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by Lera P.
07 May

Simple Steps to Design an Effective Corporate Fitness Program

Comparing to our parents' generation, we probably spend way more time at work. But hardly anyone aims to work the whole life in one place. That's why often, companies compete for talents and out attention, and not the other way around.

In the end, a company that genuinely cares and creates a favorable environment for the team wins the hearts of current and potential employees. And one of the strategies is to provide a comprehensive benefits package and corporate wellness and fitness solutions.

In the article, we will go through why a company needs to consider implementing a corporate fitness programs. Will prove that all investments into a program will have an impressive return, and will give some tips on how to create a corporate exercise programs that work.

What Is a Corporate Fitness Program

A corporate wellness program is a broad term covering all company-sponsored and initiated activities that aim to promote a healthy lifestyle and improve the well-being of the employees. It may include nutritionist workshops at the office, wellness coaching sessions, a salad bar at the cafeteria, a safe space for meditation, partnerships with fitness companies, and so on.

A corporate fitness program is just one piece of this broader quest to a healthier state at the company. Corporate fitness solutions and corporate exercise programs focus on physical well-being and emphasize the importance of an active lifestyle. The company may cover employees' fitness costs, organize joint workouts, provide corporate fitness trackers, or premium access to wellness apps. The program is not limited to the workdays. It's a system to encourage and support an employee every single day of the week. 

Photo Credit: DepositPhotos


3 Reasons to Introduce a Corporate Fitness Program

As a company owner, the idea to spend even more on programs that have nothing to do with the final product of a company may seem not that appealing. But corporate fitness plans give a good return on every dollar you put in.

Lower Insurance Costs

Under the Affordable Care Act, a company with more than 50 employers need to offer health plans. The minimum value standard is to cover at least 60 percent of the employees' medical care. All the employees combined, it's a decent amount to spend every year. These costs can be reduced, and most of them even avoided. Around 50 percent of medical costs attributes to preventable illness. Some of the contributing risk factors are smoking, inactivity, weight gain, depression, high stress, hypertension. And so often, even the work that we love adds up to the situation.

It may sound counterintuitive, but to save money, you need to spend money. Research shows that for every dollar large employers spent on wellness programs, company medical costs fall about $3.27, and absenteeism-related costs fall about $2.73. So, a fitness program is not a luxury only "cool" companies introduce, but rather a way to take care of your people and resources. 

Apart from the reduction in insurance costs and employee sick leaves, other effects may be harder to trace and count, but you will notice them over time.

Boost in Productivity

Gone are the days when presenteeism was a sign of a dedicated and productive worker. As many books and coached teach us, the key is to work smarter and not just spend long hours at the desk. One of the productivity hacks is to keep moving. Squeezing one hour of exercise to the hectic working schedule or simply work more at the standing desk will make you more creative and efficient.

Work performance is improved due to several reasons. Staying active throughout the day improves mood and mental well-being, which in turn boost work performance. Besides, workouts improve attention span; it becomes easier to concentrate and stay on a task. So, simple exercises can help you to achieve that flow state, deep work, or how you want to call it. 

After some time, an employee will notice a boost in memory. Brain structure grows with a person getting fitter. But this doesn't apply to the hardcore workouts that push you to the limit.

Healthier Team Dynamics

Implementing a corporate fitness program, a company will end up with a healthier team dynamic. First, physical activity reduces stress and improves overall mental state. The regular exercise shows a reduction in fatigue, improvement in alertness, concentration, and overall cognitive function. The healthier an individual is, the healthier the group is.

When people are more in tune with their bodies and mind, they are more conscious of others. It impacts the way people interact with each other and improves communication. Some companies work on communication skills during the workshops and team-buildings, but corporate fitness programs target one of the roots of the issue - stress. And while team-buildings and seminars are done once in a while, the fitness program is an everyday cure.


From Where to Start

Implementation of a corporate fitness program doesn't mean a company needs to partner with a gym or open one at the office. Start small, for example, organize one lecture for the whole company raising awareness of the risks of a sedentary lifestyle. Then think about well-rounded programs, there are plenty of online options and corporate fitness plans, corporate fitness trackers, and tools that will keep employees motivated and connected.

Step One: Listen What Your Employees Say

Probably one of the most important things starting a corporate fitness program is to know your team and employees' needs. An initiative of one person is good, but before going all-in, make sure your team is on the same page. You may agree on the whys but then see a completely different picture on how to make it happen. Have a survey, talk to the managers and team leads, see what's already exist, and only then take actions. 

Step Two: Health Awareness and Health Education

Work goes more smoothly, and results are seen faster if a person is motivated and not forced to act. Understanding benefits and knowing ways to make healthy choices, an employee will be more engaged and driven.

That's why raising awareness is an essential part of any fitness initiative in a company. It can take a form of regular workshops on topics like how to stay active working from home, how to plan a day so that by the evening, you didn't have back pain, etc. Invite experts to explain the risks and long-term effects of sitting lifestyle or different fitness trainers who can inspire to try something new. The goal is not to frighten but instead explain and interest in the topic. Realizing the risks a person is more prone to act.

Step Three: Put a System in Place

Effective corporate fitness programs provide employees with tools and resources to make the change. So many of us know what is healthy and good for our bodies but still make the wrong choices, just because it's easier. Giving instruments and resources, you ease the entry process.

Think about online programs and tools. Digital options probably give the most freedom and an opportunity to create an all-inclusive program. With the inKin Social Fitness Platform, a company can launch a corporate wellness program customized to the needs of the team. The Corporate Wellness Magazine calls personalization a 'secret sauce' for any wellness program.

The app offers a variety of options. It's compatible with different fitness trackers and pedometer apps so that an employee can monitor 20 different metrics, from sleep to cholesterol. But what differs a planform and corporate wellness solutions from a regular app to track various metrics is a social aspect. With inKin, you can start a contest and encourage healthy competition. Different teams, departments, divisions, and branches will compete in the number of steps, distance, calories, active minutes, sleep, and water consumption. Simple challenges like that teach a team to work together, and this cooperative mood later goes with them to work.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

A couple of corporate fitness challenge ideas:

  • Focus on repetitive actions. Start, for example, a pushup challenge, and track who will carry on doing X number of pushups every single day of a month. 
  • Step challenge. The price goes to an employee who manages to walk 10,000 steps every day throughout a week or a month.
  • Standing table challenge. See who can in a month gradually increase his/her standing working hours to 3-4 per day.
  • Lose weight or reduce body fat percentage challenge.

Throwing a challenge is a way to keep the interest of the employees and improve results. Gamification of the process increases the engagement of employees and impact overall satisfaction from the process and work. The 2019 Gamification at Work survey shows that 81% have a stronger sense of belonging and purpose in the workplace if a company incorporates gamification techniques.

Plus, corporate fitness challenges are a good conversation starter among the employees. How often an employee has a chance to overrun a top manager or compete with an intern for the first place? It breaks the barriers between the departments, which makes them feel more comfortable dealing with work-related issues.

Step Four: Positive Reinforcement

Motivation is sometimes short-lived. A person may lose interest when it's no longer a new and exciting thing. By demonstrating results and showing appreciation for the work, you increase chances employees will stick to the program. That's the reason so many apps give you badges for the longest strike, have leaderboards and newsfeed to share results.

Recognition of the work and positive reinforcement increases the chances that the desired behavior will be repeated. It's so effective as a technique of behavior modification. It doesn't take anything away from any of the sides.

Important note

Different corporate fitness trackers and wearables are good at keeping people accountable and inspiring to stick to the habit. They also help to track corporate exercise programs. And funny enough, we are probably the first generation of people who knows so many things about themselves. We track everything and can say how many hours we slept in the past month, how often mediated or fasted, how many calories eaten, and how many of them were burned. 

We get used to the trackers, and sometimes people fall to the dark side. A tracker starts to dictate the life of a user and not the other way around. There are some cases when people felt irritated when they forgot to wear a device, started to cheat with time zones to have an extra minute to complete the step challenge. That's why putting a reward into the equation, make sure it doesn't force negative behavior.

Step Five: Engage The Most at Risk

In the beginning, most probably, the most engaged employees will be the ones who have a somewhat healthy lifestyle and would do sports even without corporate fitness plans. But the goal is to engage as many people as possible, especially those who are at the most risk and already experience some lifestyle diseases.

You can start as small as encouraging at-desk workouts and office yoga. A small 10-15 minute break will help with a sore back, stiff neck, and tight legs. Unless a full-body exercise this is an easy option. We all get distracted from work. Promote easy swaps. So, next time instead of scrolling through the feed, an employe decided to move a little. 

Some employees may be not that comfortable to workout with colleagues and will skip all joint exercises. The solution is the introduction of online guides and workouts. For some beginners, it's more appealing to do a workout at the comfort of their home where no one is looking and judging. 

Another option is to engage employees' spouses and family members. There is a notion of an accountability partnerStudies have shown that publicly committing to a goal gives a person at least a 65% chance of completing it. While having a specific accountability partner increases the chance of success to 95%. 

Photo Credit: Unsplash


Extra Step: Introduce Wellness Workdays

A wellness day is a day entirely dedicated to the team's physical and mental well-being. It's similar to educational fairs where you can find anything you were interested in in one place. Wellness workdays may include nutritionist lectures, introductory classes to different sports, stress management workshops, wellness coach and therapist sessions, and so on.

It's an opportunity to address critical issues in an informal environment, get together all specialists in one place and time. That way, employees will get the whole picture and discover something that suits them personally.

These are six elements of a compelling corporate fitness program. You can start from one thing and then add layer after layer. Soon enough, you will see the first results. The team will get fitter and healthier, which will increase productivity, strengthen the team as a unit, and have a positive effect on the budget. With time, you can grow a fitness program to a comprehensive suite of corporate wellness solutions.


What is a corporate fitness program?

A corporate fitness program implies all company initiated and sponsored actions to popularize a healthier and more active lifestyle among the employees. The program may include anything from an online platform to track results to an on-site gym. The composition of a program depends on the company's needs and possibilities. 

How do companies choose their wellness programs and benefits?

Ideally, a program should be chosen based on the nature of work at the company, the current state of employees' health, and the areas they want to target. To create an effective wellness program, companies cooperate with specialized services or consulting companies and go from there. But anyway, the establishment of a wellness and fitness program is an ongoing process. As an employer, you will need to run tests, ask for professional guidance and employees' feedback, and adapt universal practices to the reality of your team. 

Why would a company invest in corporate wellness programs and corporate exercise programs?

Corporate wellness solutions are investments that give the best return. A healthier team is proven to get ill less, and in general, be more productive. Hence, a company increases the quality of working hours and reduces insurance and absenteeism-related costs. Corporate wellness programs improve team dynamics, as most of them encourage healthy competition and teamwork, which later transfers to the working environment. 

What are some proven ways to encourage fitness in a corporation?

The first and probably the best way is to give what people need. Target issues common for your area, type of work, age group, and existing conditions. Second, educate employees to let them understand that all of these measures are what they truly need and will benefit from. Additional tricks are to include family members to the process, always keep employees interested with different challenges and contests, and introduce a reward system.  


Photo Credit: DepositPhotos

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