Nearly half of U.S. employees are coping with burnout, according to a 2023 survey from Eagle Hill Consulting. In addition to personal struggles, burnout negatively impacts the workplace through increased health challenges, reduced productivity and higher turnover.
As you seek ways to reduce employee burnout, remember the power of physical movement to improve mental health. Even short periods of activity can significantly boost mental well-being, according to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
The employee benefits consultancy JP Griffin Group notes the mental health improvements of employees who regularly exercise:
- Increased energy
- Improved mental outlook
- More resilience
- Stronger focus and concentration
- Higher sleep quality
- Healthier stress levels
Fitness benefits are wide-ranging and growing. For the best results, tailor your benefit offerings to your employee wants and needs, workplace culture, and workforce demographics. For example, employees in an office setting may have different needs than remote workers. The rise in online fitness options during the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted this.
Popular fitness benefits include:
- On-site workout spaces, equipment and classes
- Gym and pool memberships, subscriptions and discounts
- Reimbursements for fitness events such as 5K walks/runs and CrossFit competitions
- Subsidies for home gym equipment
- Virtual classes for on-demand instruction on cardio, strength training, tai chi, martial arts and other physical activities
- Yoga classes
Selecting fitness benefits is the first step. Getting employees engaged can be as big of a challenge. Use the following tips to increase the utilization of your fitness benefits.
Encourage employees to be active. Communicate the importance of taking time for self-care and physical movement. Get leadership and employee champions to promote and participate in your offerings. Workplace support increases the odds that employees will schedule movement into their daily routines and take advantage of your benefits.
Remind employees to start small. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, as well as twice-weekly strength training.
But no matter how great the potential health benefits are, these recommendations can sound daunting to employees who may not have exercised in years. Encourage them to start with simple physical movement, and build from there. Any amount of movement is a healthy step in the right direction.
Consider all abilities and fitness levels. Your workforce likely includes a range of physical abilities and interests. If you have avid weight lifters and marathoners, support their efforts. But it’s also important to reach employees with mobility issues and those who are new to fitness. Providing stretches and light exercises that employees can perform while seated can increase your reach.
Connect employees with similar interests. Fitness benefits that bring employees together can strengthen personal bonds and improve collaboration. Exercising with others also encourages accountability and adds to the enjoyment. To facilitate employee connections, organize a walking group, a softball team, a morning stretching group or a “Secret Squat Society.” You can also plan departmental or companywide challenges, such as tracking steps and highlighting how many combined miles your staff has walked.
Celebrate victories. Your employees are more likely to engage in activities when they see others doing them. Celebrating individual achievements makes people feel good and encourages everyone to get moving.
Use your company newsletters, emails and other communications to bring attention to employees participating in a charity walk or marathon, hitting a personal record for weightlifting, or participating in a local ninja competition. Employee spotlights could include a photograph and interview detailing a fitness interest, how they got started and the health benefits they have achieved.
Explore your benefit options
For more ideas on fitness benefits, talk with your insurance broker or benefits adviser. In addition to examining fitness benefit options, they can help you communicate offerings to employees to increase appreciation and utilization.