What Businesses are Saying and Doing about Workplace Fitness

Jill Kinney, Founder/Director of Business Development, Club One Inc., San Francisco, Calif.

Companies around the globe, in different industries with different philosophies, are investing in employee fitness.

For Accenture, a company with a highly distributed workforce, providing its employees with fitness facilities and programs was a natural extension of their longstanding commitment to the health and wellbeing of their employees. That commitment is grounded in the philosophy that employees, who are healthy and happy and feel valued, form the most productive, innovative and loyal workforce possible.

For Dow Chemical, a manufacturing company with large numbers of shift employees, the conclusion was arrived at in more methodical fashion – based upon irrefutable data that showed how health and wellness impact the bottom line.

After seeing success with their early programs aimed at obesity, physical activity and tobacco use, Dow led a study among their employee base focused on the ROI of reducing their top 10 health risks. All of which can be helped through diet and exercise. And they found that by simply reducing each of those risk factors by 1% per year, they would save approximately $50 million over a ten year period – a 3:1 ROI. And that estimate “assumes the only benefit is changes in direct dollar expenditures for health care,” says Catherine Baase, M.D., Dow global director, health services. Dow also, estimated more than $6 million in “lost days” saved due to reductions in absenteeism. But for all those “studies” and “philosophies”, how do you get employees to exercise and get fit?

Fitness: How Convenient

Quite simply, you make fitness facilities easy and convenient for them. One of the most oft cited reasons why adults do not exercise is that they do not have the time. So companies that are serious about helping employees improve their health (while helping improve the bottom line) invest in workplace fitness centers.

An idea that is substantiated by Richard Cotton, PhD, exercise physiologist and spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. According to Cotton, "To get someone to exercise, we've got to help them carve out the time. Having a gym at your fingertips does just that."

Marty Shaver, a supply manager at Motorola in Palmer, Texas, would also agree. Before Motorola installed an on-site gym, Shaver was 30 pounds overweight with high cholesterol and no time between work and the long commute home to his family for a stop off at the local gym.

Since that time, however, Shaver has shed 20 pounds and his cholesterol is back in the healthy range. According to Shaver, he owes his healthy ways to the on-site fitness center at Motorla. "It's a huge convenience," says Shaver. "Instead of going down the stairs and straight out the door at the end of the day, I simply take a right at the bottom of those stairs and hit the gym for an hour."

All of this adds up to a strong argument to invest in workplace fitness facilities. As companies perform cost-benefit analyses to determine the ROI of such fitness centers, they should consider the tangibles as well as the intangibles:

  • Healthcare costs
  • Absenteeism
  • Presenteeism
  • Productivity
  • Morale
  • Turnover

The outcome may be much like those of the companies included in this article – from immeasurable benefits to the organization brought on by a healthy, motivated, loyal workforce to 3:1 returns from cost avoidance associated with health benefits payouts and absenteeism.

Information for this article came from these additional sources:

Goetzel, Ron Z. PhD; Ozminkowski, Ronald J. PhD; Baase, Catherine M. MD, FAAFP, FACOEM; Billotti, Gary M. MS “Estimating the Return-on-Investment from Changes in Employee Health Risks on The Dow Chemical Company’s Health Care Costs,” published in the Journal of Occupational and EnvironmentalMedicine

Doing Well through Wellness — 2006–2007 Survey of Wellness Programs at Business Roundtable Member Companies, 2007. Elizabeth B. Krieger, Working out at Work; WebMed Feature, 2002. Last reviewed 2005.

About the author:

Jill Kinney, Founder/Director of Business Development, Club One Inc., San Francisco, Calif.

Jill Kinney is considered an industry leader in the world of health and fitness. With more than 26 years in the business, she has earned her title as “America’s No. 1 Female Entrepreneur” by Club Insider magazine. During the past 16 years, Kinney has grown her fitness club dream into a $53 million business, with more than 2,800 employees. Club One currently owns 19 fitness centers, and manages 68 facilities in 10 states, and has been featured in Inc. magazine and The Business Times, ranking it among the Top 50 Women-Owned Companies, and Top 100 Fastest Growing Private Companies. Kinney has served on the Board of Directors for IHRSA, ACE and Operation FitKids, and is on the Advisory Board for Shape and Club Industry’s Fitness Business Pro magazines.