Why You Should Offer Your Employees a Gym Membership Benefit

April 20, 2019

Workplace wellness
Jonathan Thompson

For many companies, certain health benefits — like medical, dental and vision care — are expected by their employees. At the same time, employers are becoming increasingly aware of the usefulness of employee wellness programs. A particular perk that is becoming more and more commonly offered is the gym membership employee benefit. How can this be effectively implemented in your workplace? How do gym memberships complement other employee wellness programs benefits for both employers and employees?

Why It Works

Before discussing exactly how to roll out a gym membership employee benefit program, it's important to understand why you should give this perk serious consideration. Although plenty of companies around the globe offer some form of a workplace wellness program, the sad reality is that most of them are doing it wrong. According to The New York Times, the standard strategies used by many employers — things like financial incentives and contests — can make some employees feel alienated and undervalued in the workplace. Individuals who deal with eating disorders or related conditions may also have difficulty coping with the pressure generated by events like weight loss contests.

Instead of sponsoring these short-lived and potentially problematic initiatives, then, most experts recommend cultivating a culture of wellness in the workplace. Put simply, this involves giving employees the time and resources to make healthy decisions for themselves, which is where the gym membership employee benefit comes in. By simply letting your employees know that they have the option to pursue healthy habits, your company could see an increase in morale and productivity, while also decreasing medical expenses in the long-term.

How It Works

But, as with most things, there are a few different ways that you may decide to go about offering gym memberships to your employees. Depending on your circumstances — and those of your employees — each of these strategies has their own unique pros and cons.

First, the most obvious option involves simply paying the membership fees for any interested employees at a local gym. In order for this approach to truly work, though, there must be a quality gym close enough to your workplace that your employees will want to go there. In addition to the health benefits, though, this strategy would give you the chance to essentially partner with a local gym. Typically, gyms will have some sort of corporate wellness plan wherein the membership belongs to the business rather than individual employees. If this is available, that gym membership would be a non-taxable benefit — making it easier to process financially. Depending on the deal you work out with the gym, it may work better for you to have things set up so that your employees never pay anything for the gym, or receive a reimbursement at some point during the year.

Similarly, the other common approach is to simply provide your employees with a discounted gym membership. This tends to work well for smaller businesses or companies that are just starting to explore employee wellness programs benefits. For example, the nutrition company ALOHA — with just 47 employees — offers a monthly gym reimbursement of $50 in addition to other benefits.

Finally, larger companies like Microsoft and Google often find it worthwhile to simply have a gym onsite. While this does represent a significant upfront investment — plus any required maintenance — owning a private gym in your building could make it much more convenient for your employees to regularly exercise. Since they don't have to leave work in order to hit the gym, your employees may workout more often, which will also improve their productivity and morale. And that's good for everyone.

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