Updated: Jan 15, 2021
Although incentivising and rewarding your staff with a gym membership can feel like a good idea that addresses a very common problem, more often than not it's a waste of money and doesn't actually provide any value to your people.
In this post we're going to look at why that it is and look at some better options for both the business and the team.
To better understand this let's put it into context with something completely different to start off with.
Do company cars reward and incentivise current and potential employees? Of course they do, which is why so many companies offer company cars as a benefit.
But go back in time just over 100 years ago and you're unlikely to find any company offering cars as incentives. Why? Cars were not yet mainstream and more importantly nobody knew how to use them. No matter how shiny, rare and attractive a car was in 1900, they were essentially useless to the vast majority of people.
So let's return to gym memberships. Why is it so common to offer a gym membership as an incentive? Well it's no secret that as a nation we are becoming increasingly unfit. Virtually all leading causes of long and short term sickness are linked to a lack of physical activity.
So offering a gym membership is an obvious choice.. except, it's not a great one.
Why? because, for the vast majority of the population, providing a gym membership is like providing a rally car to someone who wants to learn how to drive.
They don't know how to use it, They're not excited by it, it doesn't help them solve their problems and it's not aligned to their goals.
Most people want to be healthier, they want to protect themselves from the musculoskeletal conditions commonly caused by sitting for hours a day, they want to be able to play with their kids and live long lives in good health.
Sure having a gym might help someone improve their strength and fitness, but for most it's useless... it's a rally car for a person that doesn't even know how to drive.
So what's a better and more obvious option?
Teach them to drive.
Let's remind ourselves of what most people truly want. To enjoy their lives, to not feel old, to be pain free, to be able to carry their kids, to feel confident, to do a good job and to feel a sense of belonging at work.
So how can we better help our people, at work, not experience the virtually inevitable joint problems that arise from sitting for hours a day? Here's what we suggest, before the gym memberships have even been considered:
a) Basic training in how to assess, improve and maintain joint health for life
b) A basic mobility routine to offset the negative impacts of sedentary life that can be done at work
c) An environment that allows, supports and encourages them to look after their health
Add this training and culture to your workplace and you just solved one of the major problems that modern work creates. You just made a lasting impact on the health of every employee that comes into contact with your business.
Instead of giving them a gym membership that might or might not get used, you provided them with powerful knowledge and insight they will use for the rest of their lives.
Instead of incentivising them with a 'generic gym membership you probably won't use after January' you're incentivising them with 'the training and environment to support your health and vitality as well as professional development'.
Teaching someone to drive costs less, means more and has a longer lasting positive impact on their lives than giving them a car.
Providing people with basic training in mobility as well an environment that encourages good health means more and has a longer lasting positive impact on peoples lives than giving them a gym membership. It also costs less.
As an employer you're in a powerful position to help your people solve new emerging challenges.. and benefit from it.
It's my prediction that over the next 5 years, as our work become increasingly creative and sedentary that the majority of organisations will adopt this approach. The forward thinkers will realise that their people perform better, are sick less and stick around longer when the employer shows that they understand the challenges and provides meaningful solutions. Are you going to be a leader or a 'catcher upper'?
p.s. I'm not against gym memberships for staff, I used to own and still directly support a few gym businesses, but don't neglect the basics!
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About the Author - Mike Jones
Mike served 5 years in the British Military then backpacked for 3 living in monasteries and studying cultures before starting his first business in 2016. His passion is helping individuals and organisations realise their visions with health, happiness and balance.
2018 - Co-founded Better Happy.
2016 - Opened Metta Box Functional Training Facility