As a fitness equipment supplier, it's easy for us to say that every company should have a staff gym. Frankly most people would expect us to say that. But since we built our own staff gym at head office in Edinburgh last year we've seen the benefit first hand. The gym has constantly been in use and our employees are exercising more often than ever. The question is; why is that good for us as a business?
This article explains a few of the reasons why your company could save money, become more productive and create a better working environment by taking a proactive approach to employee health and fitness.
Staff Gym: Cost Saving
1. Reduce Absenteeism
The first and most obvious cost saving your company could see from the introduction of a staff health and fitness benefit scheme is a healthier workforce. Simply, people who exercise regularly are generally healthier than those who don’t. As a result of being healthier they are less-susceptible to catching common illnesses, therefore taking less time off work and saving you money! A study by Aviva , found that 83% of companies who had added health and fitness benefits saw a decrease in sickness absence as a result.
2. Reduces Stress
Stress and depression related issues are unfortunately a far too common cause of absence from work, especially in high pressure business environments. A recent survey by a UK gym chain found that relieving stress was one of the 4 most common reasons for going to the gym, alongside losing weight, building muscle and increasing fitness.
That might be surprising, but the science of it speaks for itself. Working hard 9am-5pm, 5 days a week can be stressful and often this is caused by stress atrophies in the brain especially the hippocampus, which is partly responsible for memory (explaining why you tend to forget things when you’re stressed). Raising the heart rate increases blood flow and relieves these, as well as releasing hormones like norepinephrine into the body that improve mood and brain function. 
3. Cut Healthcare Costs
In the US, where healthcare provision is a far more prevalent as a factor in employment contracts, a workforce that exercises regularly is an obvious cost saver. Even a company offering health and fitness benefits like a gym can have a significant impact on the cost incurred in healthcare provision. In the UK though, with an increasing number of companies offering private healthcare plans for employees it is in the best interest of the company to make sure staff are taking care of their health.
Staff Gym: Boosts Productivity
There are a whole host of reasons why installing a staff gym can have a positive impact on your company’s productivity, we’ve explained our favourites below!
4. Exercise Increases Brain Power
As we mentioned above, exercise can release hormones in the body which improve cognitive function. Scientists have shown that regular exercisers produce more of the chemicals that the brain needs to perform functions including multi-tasking, memory and problem solving . The same Aviva study which found evidence to show that investment in workforce health and fitness increases attendance showed that 89% of the companies, who introduced these benefits, also saw an increase in productivity.
Swedish research has found that a group who allocates 2.5 hours a week of work time to physical activity can sometimes yield the same level of productivity as an inactive group who continue working for 2.5 hours more. 
5. Increase Deep Sleep Time
Another piece of the puzzle that is key to leading a healthy, happy, productive life is sleep. It is well known that the more deep sleep you can get during the night will help fend off stress, sickness and disease. But what people often don’t realise is that there is a vital relationship between exercise and sleep. Studies have shown that competitive athletes exhibit more stable sleep patterns and that insomnia patients have seen their symptoms improve after introducing moderate intensity exercise to their treatment [5,6].
6. More Motivated, Happy and Energetic Employees
Again, exercise science backs up the theory that employees who exercise regularly have more energy when they are at work. They are normally more alert and less likely to be unproductive towards the end of the day or early in the morning because of fatigue. According to the NHS; even a single 15-minute walk can give you an energy boost, and the benefits increase with more frequent physical activity . Having more energy at work, combined with more sleep and improved brain function can kick start a positive cycle whereby employees are motivated to improve their performance. A study has also found there to be a causal link between happiness and productivity; a sample of ‘happier’ individuals were found to be approximately 12% more productive than the control sample.
Staff Gym: Improves Work Environment
The general working environment is a major factor in both the success of a company and the satisfaction of its employees. There is a variety of ways in which the presence of a staff gym can positively impact an organisation’s working environment. We have touched on some of these below.
7. Retention & Recruitment
Obviously an on-site gym is a key part of the staff benefits programme for many employers and is seen by many employees as one of the great ‘perks’ of their job.
However, a staff gym as a retention tool works in a more important way than just being present in the employees mind of benefits they will lose if they decide to leave the company. When staff who have been part of a workplace fitness initiative are feeling better about themselves physically, mentally and performing better in their job it would be quite unusual for them to make the decision to leave, unless there were other factors at play.
The same can be true at the other end of the opposite end of employment cycle, when trying to attract new employees! The presence of a staff gym or fitness centre can quite easily be the deciding factor for a prospective employee who is torn between 2 different job offers. It’s not uncommon for someone to accept an offer for less money in favour of a friendlier, more positive and healthy work environment.
8. Job Satisfaction
Retention is closely linked to the fact that fit and healthy employees, who are performing well and have low levels of stress, can be expected to have fairly high levels of job satisfaction. Obviously satisfaction is impacted upon by other variables, however it’s perfectly fair to make the assumption that healthy, stress-free individuals who are productive, energetic and successful will be fairly pleased with what they are doing in their current job.
9. Team Building
Many fitness experts are adamant that working out as part of a team, or with a partner can make you less likely to quit, more motivated to train and more likely to achieve your goals. The gym can be a very social environment, especially where there may be group exercise sessions or in free weights areas where working in pairs is of benefit. It’s likely that a portion of the gym users within your company would adopt this approach and form training groups and partnerships, either within their existing teams or with employees from other departments. This can help improve internal relationships as well as acting as something of a team building exercise.
10. Company Image
Offering staff health and fitness benefits, especially investing in a fitness centre or corporate gym can make a real statement about your company and the value it places on its most valuable asset; people. Investment in staff health and wellbeing can be a popular move internally amongst your staff and can also reflect well on the company if the investment is picked up by industry or local press.
9 of the Top 10 in The Sunday Times “Top 100 Big Companies To Work For” rankings have either an on-site gym or subsidised off-site wellness programmes.
What Can You Do?
If building a new on-site fitness centre isn’t a realistic option for you at the moment, we’ve come up with some ideas to help you make some cost savings, improve staff productivity and your work environment.
- Gym Membership Allowance or Partial Reimbursement
- Approach Existing Facilities about a Corporate Membership Scheme
- Healthy Lunch Programmes that offer discounts on well balanced meals
- Bring Someone in to Provide Free Fitness Education
Once you have a gym, there is a challenge in making sure staff engage with the programme and make best use of the facility. Here are a few of our favourite examples of how you can take the benefits you experience from the staff gym to the next level!
Introduce Some Competition – This could be individual, inter-departmental or even inter-organisational! This can provide some people the extra motivation they need to stick at the gym or to try it for the first time. It also acts as a great team builder.
Extra Lunch Break for Users – As an incentive for people to use the facilities during the working day, you could offer an extra 15 minute break for those who have been training. As well as providing an incentive to those who may not be likely to train regularly, it breaks down one of the barriers people normally report - Not having enough time to exercise during the day.
Membership Contribution Exemptions - Employees could be asked to make a monthly payment to support the facility that is deductible from their wages. Quite extreme, but on the condition that they make use of the gym twice a week, they could become exempt from this payment. This would reward those who are actively making an effort to improve their health and wellbeing.
Want to Find Out More about Corporate Gyms?
If you're interested in talking about the possibility of installing a fitness facility at your place of work, please get in touch with one of our expert gym designers on 0131 335 3145 or send us an email.
Anytime Leisure is one of the UK’s leading independent fitness equipment providers and specialises in providing fully bespoke gym solutions for clients of all sizes with variety of needs and objectives.
Anytime has installed corporate facilities all over the UK and for an extensive list of companies including Google, Sony, Hewlett Packard, Royal Bank of Scotland and ECG Facilities. Read more case studies >
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2. Exercise Psychology (2013), 2nd Edition, Dishman R., O'Connor P., Tomporowski P., Human Kinetics Inc.
3. Differential effects of acute and regular physical exercise on cognition and affect. Hopkins M.E., F.C. Davis, M.R. Vantieghem, P.J. Whalen, D.J. Bucci, Neuroscience, 2012 Jul 26;215:59-68.
4. Employee Self-rated Productivity and Objective Organizational Production Levels. von Thiele Schwarz U., Hasson, H., Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2011; 53 (8): 838
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6. High exercise levels are related to favorable sleep patterns and psychological functioning in adolescents: A comparison of athletes and controls. Brand, S., Gerber, M., Beck, J., et al. Journal of Adolescent Health, 2010 Feb; 46 (2): 133-141.
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9. The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For 2014, O'Connell D., The Sunday Times, http://features.thesundaytimes.co.uk/public/best100companies/live/template