Non-standard rewards Part II: Gym memberships

by Stephanie Zillman19 Mar 2012

Broaching the topic of health with employees can be tricky, and a good approach may be to firstly promote health through general awareness programs, and then gauging the wants and needs of your employees. Otherwise, offering gym memberships as a perk may be a waste of money.

According to Jane Wagstaff from healthcare specialist Medtronic, the first step in any corporate wellness framework is to firstly gauge the requirements of your workforce. After promoting healthy lifestyles as a company value, you can then build on the project by adding additional strategies and offerings. “Once they’ve done the health risk assessment and you’ve got their attention, they are more engaged than they were before,” she says.

Wagstaff warned that offering ‘one size fits all’ gym memberships may end up being a waste of money, as many employees won’t use it. Indeed according to Corporate Fitness Culture, while HR have been proactive in implementing health and wealth initiatives, such as discounted or free gym memberships, these initiatives have largely misfired. Less than 20% of Australians have a gym memberships, and of those, just 10% go on a regular basis. “The problems with traditional corporate wellness programs is they don’t work! Human resource and senior managers believe the problem is caused through lack of funds, resources or industry knowledge. This often leads to managers providing safe and easy-to-implement programs which they think employees want [but] lead to poor take-up rates and no longevity.”

Instead, an organisation could offer employees a dollar amount to spend on anything health-related: ballroom dancing lessons, tennis rackets, Zumba classes. “We had a benefit in place where we offered subsidised gym memberships, and you get a percentage of people that take that up. But the feedback was that a lot of people don’t want to go to the gym. When we expanded it to $400 to spend on health however people wanted, the uptake was remarkable,” says Wagstaff.

The most successful corporate wellness programs identify employee needs through basic health and fitness questionnaires, and then address the organisations needs by providing variety and importantly, motivation.


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