looking for anything that connects people to the organization. This is where corporate fitness centers come in.

For example, one of our clients (a leading technology company) hosts “Wellness Wednesdays” at its corporate fitness center as a way to encourage employees to come to its corporate campus for the day. These “Wellness Wednesdays” feature a variety of activities, including meet and greets, fitness games, group meditation, scavenger hunts, and smoothie collabs with the corporate cafeteria—all designed to foster more human connection and connection to the company.

Big companies are seeing the value in corporate fitness centers as it relates to human connection, too. And it doesn’t get any bigger than Walmart. The Bentonville-based company recently unveiled its new 360,000-foot fitness center on campus that includes 295 aquatic events, 100 tennis and pickleball events, 63 adult/youth sports leagues, 130 fitness events and 20 wellness/whole health events—all each week! That’s a whole lot of connection—and Walmart clearly sees the value in it.

2. Younger employees are taking fitness much more seriously.

Let’s face it—many companies are doing their best to cater to younger employee bases. These are typically the toughest people to attract and retain. So, keeping them happy is usually paramount. And one thing we know about these younger employees: they care about fitness and wellness—more so than almost any other generation.

According to a recent McKinsey survey, 56% of Gen Z consumers in the U.S. say fitness is a “very high priority” compared to just 40% of U.S. consumers overall. What’s more, according to that same McKinsey survey, younger people (Gen Z + Millennials) are buying more wellness-related products and services than older generations. This makes sense if you think about Gen Z’s background. They grew up during the pandemic and found themselves alone more often than not. Now they’re looking to places like corporate fitness centers as spots where they can meet colleagues and form those more human connections I was talking about above.

Bottom line: If you want to attract and retain more young workers, a corporate fitness center can be a huge benefit.

3. Personalizing the employee experience means more than it used to.

As employees started returning to corporate gyms in 2022 and 2023, we saw increased demand for personal training. In fact, the number of personal training sessions we’ve seen with our corporate clients increased 23% in the last year! Much of that momentum and interest in personal training has to do with the personalization of it.

One participant said, “My personal trainer is a joy to work with. She has taken the time to get to know me and my limitations and to tailor my workouts to challenge me and improve my overall physical health. She puts a lot of thought into my routines and always has something new to keep them fresh and interesting.” That’s the personalization people are craving in 2024. And it’s a huge perk of the modern-day corporate fitness center.

As you can see, I’m bullish on the value of corporate fitness center in 2024. But, with good reason. Employees need that human connection to feel more tethered to the organization. They will have a tougher time leaving companies if they have that emotional (and physical) connection. And that personal touch can make all the difference. Without it, companies may be left scrambling to attract and retain talent in an increasingly difficult labor market.

Ann Wyatt is the vice president and chief client success leader at HealthFitness.

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