Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Using Wellness to Decrease Employee Turnover in Senior Living

NIFS | Employee Turnover | Employee WellnessTurnover in senior living is notoriously high for a number of reasons. One of the tools leadership can use to increase tenure for employees in community settings is offering balanced and thoughtful wellness programs. What follows are suggestions for how to elevate wellness in your corporate strategy so that your workforce understands you care about them beyond the day-to-day work they provide to keep the community running.

Employee wellness is about much more than a walking program.

How you position wellness in the organization can determine whether it sinks or swims. Physical health is only part of the picture. That's not to say you shouldn't offer a walking program. It can be a very simple way to help employees be more aware of how much they're moving during the day. But keep in mind that much of your community's staff members are on their feet most of the day serving the residents; a walking program for them may feel like "one more thing to do" in an already busy, service-oriented day. And giving everyone a wearable fitness tracker doesn't always communicate a "we care about you" message, either. The CNA scraping by on $12.50 an hour might rather have a small raise than a fancy wristband.

[Read More: Why Employee Purpose Could Be the Heart of Corporate Wellness]

Consider the health challenges across your workforce.

Your administrative/leadership team will have different obstacles in achieving good health compared to what you might see for your physical plant staff and nursing aides, and the community's approach to wellness needs and what it will take to address that range. The wearable/walking program I mentioned above is a good example of a well-intentioned offering that often falls flat for hourly staff. But, if you provide compensated exercise time for employees, you might be onto something in terms of a message that truly says, "We want to make it easy for you to live well."

Be careful if you intend to use biometric screenings and health risk assessments as the pillars of your wellness program. They have become hallmarks of a good "outcomes-based" wellness program in recent years, but that title may be misplaced. If you're just getting started on a wellness program for your community employees, it could be tempting to latch onto such screening tools as the place to begin. But there are challenges with these offerings that should not be glossed over.

Also keep in mind how important social determinants of health are for your workforce. The health habits that your crew practice at work are only part of the picture of how well they live. Where employees live can have a profound effect on their well-being. Access to healthy foods, reliable and convenient transportation, safe living environments, cultural norms and other issues have a strong influence for all of us on how they engage with healthy choices, and your workplace wellness program may be butting heads with those strong social factors. Maintaining realistic expectations about the ways your workforce can engage at work will help set your program on the right path.

Align your wellness strategy with the rest of your business strategy.

If your organization is already built on a model of caring for employees, infusing a message that you want to help employees live well should resonate positively. But if employees feel that the culture is punitive and as if their every move is being watched, "wellness" is quite likely going to sound like one more management hack designed purely to cut costs. Here are some suggestions for improving retention through a supportive relationship-based approach. You'll need to get the overarching company culture in place first before you add in a wellness component if you want your message about employee health to resonate with the staff.

Where to look next.

If you're more confused than ever about how to get an employee-centered wellness program off the ground for your workforce, you're not alone. The variable shifts, the wide range in roles (many of which are quite physical in nature), and the simultaneously gratifying and exhausting nature of the work you do, complicate how to both establish and deliver a wellness message and programming. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:

  1. If you don't know what makes your employees tick, start by getting to know them a little better. They may have interests they could share with colleagues that would buoy the whole department or organization.
  2. Connect with employees working in a variety of settings across the community to find out what would help them feel supported to live well. You probably won't be able to execute on all of the ideas, but you will likely get suggestions you couldn't have imagined on your own.
  3. Start small and with the right messaging. (Hint: You can craft the right messaging when you have information from tip #1.) Always lead with words and actions that communicate a desire to help employees live well. If you say it in words and your actions don't align, employees won't engage.
  4. Learn from other similarly situated organizations. There are communities out there doing this work with their employees, and they can help you avoid some of the pitfalls they've already climbed out of.

It's not easy work, but don't let that stop you. Doing well for your employees helps them do right by your residents, and that's a community where everyone benefits. Need a little more information to get your wellness program started in the right direction? Check out the blog below.

Blog: doing corporate wellness for employees

Topics: senior living staffing wellness programs corporate wellness employee turnover

When It's Time to Expect More from Your Corporate Fitness Program

GettyImages-873616226 (1).jpgCorporate fitness centers are pretty low on the totem pole for most organizations. And that's how they end up just "existing" with the rest of the benefit items; they're on the list of nice things to have, but there's nothing about the corporate fitness program itself that tells leadership it's really thriving or performing well for the employees. If that resonates with you and what you're seeing in your worksite fitness program, it might be time to change things up.

Here are three signs that indicate it's time to take a fresh look at what's possible in your corporate fitness program.


#1: If You Haven't Seen Your Fitness Center Staff Out and About...

...its time to check in on how the staff are serving all of the employees (not just the corporate fitness center members). While it's likely that your fitness center staff are well degreed and credentialed for exercise, they also probably have some skills for promoting other areas of health. If they're not leaving the fitness center to provide additional worksite wellness programming, it's possible they were told that their domain is the fitness center and they should not be doing other health-related programming in the building. That's an easy one to correct; have the conversation with them and see what they can start offering across your campus to support employee health.

One of the beyond-the-fitness-center initiatives our staff members provide allows the employees to put up a signal at their desks that they'd like a quick consultation with the fitness staff. In one case, it was fun stress balls that were the signal; in another case, it was little green army men. Employees picked them up at a promotional table along with a flyer describing the at-your-desk exercise service. Then at designated times, NIFS staff walked the work areas looking for employees who had left out their signals. They provided brief consultations and exercise/stretch recommendations for employees at their desks, and they dropped off a membership application for the fitness center. In just one offering of this program, our staff interacted with an average of 40 new employees each week and picked up 15 new fitness center members directly from their consultation conversations with employees at their desks.

#2: If You're Not Getting Monthly Updates on How the Fitness Center and Related Programs Are Performing...

...it's time to at least ask for the data to see what the fitness management provider can produce. If the vendor isn't in the practice of tracking at least monthly visit and participation data, you may want to rethink the partnership because it will be a steep hurdle to get them thinking about data collection if that isn't already part of their business model. In truth, you should be able to count on at least two types of data from your corporate fitness center:

  • Monthly fitness center numbers: Total visits, unique users, frequent users (we track 5 or more and 8 or more visits per month), along with appointment volume and group fitness participation.
  • Program outcome data: Executive summary–style reporting that shows key outcomes from the initiative along with a program overview and plans for improvement in the next offering.

#3: If No One Has Really Raved in a While About the Staff or the Fitness Center Programs...

...it might be a good time to confirm how strong of a relationship the staff members have with your employees. We believe the foundation of our successful corporate fitness center partnerships is relationships. While it can take a while to build strong connections, once established, you should expect to hear periodically from your employees about how the fitness center staff are doing great work, helping to motivate them to do more than they would on their own, etc. If you're not getting those kinds of comments, your corporate fitness program might be in a rut and it's time to breathe some new life into what's possible for your employees' health through an exercise program.

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Ready to dig a little deeper into what's possible for your corporate fitness center?  You're in luck - we have a whole guide on the topic designed to walk you through three key opportunities to build a more successful program.

Get Our Guide to Successful Fitness Programs

Topics: corporate fitness staffing worksite fitness employee health data

Three Tips for Improving Your Corporate Fitness Program

ThinkstockPhotos-186871442.jpgCorporate fitness programs in businesses all across the country have been doing pretty much the same thing, quite possibly for decades. The programs look very different, one from the next, but the basic premise is the same.

  • Employer: "We want you to be healthy. Here's [insert your corporate fitness answer here: a gym membership, group fitness classes, walking paths, an onsite corporate fitness center, etc.] for you to use. Go be active (when you're not working).
  • Employee: "I'd love to start exercising, but I don't know what's safest and most effective for me. Plus, I don't have much time, and clearly, I have work quotas to meet. It's great that the company offers these healthy options, but it doesn't seem like the right fit for me."

Read Now: Why Corporate Fitness Needs to Evolve

There's a real risk in corporate fitness that we only ever reach the folks who would be active regardless of whether there was a corporate fitness program. So the challenge for businesses becomes how to reach employees who are interested in exercising but who don't know where to begin. Get your organization started in the right direction with these three tips for improving your corporate fitness program.

Tip 1: Get the staffing right.

Finding the right staff to support your corporate fitness offerings is crucial to the success of the program. As an organization that provides this very service to businesses all over the country, we’ve written extensively on the topic. It’s no surprise that we think outsourcing your fitness staff is a great choice. However, if your fitness center staffing style is more of a DIY approach, definitely consider the tips in this blog, 3 Tips for Hiring an Active Aging or Corporate Fitness Professional.

Tip 2: Offer the right services.

There are core services that should be in place for a corporate fitness program to be successful:

  • Individual education through exercise prescriptions and fitness assessment and testing is essential. Both of these services, which can easily be provided by your qualified staff, provide a fantastic foundation to the employees who are fence-sitters about exercise—you know, the employees who want to try moving more but who aren't sure how to get started safely. Those are the very same employees you're trying to draw into the program; addressing their concerns and questions with tailored services is a great way to show them that the door to starting an exercise program at work is wide open.

Alternative to Personal Training -- Read More!

  • Incentive programs can help keep the fitness program interesting and are a fantastic way to help employees reach for better health beyond physical fitness. We've written about several of our successful incentives programs; click any of the titles below to find out more.

Employee Wellness Programming Beyond the Corporate Fitness Center

Making Fitness Fun in Corporate Wellness

Increasing Participation with SKELETONE

A Simple Way to Boost Participation in Your Corporate Fitness Center

How a Simple Squat Challenge Improved Corporate Fitness Metrics

Tip 3: Ask the right questions.

Anecdotal feedback and thank-you emails provide periodic indications of whether your fitness staff is on the right track with employees. But there's nothing like concrete bulk survey feedback to help steer a program in the right direction. Sure, there are problems with surveys, but in our decades of experience with managing corporate fitness centers, we increasingly find surveys to be a very helpful tool for setting our management strategy for each client. Here's how we use them:

  • We use them for specific programs to determine whether we're achieving goals with those programs. For more on our evaluation methods, check out this blog: 4 Keys to Getting Wellness Program Data You Can Actually Use.
  • From a program satisfaction standpoint, we've found surveys to be quite helpful as well. While the anonymity of them can sometimes leave our staff open to very negative feedback, the vast majority of responses are constructive and quite helpful for us in determining what our next year of program and service spotlights should be.

Want to learn more about how to make effective use of surveys to improve your corporate fitness program? Download our whitepaper.

Implement surveys to initiate change

Topics: corporate fitness data staffing exercise prescriptions fitness assessment incentives corporate wellness participation feedback surveys CORP Programs and Services

Avoid an Empty Corporate Fitness Center with These Ideas

B130001.jpgThere are a variety of reasons for you, as a business owner, to set up a corporate fitness center for your employees; employee recruitment and retention are certainly among them. Increasingly, access to some form of exercise at work is becoming an expectation. It’s also not unreasonable to build a corporate fitness center because you actually expect it will help your employees be more active, which can lead to a variety of individual health benefits and possibly some productivity and loyalty benefits for the business.

But establishing a corporate fitness center for your employees is not an “if you build it, they will come” phenomenon. After all, only about 15–17% of the U.S. population owns a gym membership. If you want your employees to have opportunities to exercise, dedicating some space on campus for exercise is a good first step, but it’s not the end of the story. Following is a checklist of steps you need to carefully consider to avoid an empty corporate fitness center and ensure your fitness center is set up for success, both for your business and for your employees.

Do you have the right collection of equipment and amenities in your fitness center?

I've seen corporate fitness centers that run the gamut from fairly bare-bones to spaces that would rival high-end clubs. Fancy matters much less than function. If you don't intend to provide expert staff in the space, you need to have equipment that your employees can use without instruction. Some of the newer functional training equipment isn't all that intuitive; be careful what you buy or only the most sophisticated exerciser will be able to put your equipment to effective use.

If you want to offer group fitness classes in your space, you'll need to have enough room to host the classes; consider 40–60SF per participant (don't forget to count the instructor!). Also keep in mind that your classes will increase volume in the fitness center and you'll want your locker room spaces to accommodate those peak-use times fairly well. With 28 years in the business, I can assure you that employees will stop coming if the locker room situation involves fighting for space.

Do you have the right leadership for the corporate fitness space/programs?

The single best way to maximize employee use of your corporate fitness center is to provide staff who manage the environment. Yes, there is a cost for that, but before you assume you don't want to pay it, consider the ramifications because here's how it plays out. Without staff to support and educate employees, the same 10% of your employees who exercise now are the ones who will use your fitness center. And the employees you're really trying to serve won't try something new in your corporate fitness space because they aren't sure what steps to take.

So committing to the fitness center space but not the fitness center staffing is building a gym for the employees who are exercising anyway. That's a pretty substantial investment for the employees who don't really stand to benefit from it.

Finding the right corporate fitness management partner doesn't have to be hard, and before you assume hiring out for that role is a horrible idea, check out this blog that addresses common misconceptions on outsourcing corporate fitness management. If you're still convinced your business is better off managing your fitness program in house, here are some suggestions for hiring your own corporate fitness manager.

Do you have a healthy culture that supports employees choosing to exercise during their time at work?

Employees spend more time commuting to and from work and actually at work than they spend anyplace else. Inviting them to exercise while they're already at the office may be our best hope for helping adults move more. But if taking a full 60-minute lunch break to work out is frowned upon by management, your corporate fitness center will stay mostly empty. If employees don't see their leadership making healthy choices a priority, your fitness center will remain a ghost town. It's not enough to have "break-time" policies written into your handbook. You have to lead by example and you have to make it okay for your management team to engage in the behaviors you want to see.

 Webinar Series: The Guide to Successful Corporate Fitness Centers

Topics: corporate fitness corporate fitness managment corporate fitness center equipment nifs fitness center management health culture staffing

Fitness Center Staffing, Hiring the Best

NIFS-staff-infographic-final.jpg
Topics: staffing corporate fitness management senior fitness management nifs fitness management staffing

Senior Living: Four Tips for Improving Your Resident Exercise Program

Truly, one of the things I love about working in senior living is the passion employees have for serving the residents who live in their communities. Despite variation in the physical spaces’ amenities, decor, and size, the culture of caring about the residents is consistent. The people who work in senior living are genuinely committed to getting to know their residents as a means of helping them live exceptionally well.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but the other half of my career is spent in corporate

wellness, where the bottom line often drives the conversation. And while I think employers do care about their workforce, that’s not their starting point for investing in any wellness initiative. So when I work with senior living communities on improving their programming ThinkstockPhotos-529580019-1.jpgand activities for residents, I’m often surprised at what an afterthought their exercise amenities and services are. The clear appetite to provide residents with the very best options for living just doesn’t square with what’s in place for resident exercise at the community.

 If this disconnect resonates with you and you’re looking to make a change, consider
improving your resident exercise program with the tips below as ways to live up to your commitment to build active living options for your residents.

 

1. Provide staffing in your exercise program.

Residents will not (I repeat, will not) use your exercise equipment and spaces without the right leadership in that area of the community. It’s not sufficient to simply offer exercise classes, nor is it adequate service to have a trainer in the gym a few hours per week to offer assistance on the equipment. You can hire your own manager, or you can work with a fitness management company like ours. For more information on how get exercise leadership right in your community, check out some of the blogs we’ve written on the importance of staffing.

2. Review and update your group exercise equipment when you can.

Fitness equipment isn’t cheap, but the items used for group classes are far less expensive than the capital equipment in the fitness center. For $5,000, you can buy one new treadmill, or you can buy a classroom worth of new resistance chairs. There are a lot of practical tools that group fitness instructors can use in classes to make them more interesting and more effective for the residents, and they aren’t that expensive. In your next budgeting cycle, make room for a few of these options:

  • Small weighted balls: Sets of the 1.1# and 2.2# work well.
  • Airex balance pads: Buy enough for each person in balance class to have one.
  • BOSU: Buy a few to use in stations on a strength or balance class.

3. Establish a cross-referral system between your fitness center and your therapy group.

If you have qualified staff in your fitness center and there is not already a relationship between that individual and your therapy team, building a bridge between the two is low-hanging fruit on the improving-services tree. Check out this quick read to learn why we believe integration of therapy and fitness is important for resident well-being.

4. Take a hard look at all of your senior wellness initiatives and how fitness folds into that set of programming.

It should be woven in seamlessly among other programs and services designed to engage rather than entertain your residents. If all programming is being carried off in silos, it’s time to take a fresh approach. If participation in programs and services is represented by the same handful of residents, it’s time to re-envision your offerings. If the activities calendar looks pretty much the same as it did last month, last quarter, and last year, it’s time to breathe new life into what you’re offering. Download this quick read for a series of questions you can use to evaluate the quality of your wellness programming

Find out how to evaluate your program

Topics: exercise group exercise senior wellness senior living active living senior fitness staffing