How employers can support their staff to stay fit and healthy

Pietro Carmignani, VP & CEO UK and Ireland at Gympass, shares his thoughts on how employers can best support their staff to keep fit and healthy

The link between happy staff and wellbeing

General wellbeing and employee satisfaction are directly linked. When an employee is physically and mentally healthy, they are more likely to feel engaged and driven in the work place. When an employee is enjoying and performing well in their job, they feel an improved sense of wellbeing. Companies can benefit immensely from fostering this positive relationship. By offering an extensive and well thought out approach to corporate wellness, they can revel in the success of a happy and motivated workforce.

A World Health Organisation (WHO) study found that European organisations lose over 140 billion dollars a year in productivity due to common mental disorders, like anxiety and depression. However, what companies usually fail to realise, is that they are in a unique position to reverse this trend for three key reasons: they offer social context to people’s lives, credibility and a massive reach beyond that of any other organisation, government or NGO.

Employers need to understand what their employees want

When building a corporate health package, it is vital that employers understand what their staff want. A study by Gympass, UK leaders in corporate fitness programs, showed that 10 of the top 20 most sought after benefits relate to work-life balance and a healthier lifestyle. Their Corporate Wellness Barometer study also showed 65% percent of corporates feel they would engage in physical activity more often if their employer offered physical activities schemes. Despite this, we are currently seeing a strong disconnect between what employees want and what they are being offered, with just 14% of individuals granted access to gyms, studios and other sports facilities through their employer. The problem, and indeed the solution, starts here.

Generating interest and enthusiasm for exercise will boost engagement

Encouraging the 80% of individuals who do not already engage with fitness, requires more than simply providing a standard membership to a fitness centre. Companies need to promote the benefits of being physically active, positioning it as a way to bring about pleasure and improve all aspects of life. Exercise should be promoted as an opportunity for individuals to socialise and connect with friends, family and colleagues. Any pressures around looking a certain way, or myths on the importance of aesthetics, must be dismissed. This can be achieved through wellness talks, breakfasts, workshops and general discussions in and amongst the office environment and there are many companies, such as Gympass, which run these hand-in-hand with corporate HR departments.

By generating interest and enthusiasm for exercise, companies can increase the likelihood that staff will want to engage with their wellness package. The challenge comes in the delivery. In an industry where the latest trends are outdated a week after they surface, coupled with the changing needs of new generations entering the workforce, companies must consider how to cater to the desires of a very diverse range of individuals.

Ensure your plan accounts for different lifestyles and working hours

People want to feel like their personal schedules and busy lifestyles are accounted for and will only engage in an activity if it is convenient. Businesses need to understand this barrier to exercise. They must consider whether their employees travel a lot, acknowledge their working hours, pay attention to living arrangements and account for salary fluctuations. These factors then need to translate into an offering which satisfies all of these variations. Employees must have the chance to experience a range of activities, at differing price levels, available at multiple locations and times throughout the day.

The best and most successful examples of employee wellness plans are demonstrated by companies who truly put physical activity at the core of their talent engagement strategy. Take the Santander Group, who recently signed an agreement with Gympass for all 200,000 employees worldwide. This partnership gives everyone working for the bank access to more than 800 activities across 36,000 sports facilities, in 6,000 cities across 14 countries. It’s hard to find an individual preference or possible constraint that isn’t accounted for with an offering like this.

Evidently, the benefits of providing staff with opportunities to improve their health and wellbeing is unrivalled. To maximise these effects, companies must have an in-depth understanding of what their staff really want. Companies must look at potential barriers to exercise, such as misconceptions, lack of time, money or access and offer solutions to combat these. They must offer a range of activities to appeal to everyone’s preferences. At the end of the day, a business which puts their staff’s needs at the heart of their wellness offering, will quickly see the benefits of a fit and healthy workforce.