Business of Well-being

Creating the Right Fitness Facility For Your Company - Part 1

If you have followed the progression of this column from the previous two installments, we discussed identifying the culture of your company and helping to craft an identity for your company. By now, you have begun thinking about what programs you can install at your company and just how can you prove to the CFO that they will not only not be a burden to the bottom line, but also help to shift some revenue back into the corporate books.

If you are fortunate to work for a company that is more progressive in its thinking regarding employee benefits and entitlements, chances are you have at least gotten a foot in the door with the CFO and are now faced with the daunting task of what type of wellness program would be the ideal fit-something that a large percentage of the workforce will find appealing and useful. Now, do not just rush out to the local sporting goods store and buy a few treadmills and dumbbells.

You will wind up paying much more than necessary and chances are they will be the wrong items for your needs. Before you can even begin to entertain the idea of equipment, you have to find out what will be the most used and popular program for the employees. The best way to obtain this data is by creating a simple survey distributed to the entire company, including management, that will allow them to take part in designing the wellness program that they will hopefully be taking advantage of. Topics to be included on the survey should cover the following and this is just barely scratching the surface:

  • Employee diet/nutrition habits
  • Alcohol/tobacco consumption
  • Stress ( causes and symptoms)
  • Exercise routines (frequency/type)
  • Family health history
  • Likes/dislikes regarding exercise
  • Employee expertise in exercise ( yoga/aerobics instructors)
  • Willingness to participate in programs/teams/events/committees
  • Hours of operation/involvement

Now that you have collected the data from this survey and are beginning to form a sense of what the consensus reveals, you will have to put all of your analytical skills on display as you initiate the rough outline of your program. Of course this means meeting with the CFO/CEO at this point and give them a briefing as to where you believe the plan is heading. You will know right away if they are on the same page or if you need to revamp your plans to gain the good graces of your management team again, which is not always an easy task.

Keeping It Simple Is The Key

In the beginning phase of any program, the acronym KISS is the golden rule. Translated and slightly cleaned up, it stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid! Do not even think about attempting to rip out four offices and turn the space into a state-of-the-art workout facility. It will be used heavily the first week and then will become just another piece of furniture, taken for granted, by the majority of the employees. Think about how excited you were to get that crock-pot as a wedding gift; now, when was the last time you used it?

Instead of costly renovations and modifications, try utilizing an open area that can be equipped with a few dozen inexpensive mats for stretching. Entertain the idea of getting some local certified fitness trainers. Make sure they are certified and experienced before they ever set foot in your facility and have them teach morning and evening exercise classes as a way to gauge the interest of your workforce. Keep the classes simple as the more complicated dance classes and hip hop style aerobics classes have a small following, despite the numerous infomercials you see on TV, and will discourage far more employees than it will encourage.

I am a huge proponent of "Lunch and Learn" seminars where fitness experts, nutritionists, local physicians, physical therapists, massage therapists and alternative medicine practitioners can give 30 minute presentations covering the field of their expertise. Quite often, these seminars spark interest in those who might not have been exposed to the ideas presented before. If just one employee who previously had not been participating in any form of exercise begins to take a yoga class on a regular basis, you have just cleared a hurdle of Olympian proportions.

Think of the snowball effect that can have with fellow inactive co-workers. From these humble beginnings, you can garner a sense as to where the program is heading. In some cases, things never mature past these initial steps. This failure can be attributed to a host of reasons; the culture of company is the polar opposite of well and healthy, the person charged with administering the program was ill prepared or over their heads in the responsibility, the program was designed improperly or was not the right program for the company, and even the possibility that peer pressure from superiors in the company who do not embrace the wellness culture put a downward drag on the involvement of the program.

Even if things do not mature past these humble beginnings, if you do have a group of employees that take advantage of whatever small program that has been implemented, at least you can have a small percentage of "well" workers that will cost you less in benefits costs over the long haul. And, like the little tiny crack in the dam, over time and with the right positive pressure, a great surge of water, or in this case, participants can flow.

The Next Step In The Right Direction

If you have planned well and things indeed do progress past this first phase, where do you go next? Does your facility have adequate space to handle a dedicated fitness facility? Do you have restrooms equipped with showers so that employees can grab a mid-day or before-work exercise session and not feel self conscious heading back to their cubicle?  Is there someone who is going to staff this exercise room and provide the expert instruction required to safely oversee workout programs? This last query is a huge liability concern, as you do not want to offset any financial gains you can realize with a wellness program by having to pay additional workplace liability premiums.

Maybe you have even investigated the idea of contracting with an offsite wellness facility, although I can attest from experience that the level of employee participation drops significantly as does the quality of the fitness programs that they are involved in and the results when employees are faced with travelling to a gym.

Keep It Moving

I can hear the wheels turning now and your excitement level is increasing. You want to get your company involved in a solid, cost efficient, employee wellness program. You are sold on the ideas of decreasing absenteeism and in many cases "presenteeism" with changing the old ideals about what is considered a luxury or a perk, and what should be considered an absolute must for every office and corporation that pays for all or some of the health insurance benefits of its employees.

Even if your company does not pay some of these benefits but is concerned about the amount of productive work time lost to sickness or chronic health concerns you can see why this is so important. With this column, you should have a good idea as to what steps you need to take in getting the ball rolling. In the next column, I will dive into just what you can do to actually set up that workplace wellness center. Until then, keep moving!

About the Author

Phil A. Lalli; BA/APFS, a native of East Northport, New York, is a Fitness Consultant and Professional Fitness Trainer. He currently resides in Tampa, Florida with his wife Bonnie and their 2 whippets who are part time pet therapy dogs and full time 38 mph couch potatoes. Questions, comments or suggestions? Phil can be reached at

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