Do Corporate Gym Memberships Work?

Earlier this year, the effectiveness of corporate gym memberships was called into question when it was revealed that Australian taxpayers spend $12 million annually on the fitness regimes of their public servants.

Because the links between wellness and productivity are well understood, the focus of this debate went beyond the fact that gym memberships were being subsidised. Instead, citizens were angered by the reality that thousands of government employees do not have to prove that the $100 to $600 they receive annually for fitness and weight loss purposes, is actually being used to benefit their health.

In terms of organisational wellness, this raises an interesting question. Is simply offering a financial incentive enough to prompt a community of employees into improving its physical and mental state?

 

Modern corporate health schemes go beyond the one size fits all approach of the recent past.

Since exercise positively influences mood, creativity and professional performance it follows that the complimentary or partially funded use of fitness facilities does improve wellbeing and, in turn, boost productivity. However, such results can only be obtained by those employees who actually make use of the resources on offer.

Given that 63% of the adult population here is overweight or obese and that one third of Australians who adopt January gym memberships have forgotten them come winter, it seems likely that well-intended workplace health initiatives often aid the fit in becoming fitter, without necessarily doing much to ensure that those employees who are most vulnerable to illness ever truly commit to making better lifestyle choices.

In 2014, research conducted by Buck Consultants found that 47% of Australian companies offer some form of health promotion service to their employees, yet, strikingly, only half of these initiatives had measurable outcomes. Such revelations have led experts to question the power of many existing workplace wellness programmes because without data to suggest their value how can employers know their investment has been worthwhile?

The future of organisational health is multifaceted. Modern corporate health schemes go beyond the one size fits all approach of the recent past by recognising that not all businesses face the same challenges when it comes to employee wellbeing. Workers who are primarily involved in manual labour for example have very different fitness requirements to those in more sedentary positions. And even within individual organisations, each employee will be at a different stage of their personal health and fitness journey.

WorkScore helps companies to assess the health status of their people and identify where exactly their health and wellbeing needs are. This information empowers employers, allowing them to develop targeted, more holistic wellness programmes which actually boost performance.

Inevitably, the relevance of corporate health initiatives comes down to how you define success. If being able to state that your company has some form of wellness programme in place is the goal, then a basic fitness package may suffice. But if your intention is to utilise your investment to enhance your workforce and advance your organisation, then it’s time to develop an empirically sound initiative with the ability to produce real results.