As a corporate fitness professional, one of my favorite activities at the end of each year is to set aside time to look back at what has unfolded over the past 12 months. It helps to review what has worked for our clients (as well as what didn’t work so well). An open-minded, reflective analysis is always a good way to put things into perspective before considering new possibilities and mapping a game plan for the New Year.
As part of this process, I’m constantly tracking what’s happening with corporate fitness trends. So much has changed over the past few years, thanks to the pandemic and the increase in remote work, it’s important to keep ahead of what no longer seems as relevant or useful and what is gaining traction. And in looking toward the year ahead, all the signals indicate that much more change is still to come!
So, fasten your seatbelts and let’s look at how employers can prepare for the future. Based on trends I’ve been following, along with my direct experience with our teams and our clients in recent months, here are 3 emerging priorities that are likely to define corporate fitness in 2023:
1. More Personalized Training
Get ready for a big surge in employee demand for more personalized services — things like personal training and small group training. Multiple factors are driving this corporate fitness trend. For example:
Early in 2022, as people slowly started to emerge from a more sedentary pandemic lifestyle, I started hearing that employees were looking for help to get back on track with their fitness and wellness goals. Not surprisingly, during the Covid years, many people developed some unhealthy habits — especially in terms of diet and fitness. The isolation of working and living at home full-time didn’t help, either.
Many people are now looking to break out of that cycle and are longing for a stronger sense of community. So, prepare to see an upswing in more intimate training environments that give employees broader support and guidance, along with opportunities to connect with others and share their journey through community experiences.
Also, my clients confirm that employees are interested in wellness goals that involve more than physical workouts, alone. People want to get back in shape, but they also realize the importance of focusing on things like sleep, nutrition and stress management. And this means they’re increasingly interested in a more holistic approach to health and wellbeing. These objectives are often easier to achieve with programs that include individualized coaching.
Digital tracking tools can also be helpful in supporting people in their wellness objectives. Already, more than 20% of Americans are using wearables that provide convenient access to personalized health and fitness data. Many people want to use this data more effectively to develop tailored workouts and lifestyle management programs that will help increase their training efficiency, improve their daily habits and elevate their health outcomes.
2. More “Hybrid” Fitness Program Memberships
Another thing I’m starting to hear often from our clients is that their employees are looking for a seamless, connected fitness experience that aligns with their busy lifestyles. They want to workout where they want, when they want.
This is where “hybrid memberships” come in. These relatively new programs provide employees with a combination of corporate fitness center access and virtual fitness classes, along with partnerships with local yoga, boxing and Pilates studios.
With these hybrid memberships, employees can workout at their corporate gym, at home or on the road when they’re traveling—all with the convenience of one membership rather than having to cobble it all together themselves. It’s the best of all worlds. And it’s bigger than just a brick-and-mortar fitness center—it’s a program.
Here’s one example: Kevin is a financial services professional in Indiana who comes into the office three days a week. During those visits, he goes to the on-site fitness center to lift weights. Typically, he talks with several fellow employees while he works out. It’s a great social experience. On the other two weekdays he works from home. On those days, he works out with a virtual fitness class through an app that’s connected to his fitness center and the same staff he knows and trusts. Over the weekend, he takes a spin class at a local studio that contracts with his company through the hybrid health program. Again, this hybrid program lets Kevin work out where he wants, when he wants. It’s all built into his schedule!
Inclusive hybrid memberships like these give employees the convenience, choice and variety they’re asking for. Plus, it provides access to the kind of connectedness and community people need with engagement that is hard to find elsewhere.
3. More Active Time Outdoors
We’re also hearing loud-and-clear from clients and employees that they want to get outside and move! A recent survey from the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry and McKinsey & Company, asked employees this key question:
“In which sports/physical activity categories do you expect to see a lasting increase in participation vs. pre-COVID-19?”
Of the 12 categories listed as potential responses, 84% of survey participants picked “outdoor activity” as their first choice.
Obviously, survey results like these underscore just how massive the pandemic’s impact was on corporate wellness programs. Over the past year, some companies started to experiment with fitness activities and events designed to get employees outdoors. Now it appears that this trend is catching on and may be here to stay.
For instance, one of our clients — a leading insurance company — has invested in a mobile open-air fitness trailer from BeaverFit. This makes it possible for employees to participate in healthy outdoor activities on a daily basis. Combined with programming delivered by on-site fitness professionals, this open air program is flourishing. And workforce wellbeing is improving as a result of employee participation in regular activities with physical and mental health benefits.
Final Notes on the Future of Corporate Fitness
These three corporate fitness trends are only a few of the emerging ideas we can look forward to seeing in 2023, as the space continues to evolve. With more personalized programming, more flexible options, access to innovative digital tools and a broader range of creative fitness locations, employee wellness is poised to make an even stronger comeback in the coming year. I look forward to seeing other innovative trends emerge that we aren’t even thinking about yet!