By Kathy Russell, ALSC
Googleplex (Google’s global headquarters) has seven fitness facilities on its campus in Mountain View, California. While most businesses aren’t large enough for that many gyms, major corporations such as Staples, Symantec and Verizon Wireless have opened fitness facilities at their headquarters. Smaller companies are also investing in simple workout rooms. What is driving the trend and what are some considerations companies should make before following suit?
Benefits of Good Employee Health
There are numerous reasons for promoting healthy employees. When employees are healthier, sick days are fewer. Insurance premiums are also starting to be tied to wellness programs. People perform better on the job after exercise. Difficulties can arise, however, in helping employees get to the gym with work-life balance challenges and lack of easy access to off-site fitness centers. Providing a convenient, on-site exercise facility, even a small one, can make the difference in helping employees go to the gym occasionally.
Providing workout time during workday hours has benefits for employers. Employees that have time during the workday to exercise have lower stress levels, improved cognitive performance and are less irritable. If the exercise space is nearby, it is easier to squeeze that time into the workday.
Talent Recruitment and Retention
With unemployment rates dropping, employee recruitment and retention is the latest business hot topic. As corporations recruit employees from out-of-state or even other countries, fitness facility benefits can be an incentive for recruits to relocate; knowing the new job will incorporate their fitness routines. Corporations are competing with each other for new hires, and exercise facilities are a relatively inexpensive benefit that can lower the cost of insurance premiums.
The old adage can be true – those that play together, stay together. Allowing space for group exercise creates camaraderie and community. This, in turn, helps ensure employees continue exercising, when they have encouragement and accountability. Providing workout space sends a message that managers and employers care for their employees’ well-being, which helps creates loyalty and company pride.
One issue companies with a fitness facility face is that they may not be fully equipped to enter into the fitness business. Managing a gym may include maintenance, security and staffing. Businesses also must decide if personal trainers are part of the benefit. Fitness centers such as Snap Fitness prove that facilities can be accessible 24/7 without staff, but businesses may want someone present for liability and security reasons. Equipment and HVAC/mechanical maintenance is an added responsibility, as well as cleaning and laundry. The fitness center management industry has arisen to address this need. Companies can hire outside management groups to provide facility oversight as well as health program development and marketing. This allows the company to focus on the business for which it was originally created, rather than fitness management. In smaller cities where management groups may not yet be available or necessary, training existing facility maintenance staff for the unique needs of exercise areas may be necessary.
Kathy Russell is a Project Architect with ALSC Architects and a registered Architect in Washington and Montana, with over 20 years in the industry. She has written articles for SF Gate, ModernMom.com and EHow as an architectural expert, and also has her own blog focused on teaching kids about architecture.