A gym at work used to be corporate perk. Today it’s a business necessity. Healthier employees mean not only fewer days off due to fatigue or illness, but also workers who are more focused and less stressed (and thus more productive).
Moreover, an employee fitness program reduces your insurance costs. According to one Harvard study, a company saves $3.27 in medical costs and $2.73 in absenteeism costs for every dollar it spends on a wellness program.
One catch is that to reap such benefits you’ve got to encourage participation. Sure, you’ll make the gym rats and fitness enthusiasts happy, but these people are already on a healthier track and cost you less anyway. Your target audience are those who aren’t otherwise inclined to join a health club, either due to lack of time or interest.
While just having a fitness program doesn’t necessarily mean employees will take advantage of it, the convenience of a program at the workplace during the work day is going to attract a certain level of increased participation.
Also keep in mind that the objective is not serious competitive sports training -- it’s to get people to eat better and make moderate exercise a regular part of the daily routine.
Here are five tips that can get even the exercise-averse on board with a wellness program that’s not only better for your employees but better for your company.
Make Wellness Participation Rewarding
Issue gift certificates or a paid day off for completing a wellness program for a stated period. Studies show that the incentive has to be significant, worth at least $100, according to the Lockton Benefit Group, to achieve a 75 percent participation rate among employees.
Gamify Your Wellness Program
Establish teams aligned by work groups (so there’s already a little inherent camaraderie). Every month or quarter, set up a competition to see which team walks the most miles, or signs up for the most fitness classes, or logs the most biking trips.
Set up regular “work Olympics” where teams can have some friendly competition in volleyball, softball, badminton, or so-called “picnic sports” where anyone of any athletic ability or fitness level can participate.
Help Employees Establish and Track Fitness Goals
People tend to stick to something if there’s a goal set for them. Lose so many pounds in so many months, jog so many times around the building every week, bike so many miles over the course of four weekends.
There’s nothing as inspiring as a chart that pops every morning when people log into their laptops to tell them what they’ve achieved so far, and how far they still have to go to achieve it. It gives people a sense of accomplishment and confidence, not only in themselves but in their ability to take on other tasks.
Make Wellness a Cornerstone of Your Company Culture
Employees allowed to take time off and encouraged by management to take time during the workday for a walk or a fitness class won’t feel guilty that they are “goofing off.”
Indeed, seeing fellow employees participate in wellness programs as part of the regular work routine offers positive peer pressure to those who otherwise wouldn’t exercise.
Include health and exercise tips with employee communications. Offer athletic apparel with your company logo on it. Sponsor 5K races, soccer teams, and similar activities, and encourage employee participation.
Send a Consistent Message to Participate in Wellness Programs
Don’t offer a weight reduction program and stock vending machines with soda and candy. Instead, offer nutritious snacks and bottled water. The office cafeteria should offer healthy and nutritious selections.
Company leadership, including the owners, should be an example of a commitment to a healthy lifestyle that notices and rewards employees' healthy activities.