Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Why Wearable Fitness Trackers Aren't Your Wellness Program

ThinkstockPhotos-470428334.jpgConsidering how long it can take to make a global shift in corporate America, the rise of wearable fitness trackers in wellness has been meteoric. A recent study reports an anticipated 13M wearables will enter the corporate wellness market by 2018. Despite the rapid adoption of this technology by businesses for their employees, there remains healthy skepticism about what exactly is being measured and who is privy to that data.

It would be tempting, I think, for an employer to see wearable tech as the answer to their questions about how to have an employee wellness program. The devices are relatively inexpensive and generally easy to use. And many adults already use a device without it being connected to a corporate wellness program, so there is no introduction of something foreign to which the workforce must adapt.

But the easy answer isn't always the right answer. Here are three reasons why wearable fitness trackers aren't your wellness program.

1. It's not always about the numbers.

Despite the continued drumbeat for measurement, ROI, and quantifying value in wellness, providing opportunities for your employees to live well isn't always about the numbers. If you're offering a wellness program and your only goal is to save money on healthcare costs for the business, you're (dare I say) probably doing employee wellness for the wrong reasons.

Your employees are people—people with complicated and busy lives. If you want them to live well, you may want to rethink your desire to hook them up with a tracking device that's going to report on everything from steps to sleep. You might view it as a perk, while employees see it as more pressure.

If you insist on wearables in your wellness program, consider them as an option among many other tools your workforce can choose from to live well in ways that are meaningful to them.

[Related Content: Why Employee Purpose might be the Heart of Corporate Wellness]

 

2. Like most programs under the corporate wellness banner, one size does not fit all.

If you're a fan of using a tracker personally, it may come as a surprise that they're not a good choice for everyone. Some people are quickly defeated by the constant barrage of information, so instead of serving as a device to motivate individuals, they have the opposite effect. Other people quickly turn to obsession with the data, constantly feeling like they need to do more, move more, sleep better, etc., to the exclusion of other more important activities (like work). As eloquently stated in this personal account, "...there is a fine line between health consciousness and a health obsession...."

While this study on wearables points to a 53% adoption rate for the under-40 employee crowd (note that the adoption rate for the over-50 employee group was at 36%) as a good thing, I'm left to wonder...what about the other 50+% of your workforce? If you insist on wearables in your wellness program, understand the potential reach as well as the potential concerns among your employees. Diversity in your offerings acknowledges the varied interests and passions of your employees.

3. High-tech has a place, but so does high-touch.

I've written about high-tech vs. high-touch in corporate wellness before. Wellness isn't an either/or proposition when you consider high-tech and high-touch options. You need sophisticated tech solutions to understand what is and isn't working in your wellness program. Still, there are limits to what technology can do for your business when it comes to helping employees live well.

For the employee who is caring for his parents who are aging in place with dementia, the wellness tracker does not get him more engaged at work or taking more steps; it only leaves him feeling more alone in his caregiving situation. It doesn't provide support for him while he struggles to figure out how he's going to get dinner to his parents and still make it to his son's baseball game. But if he has a relationship with the wellness manager (high-touch), he might open up about this personal situation. Then the wellness manager can help him find resources through the EAP or the local-area agency on aging.

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Your amazing employees are complex and they need a variety of tools at their disposal to live well. Wearables aren't the answer; they're just a piece of the puzzle. Need to think outside the wearable option? Grab these seven ideas for how to make movement easy at work.

Looking to add exercise options to your corporate wellness offerings?  Check our out free download to help get you started!

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Topics: corporate wellness ROI technology wearables fitness trackers

3 Reasons to Add a Corporate Fitness Center to Your Wellness Program

Business man on ellipticalCosts for care, costs for absenteeism, vendor costs, the cost of doing nothing…there has been a lot of chatter and posturing online recently about this information as it relates to corporate wellness. In case you’re not quite up to speed on all the cost-related information, here’s an infographic that will give you some compelling, high-level numbers and information to digest. As corporate wellness goes, there’s a ton out there on ROI too. Whether it’s accurate is up for debate.

If you’ve read anything we’ve put out over the last several years, you know that NIFS falls into the “do for your employees, not to your employees” camp when it comes to workplace wellness. When you treat your employees well and you provide the right services and amenities for the right reasons, there will be value to the business.

While an onsite fitness center isn’t the right choice for every business, it is an amenity that falls squarely into our “for your employees” philosophy. If you have any heart for taking care of your employees like you take care of your business, here are three reasons you should be strongly considering adding a fitness center to your overall worksite wellness strategy.

#1: Taking Care of Your Talent

Your talented people are what make your business thrive. Technology matters, bricks and mortar play a role (most of the time), and other physical and cultural elements contribute to your success, but at the end of the day, it’s your people who make your business what it is. And you’re counting on them to perform at the top of their game.

Making it easy for your employees to exercise (through a corporate fitness center, for example) is one way to keep your smart and highly valuable employees using their talents for the benefit of your business. Compelling research has shown that adults who exercise reap more than just the physical benefits of movement.

  • This study shows that work-related benefits following a bout of exercise can include improved quality of work and better time management. The study also showed that exercise contributed positively toward an employee’s tolerance of his/her coworkers. And who couldn’t benefit from a more tolerant atmosphere?
  • This study shows that creativity is better following aerobic exercise and for at least a two-hour span after the exercise has been completed.
  • This article points out how we believe regular exercise can positively impact stress. And before you write off stress as a non-issue for the workplace, take a look at this data from an annual poll of American workers regarding workplace stress. (Bonus: you can take our own stress inventory at the end!)

#2: Taking Care of Their Health

The physical health benefits of regular exercise are so well documented that I won’t bore you with study after study here. Let me instead take this opportunity to remind you of how easy it is to support your employees as they search for ways to get in the minimum recommended levels of exercise each day or 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week.

What you may not realize is that the health benefits of exercise can still be achieved if the 150 minutes is broken up into very small increments throughout the day. Yes, 10 to 15 minutes of movement two to three times each day is enough. So you can start to see the math add up on allowing flexible schedules for walk breaks, or short group exercise class opportunities, as viable ways to help your crew move more.  

#3: Taking Care of Your Turnover

A corporate fitness center falls squarely under the “Employee Benefits” category, and the link between benefits and turnover has been well studied. Turnover, although regarded by some as a positive for business (fresh ideas, new energy, lose the dead weight, etc.), is still expensive.

  • This Gallup report outlines how to predict employee turnover, and points to pay and benefits as one of the top five predictors for employee turnover.
  • This Forbes article puts the spotlight on how treating employees well by providing them with access to “resources that support well-being and performance” has a positive but difficult-to-quantify impact on employees. The article spotlights the Virgin HealthMiles/Workforce survey, which showed that 87 percent of polled employees give consideration to employer-sponsored health and well-being offerings before they choose to commit to an offer.

If you’ve had enough of the statistics, reports, and research, perhaps you’re ready to dig in on the options for creating a corporate fitness center. Click below to access our three-part series that focuses on mastering the business case for creating a corporate fitness center, scoping out the size of your space and budget, and planning for a successful worksite fitness environment.

Guide to Successful Corporate Fitness Centers

Topics: corporate wellness employee health benefits corporate fitness centers ROI corporate fitness centers; return on investement productivity

Corporate Wellness: Of the People, By the People, and For the People

What’s happening in corporate wellness programs right now could be characterized as something of a revolt. Well, revolt might be a little dramatic (don’t think Arab Spring), but perhaps it’s more appropriate to say that those who are the target of carrot/stick employee wellness strategies are pushing back.

They’re pushing back on what has been conventional wisdom for a while: that health-risk assessments and biometric screenings are central (dare I say foundational?) to a sound, data-driven corporate wellness initiative. Employees are pushing back on penalties for not playing, and they’re pushing back on programs that brand failure for anyone who doesn’t achieve arbitrarily selected thresholds for biometric markers. They’re growing intolerant of workplace cultural norms that scream hypocrisy in the face of company wellness policies.  

As someone involved in the world of corporate health, you’d think I would land squarely on the side of gathering the data and using it to capture ROI. But I don’t; it’s just not that black and white.

Why All the Numbers All of the Time?

What I’m seeing in the industry is that corporate wellness providers bow to the number-focus of the CFO or the CEO and communicate in ROI-speak that uses words and phrases like engagement and human capital. To the untrained eye, you’d think “engagement” and “human capital” would have something to do with…well, humans. But it turns out, most of the time they have more to do with participation quotas, biometric thresholds, and productivity benchmarks than with the actual people who need tools, resources, and support to make healthier choices.

Wellness vendors position and market themselves by spouting figures and “facts” (and I use that word loosely), quoting studies and experts (should I use that word loosely, too?). They put into print ridiculous statistics that have ridiculous consequences—all in the name of numbers, data, and ROI.

Raise Your Hand If You Launched a Career in Corporate Wellness to Calculate ROI.

Accountants are passionate about numbers. Fitness specialists are passionate about people. Seriously, most of us got into this business because we were passionate about forming relationships with people so that they would trust we had their best interest in mind when we suggested resources that would help them make healthier choices. As an industry, we’ve largely forgotten our roots, which grew from wanting to help people.

So who’s to blame? Maybe this isn’t the CEO’s fault; maybe it’s just the way of the world. Maybe it’s the almighty dollar we should be blaming. (I predict a comment that blames the government.) Who knows, maybe it’s my fault. I don’t know where the blame goes, but I don’t think it really matters at this point. We’ve simply swung the pendulum too far onto the numbers side of the equation and we forgot about the people.

You know, the people—the individuals who have complicated, busy, overwhelming and typically unhealthy lives. Like the 56-year-old woman with high blood pressure and back pain who is raising her grandchildren and who has no time to take care of herself. Or the single working parent who works by day, goes to school by night, and who is doing everything he can to ensure his daughter has a better life. He struggles to find time to grocery shop, not to mention cook a meal. And then there’s the hourly call center employee who feels hovered-over by her supervisor, who smokes (though she wants to quit but isn’t sure where to start), and who is pregnant with her first child.

These Employees Need Our Help.

They need a relationship with a wellness professional who cares more about the individual accomplishments of the few than the participation quota of the company. They need someone to stand up and say, “I care about you, and I am here to listen to you, to help you find the tools and resources you need. I’m here to help you celebrate your successes and pick you up when you falter on your path to better health.”

Because at the end of the day, if we don’t move the needle on the health of the individuals, then the corporate strategy means nothing. If the only behavior we incentivize is for people to go get their wellness forms signed so they can “get cash for doing it,” we’ve missed an opportunity.

what's wrong with wellness

Topics: corporate wellness employee wellness employee health and wellness ROI data collection corporate fitness centers; return on investement businesses demanding work schedule

Why Capturing Corporate Fitness Center ROI Is Like Spotting a Unicorn

unicornFact:

Generating reliable and accurate ROI on a corporate wellness program (I mean the whole thing--biometric screenings, absenteeism, presenteeism, HRA, wellness programming/activities, EAP, etc.) is really, really, really challenging. It requires lots of money, and lots of really smart people who’ve done that kind of work more than once or twice.

Fact:

Piecing out the impact of your corporate fitness center as a standalone element and then determining reliable and accurate ROI from that single piece of your overall strategy is, well, about as likely as spotting a unicorn.

You may be thinking to yourself, “But wait…I just saw an article on ROI for corporate fitness and that said 3:1 or 5:1 or 7:1 returns were possible. What’s with the unicorns and the impossibility of calculating ROI for corporate fitness?” It’s true that there is a continuous stream of articles about wellness ROI, and I suspect that there are business development teams for corporate wellness vendors who are armed to the gills with literature that “proves” why their service/product generates the best ROI for said client.

You see, there’s a lot of posturing in the corporate wellness market. The industry boasts some very powerful vendors--some of whom have the money and smarts to do the work required in order to generate reliable and accurate ROI. The industry also has a lot of other vendors who don’t have those tools, but who are still competing against those who do. Of this second group, there are two types: the vendor who reports ROI that is neither reliable nor accurate (unicorn anyone?), and the vendor who doesn’t report ROI.

Honestly, it’s time for employers to stop beating the ROI drum. (And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Read this article, or this one, or this one.)

ROI is hard to capture because corporate wellness is complex. There are a lot of moving parts, and to date, the industry has not been able to come together on metrics that are consistent. While this is true for most of the agreed-upon elements of a corporate wellness strategy, let’s just pull out corporate fitness to get a sense of the level of complexity we’re dealing with overall.

There are a variety of data points that can be captured for corporate fitness programs:

Membership:

Any vendor worth its salt will have some kind of prescreening process in place that, once completed, will allow the employee to join the fitness center. (Don’t just take my word for it; check out the standards provided by the American College of Sports Medicine in its Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines text.) Some vendors skip this process and everyone is instantly a member because they are employees. So the organization with this process instantly reports higher membership (100%!) than the vendor who requires a responsible process be completed prior to gaining membership.

Fitness assessments:

Field tests to assess the fitness level of a participant are highly variable and the chosen tests can sway the results depending on the population. It’s the nature of a field test; they aren’t as accurate as in the lab.

Visit data:

By now, software to track utilization is widely available at fairly minimal cost. However, if the business isn’t willing to pay for the software, fitness staff are left to track visit data with a manual tally. In either case, software or sign-in sheets, there are issues that can result in significant errors in data collection. Even if we forgive those errors or find a way to account for them, vendors count visit groups differently. “Frequent visitors” might be represented by members with at least one visit per month for vendor A, but vendor B may determine that at least one visit per week is required to achieve “frequent visitor” status.

Mixing those variables quickly creates a lot of inconsistency from one program to the next, making it exceptionally hard to compare apples to apples. Then you have other related data to consider—like gym membership subsidy and how to count employee-users of that benefit against or with your corporate fitness center users. Similarly, how do you capture the value, health benefits, and cost of employees who never step foot in the corporate fitness center but maintain their own exercise regimen at home?

So if your CFO isn’t going to sniff out ROI on your corporate wellness strategy or any of the individual elements like your worksite fitness center, what should you be looking to for data and outcomes you can believe? Rest assured, I’m not suggesting we revert back to all fluff and feel-good for employee wellness. As an alternative to traditional ROI, consider shifting your thinking toward value. To find out more about what I mean, check a two-part blog I wrote about a year ago where I outlined some ways to think about value from your corporate fitness center. You can read part one here and part two here.

If you're looking for how to build the very best corporate fitness center you can for your employees, consider our short webinar series:  The Guide to Successful Corporate Fitness Centers.

Guide to Successful Corporate Fitness Centers
Topics: corporate fitness corporate fitness centers corporate fitness managment ROI data collection corporate fitness centers; return on investement data

Benefits of Tracking Participation Data in Community Fitness Programs

senior living fitnessYou're senior living community is missing out on some important benefits if you don't have detailed data from your fitness program.  Read on to find out what you stand to gain by getting smarter about gathering and using data from resident participation in the fitness center and group exercise classes as well as evaluating resident participation in fitness center appointments and services.

Before we jump into benefits for the community, the fitness program, and the residents, we should note that the most common obstacle for communities digging into data is having a dedicated point person who can regularly support this effort on an ongoing basis.  While tracking this data is not rocket science, it has to become part of the fabric of your fitness program in order to be effective.  Certainly, a full system for this type of effort is part of what we bring to the clients we serve.   

[Related Content: Find out more about NIFS Staffing Services]

Benefits to the Community

Although it can be a challenge to determine the return on investment your fitness program is lending to your community, regularly tracking participation levels and establishing target goals for the program can provide solid stories that your marketing department can use to attract prospects. As you embark on setting up a data collections system with your fitness center staff, pull in your marketing team to find out what they think might be most helpful for their campaigns to reach out to prospective residents.  

For example, marketing can share with prospects and their families that XX% of the resident population are active participants in the fitness program or that XX number of residents regularly attend your community balance class. This hard data puts a backbone behind the legitimacy of your program for marketing to work with beyond the more common and generic messaging like this: “We have a lot of residents who come to our fitness center and balance class is their favorite!”

[Related Content: See what one of our Annual Reports looks like for a NIFS client]

Benefits for Fitness Staff

Ready…aim…fire! Without regular participation data to evaluate when deciding on your next fitness program, you may as well step up to pull the trigger and go straight from “ready” to “fire” without an opportunity to aim. The aim should involve looking at ebbs and flows in visits to the fitness center or participation levels in classes and creating targeted programs to increase the number and frequency of participants. Without the opportunity to aim, it will be more difficult to anticipate your residents’ needs.

Even worse, don’t keep a poorly attended program running just because you’ve always offered it. I guarantee you have at least one class on your monthly calendar in which participation has trickled off in recent months or even years. You may be saying to yourself, “Yes, but those three participants still really enjoy the class.” While that may be true, you may be neglecting a dozen more residents who have a desire for a different class while you are pouring resources into a sinking ship. Allow participation data to be a free resource to advance your community fitness program by allowing your staff to aim toward meaningful goals and hopefully more effective programs.

Benefits for Residents

The greatest benefit of all from tracking participation is how it can better serve the residents of your community! Everything that was stated in the previous section on benefiting the staff will of course carry over to benefit the residents through more meaningful program options. By tracking participation data, your fitness staff will be able to further evaluate who is coming to different classes or visiting the fitness center and how often they are doing so…and conversely, who is not! This is truly where relationships are made between the fitness staff and residents!

For example, the fitness staff will have the ability to note whether a three time per week balance class participant suddenly isn’t coming. A follow-up phone call to a resident noting their absence and welcoming them back makes a huge impact in resident adherence and satisfaction. Furthermore, targeted membership campaigns can be tailored to attract residents not currently participating in the program. Without the data to regularly report who is coming to what and when, these outreach efforts to residents would not be possible in a strategic and effective manner.

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We can help your community get started developing these data practices through NIFS consulting services.  Click the link below to find out more about this cost effective and impactful offering.

find out more about consulting

 

Topics: senior fitness management CCRC fitness center ROI participation data collection

Why Fitness Initiatives Fail in Corporate Wellness: Truth #4

ROIIn truth #1 of this four-part blog, I started to climb on my soapbox about measuring ROI in corporate wellness. (I’ll spare you the rant; you can reread the blog if you’d like.) Suffice it to say that I am not an expert at calculating ROI. NIFS is not an organization that touts ROI among our selling points. That’s right, I can’t tell you the return on investing in a corporate fitness center (and I sure as heck am not going to make something up!).

But don’t confuse our lack of skills for ROI analysis with a general lack of drive for data. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Ask my staff; they can just about recite from memory my key points on the importance of evaluating the programs they’re running and the services they’re providing to determine impact.

Here’s the thing about evaluation: truth #1, truth #2, and truth #3 matter a lot less when you aren’t taking the time to be strategic about what you’re doing with exercise programming for your employees. If you’re just going to slap spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks, why bother? There are too many tasks competing for your precious time to not implement your corporate wellness initiatives wisely.

Truth #4: Fitness initiatives fail as part of a corporate wellness strategy because evaluation of the programs isn’t incorporated into program design.

Raise your hand if any of these points sounds like something you want to do for your corporate wellness program:

  • Make the case for more money, more staff, more support, and more respect.
  • Spend time on programs that are really making an impact.
  • Drill down to the tougher issues in corporate wellness, like sustained participation.
  • Observe and act on trends over time in participation, completion rates, and overall impact for similarly situated initiatives.

With a comprehensive evaluation strategy in place for your corporate wellness programs, you can accomplish most, if not all, of those things. I know because that’s exactly what we do for our corporate fitness management clients.

A Breakthrough 

Several years ago, I spent a lot of time wracking my brain trying to figure out how we could jump into the ROI game. But I kept getting stalled at our lack of access to all the data, the variables I couldn’t account for, and my extremely limited knowledge of statistics. It seemed like there must be some door I needed to open that would reveal the secret formula I needed to get to the next steps. But I couldn’t find that door for my life.

Then I heard Ron Goetzel speak at the American Journal of Health Promotion conference. During his seminar he pretty much just came out and said it. I, me, myself, could not calculate ROI alone. I would need a team, and some (a lot of) money and it would be much broader than our small impact in a corporate fitness program.

After I got over a mixture of disappointment (I had been so sure I could figure it out!) and relief, I got to thinking about what I could do that focused on data and ultimately evaluated effectiveness of our programs and services. In the end, we built an evaluation framework that made sense for us and allowed us to (1) prove our worth for our clients who had invited us to manage their fitness centers as part of their wellness program, and (2) communicate better information to our members who were counting on us to help them improve their health.

Building the Case for Corporate Wellness

So let me spare you my investigational roller coaster because what was true for me is likely also true for you: you probably don’t have what you need to really calculate ROI from your corporate wellness program. But let’s face it, even the most generous of CEOs won’t throw cash at initiatives indefinitely. You will need to build a case for the effectiveness of your efforts early on. When you can begin drafting your initiatives with an end in mind where you set out SMART goals and then evaluate your progress against those goals, you have what you need to start building your case.

In our experience, though, it’s not just about setting goals and then looking back at the data to see if you achieved them. That’s only part of the evaluation framework. The other part is looking at impact, and impact can be measured when you look at your communication strategy, how effectively the program is run, and what participation rates and completion rates are.

When you start to piece out those specific impact-related elements, you can get a sense of opportunities for improvement that lie within your initiatives. For example, maybe you learned through a post-program survey that your communication strategy wasn’t focused on the best avenue to reach your designated population. Perhaps that group would rather receive a postcard invitation than an email. And poof—just like that you have some actionable data on which you can start improving the next offering. But if you didn’t plan out the initiative with the concept of offering a post-program survey that would assess program communication, you have no data on which to act.

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating here: We’re not experts at all things corporate wellness. But I strongly submit that if this evaluation strategy works for our corporate fitness initiatives, it’ll work for other areas of your wellness programming, too. And if you want to read more about the “how-to” of program evaluation, check out our blog: 4 Keys to Getting Wellness Program Data You Can Actually Use.

Looking for one resource that contains all four of these truths about why corporate fitness initiatives fail in corporate wellness?  Download our eBook for the full series.

CORP Initiatives

Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness corporate fitness managment ROI engagement

Why Fitness Initiatives Fail in Corporate Wellness: Truth #3

managing corporate fitness center liabilityIn this blog series, we’re focusing on why fitness fails as part of a corporate wellness strategy. The first two truths looked at how boring fitness programming is dying on the vine and how crucial multilevel organizational support is often missing for wellness elements that are low on the totem pole.

Before I jump into truth #3, let me provide a brief intro by way of a true story.

A woman joins a fitness center, signs all the required paperwork (including a waiver and release of liability), and embarks on her first studio cycling class. At the beginning of the class, she tells the instructor she’s new to the gym and new to cycling. So the instructor helps her get set up on the bike and advises the new participant to watch him (the instructor) closely for direction. Part way through the class, the instructor advises participants to stand while they ride. As this new member stands, the handlebars dislodge from the bike frame and the member falls to the floor. She sustains injuries that result in long-term chronic pain in her upper extremities.

She sues the bike manufacturer and the gym she joined. In the end, the gym walked away without financial liability to the plaintiff (although they no doubt paid their counsel significant sums to argue on their behalf). The court’s decision came back to the club’s use of a waiver.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you truth #3:

Truth #3: Fitness initiatives fail as part of a corporate wellness strategy because liability and safety are either overlooked or overanalyzed.

We live in a litigious society. There is no getting around that and businesses know it. The best you can do is make sure you’re prepared, that you’re practicing industry-accepted norms with respect to gathering and protecting health information as well as securing participant signatures on well-written waivers.  

Over- or under-responding to liability concerns will get you in trouble.  Below we look at each of those scenarios.

The Perils of Overlooking a Corporate Wellness Liability Policy

Sadly, despite the level of corporate policy and legal mumbo jumbo found in employee handbooks and on other business procedures, organizations sometimes fail to plan for their liability in connection with fitness opportunities as part of their corporate wellness strategy.

Nothing will shut down your fitness initiative faster than someone getting hurt in a program that wasn’t built with the right liability-managing procedures.

Yes, you should be using a well-written and easy-to-understand waiver for your walking program and your group exercise classes. Yes, you need to be thinking about how your liability carrier will react when they learn that you allow spouses into your corporate fitness center after someone has filed a claim. Yes, it is a good idea to have a corporate wellness policy about flex time that allows employees to exercise at work. It should also stipulate that their exercise at work is 100 percent voluntary and not subject to Workers’ Compensation.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been brought in to consult on a project to build a new fitness center as part of a corporate wellness strategy overhaul and the client has given no thought—zero, zippo—to how they will deal with their liability in the onsite fitness center. The thing about this is that there actually is a whole set of standards and norms for running a fitness center that, when well executed, well documented, and regularly reviewed, is part of a great quality and liability-management practice.

Overthinking Corporate Wellness Liability

While it is more commonly the case that liability is overlooked, there is also the potential to overthink your liability and thus end up paralyzing your programming. Far too many quality fitness initiatives are pulled off at businesses on a regular basis to allow your programs to get stalled by a legal team that is afraid to move. There is a happy medium on this issue and it lies in that place I described earlier: the one where you acknowledge the risks, you take the best steps you can to protect against them, and then you get on with it.

Once you find that balance in managing organizational liability with corporate fitness initiatives, you can put more energy back into developing creative programs (truth #1) and cultivating relationships with key stakeholders throughout the organization who can support your fitness initiatives (truth #2).

Up next, in the fourth part of this series, I’ll talk about the importance of moving beyond your “I’m not good at math” mantra to dig deeply into program evaluation in corporate fitness. (Yes, there’s math involved, but you can handle it!)

Looking for one resource that contains all four of these truths about why corporate fitness initiatives fail in corporate wellness?  Download our eBook for the full series.

CORP Initiatives

Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness centers ROI corporate fitness centers; return on investement engagement liability legal issues

Why Fitness Initiatives Fail in Corporate Wellness: Truth #2

In part 1 of this blog, I started with a gloomy portrayal of the mess many wellness vendors have made of the seemingly altruistic endeavor of corporate wellness. Okay, maybe corporate wellness isn’t altruistic; maybe that’s a little “Pollyanna” of me. But I think we can agree that one of the primary motives for implementing a corporate wellness program is to help employees improve their health.

And if employers are focused on improving employee health through corporate wellness, one of the elements they need in their strategy is opportunities for exercise and physical activity. Enter truth #1: Fitness initiatives fail in corporate wellness because they aren’t creative.

Let’s move on to truth #2:

support from leadership for corporate wellnessTruth #2: Fitness initiatives fail as part of a corporate wellness strategy because they lack multilevel support within the organization.

“Support” comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s about money; in other cases, we need to look at support through company health policy. And in still other circumstances, support comes in the form of hands and feet—actual people who are driving your wellness initiatives.

To the CEO, CFO, and COO: We cannot run successful initiatives without money. There is a lot we can accomplish with no more than brains and people power, but at the end of the day, we’ll need some money. Recognizing that and removing the hurdles for your health promotion staff to get basic funding will go a long way toward ensuring success.

If your organization is considering company health policies, but there is significant pushback about legislating what people eat or how they spend their break time, keep these thoughts in mind:

  • You’re not Mayor Bloomberg: You don’t have to get your policies passed through government or the courts.
  • Writing policies with some flexibility that allows employees to choose their path will resonate better than dictating your own 10 healthy commandments. For example, if you write a healthy food policy for meetings, you can allow employees to still have donuts and pastries, but their department will have to foot 100 percent of that cost. If they choose fresh fruit, whole-grain bagels, and low-fat yogurt, the company will significantly subsidize the cost of the food.

Following are a few key ways to find the support you need to ensure successful fitness programming as part of your corporate wellness strategy.

Find Your Fitness Champions and Put Them to Work

There is a good chance you have employees who are already passionate about regular exercise. Leverage their enthusiasm by anointing them as your fitness champions and providing them with enough support to invite those around them to participate in your corporate fitness program. Put those individuals on your advisory committees or wellness teams and empower them to use their experiences to positively motivate their peers.

Create a Fitness Center Reimbursement Policy

If you don’t have an onsite corporate fitness center, or your fitness center is not accessible to your entire workforce, implementing a reimbursement policy for fitness center membership may be an important addition to your wellness policies. Use the web as a resource for writing your policy; SHRM offers this sample fitness center reimbursement policy as a guideline.

Check with your health insurance provider. They may have a commercial fitness center network you can participate in that offers discounted memberships to your employees as well as countrywide membership for employees who travel routinely. You may also be able to negotiate company membership rates with commercial gyms in your area; most fee-based facilities have an established corporate wellness members programs for this purpose. You can find out more by calling the facility and speaking to a membership representative.

Require Fitness Goals as Part of Annual Performance Appraisals

Imagine the potential to truly move the needle on the health of your workforce by fostering an environment where colleagues help each other achieve their health-related goals. Consider the impact of successfully meeting those goals as a small piece of each employee’s performance.

Incentivize Participation in the Corporate Fitness Center

Help your employees connect the dots between your corporate fitness center and your overall corporate wellness strategy by incentivizing participation in the facility—just like you incentivize participation in other parts of your wellness program.

Provide Flex-time to Allow Anytime Workouts

Building a variety of physical activity opportunities into the work day will have the greatest impact if your organization supports a flexible schedule for participation throughout the day. Rethink the traditional workday to allow for increased access to exercise options. When you have a traditional hourly workforce (for example, call-center or manufacturing-based employees), providing flex-time will require some creativity and new thinking to figure out how to maintain business operations while your workforce has 15 minutes of paid daily physical activity time.

Subsidize a Walking/Running Club

Spring for t-shirts for your employee-driven walking or running club. Not only do the participants of the running club feel supported by their employer, they also become moving billboards for your organization that promote your interest in your employees’ health.

Manage the budget for this simple program by establishing club rules that allow for the company to subsidize participation in one (or two, or whatever the company can afford) road races per year. There’s a good chance you already have a champion at your organization who will spearhead this club; count on that person to take the initiative and to literally run with it.

You can’t do it alone. Seriously, you can’t. As you’re mapping out that creative programming we talked about with truth #1, also map out who can provide you with additional support both inside and outside your organization.

Up next: truth #3, which focuses on keeping your company out of legal hot water that could arise as a result of poorly planned fitness initiatives.

Looking for one resource that contains all four of these truths about why corporate fitness initiatives fail in corporate wellness?  Download our eBook for the full series.

CORP Initiatives

Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness ROI corporate fitness centers; return on investement engagement

Why Fitness Initiatives Fail in Corporate Wellness: Truth #1

Let’s face it: There’s a lot wrong in corporate wellness today. If you read this article on Forbes.com that summarized a 2013 RAND report on corporate wellness, you might be depressed. Or worse, you might be ready to throw in the towel on your business strategy for improving employee health. 

It's tough not to be disillusioned. This is an industry with a lot of mixed messages that vendors aren't working to clear up.  There are the over-simplification statements, like one vendor who promoted a “got engagement” message, as if we could simply add an ingredient to generate engagement. (I already ranted about this concept once; you can read the blog here.)

Other vendors are so bent on reporting and marketing positive ROI that they don’t do their homework on the tricky science of capturing true ROI. Their reports of 5:1, 7:1, or even a 10:1 return send mixed messages to buyers in the corporate wellness market. (For more on my thoughts about ROI, check out this blog.)

In truth, we’ve probably overcomplicated it; corporate wellness strategies can be fairly simple to develop. There are some critical health-related components that I think are required for a sound strategy. These include opportunities for the following:

  • Exercise or physical activity
  • Nutritious and delicious foods
  • Tobacco-free environments
  • Stress resilience education/support

And all of those components should be built on the idea of creating a successful environment where employees can thrive.  A number of elements need to be in place to create opportunities for employees to access that healthy list. Those elements vary by client, and truth be told, we’re not experts at all of them.

The bulk of our work in the last 25+ years has been focused on helping individuals improve their fitness level throughout their lifespan. So I’m going to stick with what we know and provide a four-part blog with time-tested truths about why fitness initiatives fail in corporate wellness programming. Truth #1 is below. 

creative corporate fitness programsTruth #1: Fitness initiatives fail as part of a corporate wellness strategy because of a lack of programming creativity.

Why so many corporate wellness programs get stuck on the same old walking program is beyond me. The options for establishing fun, inviting, and effective programs are many. I’ve listed several below based on our experience working with clients of all shapes and sizes. This is by no means an exhaustive list; you are limited only by your own creativity.

If this list doesn’t jumpstart you, try searching the Internet and current literature, polling your workforce for what they want, and leveraging the passion of your avid exercisers to build a diverse program portfolio.

Start Walking Programs

Yes, I just bashed “same old walking program” above. The truth is, this is a simple and generally effective way to get employees moving. But you cannot just slap up a poster for “Walking at Work” and call it done. Consider options like the following:

  • What does participation and completion look like?
  • Will you include pedometers or advocate that employees enlist the support of a particular app to help them track their progress?
  • What are the start and end dates for the program? (This sounds so elementary, but programs with hard starts and stops are generally more effective than the ongoing—and typically unchecked—walking initiative.)
  • Do you want to enlist the support of web-based, fee-oriented programs to help with tracking or will you go with the wearables phenomenon?
  • How will you celebrate successes both during and after the program?
  • How will you support participants throughout the program?

Sponsor Group Fitness Classes

There’s something about community that makes group exercise classes appealing. For a lot of people, the only way they exercise is through a class format. Fortunately, this is typically a low-cost initiative, and if you’re willing to pass the cost on to the employee, it can be free for the employer. For more about corporate group fitness classes, download our quick read: 3 Keys to Adding Group Exercise at Work.

Beautify Your Stairwells

Honestly, think about the last hotel you were in. Did you venture to the stairwell to get from your second-floor room to the restaurant on the main level only to find that lighting was poor, and your safety in that enclosed space was questionable? I bet you backed up and reluctantly took the elevator down one flight. What a waste!

The same experience is being had by employees all over corporate America because our stairwells are dark, boring, uninviting—or worse, unsafe. You can overcome appearance issues by committing minimal dollars for brighter paint and improved lighting. Then cap off the capital improvements by launching a “Take the Stairs” campaign. Visit the CDC’s StairWELL to Better Health website for resources for building a robust and impactful stairwell campaign.

Add Lockers and Showers

If you’re serious about creating a variety of opportunities for your employees to exercise as part of your broader corporate wellness strategy, adding locker rooms to your campus sends a strong message.

And if you’re going to go so far as to install the locker room areas, you might as well at least give consideration to providing bike lockers. Serious cyclists won't use traditional bike racks because they don't keep their expensive equipment safe. Unless you want to see bikes stashed in offices and other workspaces inside your workplace, bike lockers deserve consideration.

Build an Onsite Corporate Fitness Center

As it turns out, installing locker rooms is kind of the gateway drug to doing bigger projects to ensure the success of fitness initiatives in connection with your corporate wellness strategy. Recommendations around accomplishing this significant undertaking are too much to outline here. For more information on the basic considerations for building a corporate fitness center, you can download our webinar series.

 Webinar Series: The Guide to Successful Corporate Fitness Centers

The outline above isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s enough to get you started so that your fitness initiatives avoid the lack-of-creativity trap that seals their doom.  Up next, truth #2: Look for information about how stakeholders can help your fitness opportunities either sink or swim.

Looking for one resource that contains all four of these truths about why corporate fitness initiatives fail in corporate wellness?  Download our eBook for the full series.

CORP Initiatives

Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness program ROI corporate fitness centers; return on investement engagement