Can the Corporate Fitness Center Make a Strong Comeback?
These days, many facets of work life are changing. But here’s one trend you may not have been expecting to see: The return of the corporate fitness center. Why is this happening?
Many employers are requiring staff to return to the office for at least several days a week. In fact, 77% of Fortune 100 companies have already adopted hybrid work schedules.
As a result of this shift, employees are expressing interest in reconnecting with colleagues they saw only on Zoom calls during the pandemic. With the days of forced remote work behind us, people naturally want to strengthen work relationships. And smart employers are responding in creative ways that build a sense of community.
This shift opens the door for a corporate fitness center comeback. However, the fitness facility of 2023 looks a bit different than you may recall from the past. Today’s corporate fitness center is becoming a community hub of sorts for employees who share an interest in health and wellbeing.
Inside the New Corporate Fitness Center
You’ll still see employees showing up at the corporate fitness center for individual workouts. But you’ll also see them participating in a variety of other activities such as:
- Small group training sessions
- “Buddy Sessions”
- Wellness challenges of all sorts
- Educational classes, seminars and series
Some are even involved in workshops with registered dieticians who are helping them embrace a lifestyle of holistic health and wellness.
In the broader health and wellness industry, boutique and specialized fitness gyms are already doing an excellent job of delivering programs like these. In fact, they’ve hit a new gear recently, primarily because they’re able to develop a “tribe” culture, where people work together and hold one another accountable for reaching their goals.
I think we’ll see corporate fitness centers fulfilling that same need in 2023. Here are 3 key ways they’re already rising to the challenge…
3 Fresh Corporate Fitness Center Moves
1. Growth in personal and small-group training
In the fitness centers we manage for clients, we’re seeing a huge surge in employees signing up for personal and small group training opportunities. As I mentioned above, this trend is largely driven by employees’ desire to reconnect and build deeper bonds with their colleagues. But another factor is involved here, too. People are looking for the special kind of accountability and support that comes with peer-to-peer programs.
As an employee at one of our client sites recently explained: “My workout motivation starts in the fitness center. I love my gym friends and the staff! We all need community, and the fitness center community is so important to me. I didn’t realize how much I missed being physically present here during these past few years.”
Requests for personal training are also exceeding pre-pandemic levels at many of the corporate fitness centers we manage. And we’re finding that employees are looking for more than just physical training during these sessions.
We know we’re serving savvier fitness consumers who have clear expectations about what they want to gain from membership in a corporate fitness club. And we’re expanding our scope to incorporate more facets of wellbeing into these programs. For example, we now include education and support for stress management, sleep education, and nutrition basics.
2. More collaboration with employee clubs
Partnering with existing on-campus interest groups is a great way to tap into audiences that are already connected and engaged. For example, we recently helped a technology industry corporate fitness center collaborate with multiple employee clubs for the company’s “Spirit Week” activities and annual 5K run.
Also, for one of our medical technology clients, we partnered with on-campus veterans clubs to engage members in customized fitness challenges. For Navy vets we arranged a rowing challenge, while Marines performed tire flips, and Army vets focused on push-ups. Then we pivoted the military fitness challenge to a 1k/5k run, so hybrid workers could easily participate from anywhere, anytime, depending on their schedules.
3. The rise of hybrid fitness memberships
I think we’ll also see corporate fitness centers get creative in how they deliver services to employees. They’re already doing this with so-called “hybrid memberships.” This relatively new kind of membership model gives employees a chance to tailor their wellness activities to their schedule.
Let’s say your employees work on a hybrid schedule where they’re at the office two to three days a week. On those days, it’s easy to workout at the on-site fitness center, where they get a great club experience as well as opportunities for social interaction. Then, on days when people work remotely, they can participate in virtual fitness activities from home.
This way, they can join live or live-streamed fitness classes, and also tap into on-demand content for convenient access to activities no matter where they’re located. Also, with these new hybrid memberships, they can now visit local yoga, boxing and pilates studios, so they can fit workouts into their schedule whenever and wherever it makes sense for them.
We’re seeing lots of enthusiasm for this model — combining on-site sessions, partner gym networking and at-home workouts — with the corporate fitness center as the hub of all these wellness activities.
The overarching theme here is convenience and simplicity. Whether employees are working on-site, remotely or in hybrid mode — we want to help them stay active and maintain healthy habits. Now, corporate fitness centers can support these goals in more ways than ever. Keeping things simple, accessible, and fun is the key to consistency.
I know from experience that with benefits, “more” isn’t always better. It’s really about benefits that are relevant, useful, and easy to apply. And with the advances we’re seeing in corporate fitness centers, I think wellness programs will soon become even more valuable and popular among employers and employees, alike.