Gym perks: winner or waste?

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It’s common knowledge that a good perk is worth more than its cost for improving employee loyalty and engagement, and as health issues become more important a free or discounted gym membership seems ideal – but not if just 10% of employees use it!

US surveys indicate that while 15-20% of people have gym memberships, less than half of them are “core users” who attend regularly. For the majority of your staff a free membership could be the wrong option.

Instead of using a “one-size-fits-all” approach, you need to gauge the needs of your workforce, says Jane Wagstaff from healthcare specialist Medtronic.

Start by promoting healthy lifestyles as a company value, Wagstaff says, and you can then build on the project by adding additional strategies and offerings.

“Once they’ve done the health risk assessment and you’ve got their attention, they are more engaged than they were before,” she says.

“The problem with traditional corporate wellness programs is they don’t work. Human resource and senior managers believe the problem is caused through lack of funds, resources or industry knowledge. This often leads to managers providing safe and easy-to-implement programs which they think employees want [but] lead to poor take-up rates and no longevity.”

Instead, an organization could offer employees a dollar amount to spend on anything health-related: ballroom dancing lessons, tennis rackets, Zumba classes.

See also: I’m just popping out for my lunch-break disco

“We had a benefit in place where we offered subsidized gym memberships, and you get a percentage of people that take that up. But the feedback was that a lot of people don’t want to go to the gym. When we expanded it to $400 to spend on health however people wanted, the uptake was remarkable,” says Wagstaff.

The most successful corporate wellness programs identify employee needs through basic health and fitness questionnaires, and then address the organizations needs by providing variety and importantly, motivation.

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