BlogCorporate Wellness

Spending Corporate Wellness Dollars Wisely

In the world of corporate wellness, finding programs that employees will use and enjoy remains a constant challenge for companies. Organizations are spending an average of $700 per employee, per year – from their insurance carrier or internal operating budgets – on programs that just don’t deliver results.

Take big-box gym subsidies, for instance. Nearly half of companies pay for or contribute toward a gym membership for employees – and they pay whether their employees use the membership or not.

But only one out of three people with a company-sponsored gym membership use it on a monthly basis. Some may never set foot in the selected gym. It may have only one location, or maybe a few at best, making access inconvenient and therefore a barrier.

Unfortunately, even if it is convenient, some employees are not “gym goers,” so organizations end up rolling out a fitness program that isn’t attractive to employees that need it the most. Still, big box gym memberships remain the third-most common wellness program offered by employers today.

On-site wellness centers present a similar challenge – people who aren’t already active won’t use them. Lack of qualified personnel to orient them and the idea of having to stay on work premises outside work hours can work against the objectives of a wellness program. Not to mention the significant investment companies make when they build an on-site fitness center, only to learn that the return on investment is just not there in most cases.

In the past, these options have been the norm for corporate wellness programs. They allow the HR department and other decision-makers to check the corporate wellness box and move on. But the programs aren’t fulfilling a wellness program’s purpose of helping employees to be more active and healthy, inevitably wasting dollars.

Employees crave a more personalized wellness experience. They want to try the new fitness studio that opened up down the street from them, or try the latest workout trend. Until recently, corporate wellness programs weren’t flexible enough to easily allow employees to have many choices in their fitness.

As the former director of St. Vincent’s HealthWorks, I recognized the need for employees to have options and variety in our wellness program. As a result, we implemented a digital worksite wellness platform that allowed our employees to attend classes at local boutique fitness studios and used our wellness budget to do so.

The employees loved it. Peerfit provided them with variety that a big box gym couldn’t offer, giving them access to over 50 fitness studios in Jacksonville that would normally require them to hold a membership to attend a class. This flexibility empowered them to choose workouts that were most interesting to them and offered an experience for all fitness levels, so it appealed to a broader spectrum of our employee base.

After just six months, engagement in our corporate wellness program increased drastically. We had 537 employees enrolled in the program after just six months and 185 were using the benefit each month. Only 204 employees were enrolled in our old gym subsidy and only 45 of those were active.

With the change, St. Vincent was able to learn not just who was using our wellness program, but how they were using it. The data-rich platform provided information on which studios employees visited and how many times per month they worked out.

Our incentives for engagement changed too. After reviewing which employees were using the class credits, periodically we gave additional credits to more active employees to reward them for their participation.

The best part – we were only paying for those employees that used the program. It was personalized, trackable and employees actually used it. Overall, it was a much better spend of our wellness dollars.

As corporate wellness professionals, it’s important to look at these programs as an investment – not just something that you throw money at. Find something that works for all of your employees, not just the few who are already going to the gym.

Investing in your people will not only improve their health, but the health of your company by helping you retain top talent and decrease turnover.

Emma Maurer

Emma Maurer

Emma Maurer is director of enterprise health for Peerfit, which helps companies redefine wellness by providing access to personalized fitness experiences to drive engagement. She previously worked as director of St. Vincent’s HealthWorks, which provides corporate health and wellness programs to employers in Northeast Florida. Visit Peerfit at www.peerfit.com.

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