First Steps: Building Out Your Onsite Fitness Center

One of the biggest barriers people face when trying to incorporate fitness into their daily routines is simply making the time. On-the-job demands and competing priorities push fitness to the bottom of the list. As an employer, how do you best support employees in their journey toward increased physical activity? It starts with improving access – bringing fitness directly to your employees with an onsite or nearsite fitness center.

Fitness centers are an important piece of promoting healthier populations and supporting a culture of health. They’re also key talent recruitment tools and retention agents.

Healthy Goals Begin with a Clear Vision

If you’ve made the decision to implement an onsite fitness center, the next step is determining what it should offer to serve your population best. It’s important to remember your employees are unique – a one-size-fits-all approach won’t cut it. So, to deliver the most value, ask yourself the following questions to ensure success.

1) What’s the big picture goal?

Deciding to build an onsite fitness center for your employees should be guided by your end goal. What do you hope your fitness center achieves? If employee health and wellbeing is your goal, a staffed onsite fitness center positions your organization to bring physical activity to those who would not otherwise join a commercial or community fitness center. With a high rate of chronic conditions and significant associated costs, offering a fitness center with educated, professional staffing can improve accessibility and supply the support system needed to get sedentary employees moving – and ultimately impact healthcare costs.

If your goal is to remain or become an employer of choice, an onsite fitness center is a competitive benefit that has become an expectation in many job markets today. Implementing an onsite fitness center creates a high energy environment. If the fitness program is driven by innovative, culturally relevant offerings to engage your population, the center becomes a hub for the community and a connection point among employees. A staffed onsite fitness center creates a sense of belonging and fosters company pride. In turn, making it an excellent employee retention tool.

2) Do you have the space?

The size of your population plays a significant role in determining the amount of space you’ll need in your fitness center. Regardless of your facility’s size, the creative solutions for building out your space are plenty. Begin by exploring your options. Will the fitness center will need to be dropped into an existing space? Is there another floor available in the building, or would it make sense to build a fitness center space from the ground up? Ideally, your center is in a highly visible, highly trafficked area of the workplace. With careful planning, even spaces such as basements, loading docks, and parking garages can be future homes to fitness.

The build-out of your space will be dictated by a variety of factors, including the geographic region and campus – is it in an urban or suburban area? If you’re located on the West coast, your members may desire outdoor programming and recreational spaces to take advantage of the temperate weather. Employees living and working in urban environments might prefer smaller, more intimate group training or studio fitness options and may be more accustomed to exercising indoors.

3) What type of experience do you want your employees to have?

Before opening the doors to your onsite fitness center, it’s essential to determine what type of experience you want to offer to your employees. Will programs be highly structured or a more choose your own adventure experience? How do you envision your population utilizing the space – for workouts, recreation, or relaxation and recovery? Do you seek a high-touch or high-tech environment? You might even consider a mix of the two. How will you meet the needs of both experienced exercisers and sedentary novices? Determining the desired employee experience will help shape the location and size of the facility, the types of equipment, and technology you will use.

Another consideration is the level of staffing and services provided. It’s important to determine how to reach different segments of your population. You can do this through a wide variety of physical activity, programming, and a comprehensive marketing plan. Creating a presence for the fitness center staff not only in the facility but on the campus will help reduce intimidation and generate a more welcoming experience for less practiced exercisers. Complimentary one-on-one fitness consultations, proactive outreach to non-users, and physical activity motivational programs support the adoption of healthy behavior change. When deciding on programming, it’s vital to meet members where they are, no matter the fitness level.

Without professional staffing, your fitness center program will be more of a fitness room where the already active and motivated employees conveniently fit in their workouts. Consider how your staffing model will support the member experience that you seek. For a high-touch experience, provide a staffed reception area where each member is greeted when they arrive and depart. To manage and minimize risk, offer staffing during all hours of operation. Encourage equipment and facility orientations to help members properly use the equipment and select appropriate exercises for their health status. This will help them meet their fitness goals.

Also, if your members are less likely to utilize the center on weekends, you may only need onsite staff during weekdays. If you have team members who work remotely, offer virtual personal training or physical activity coaching video sessions. This provides a parity of services and engages your employees regardless of their location.

Gaining employee feedback via surveys is extremely helpful when determining your direction and strategy for the program. This assists in forecasting your staffing needs, as well as determining the programming and technology you need to deploy.

Support for Every Journey, No Matter the Starting Point

When developing your onsite or nearsite fitness center, seek the knowledge and expertise of partners to help you with your design and development process. There are many variables to consider when reaching your organization’s goals for a more active, more engaged population. Every member is at a different place in their health and wellness journey – whether it’s for those who are stepping into a fitness center for the first time or for others who wouldn’t dream of missing a day in their workout plan. With a little pre-planning and a vision, your fitness center will enrich your culture, strengthen your position as an employer of choice, and improve employee wellbeing.

Stay tuned for part two of this blog series, where you’ll learn all about the customization process that goes into creating your new fitness center.

Are you in charge of fitness at your organization? Get in touch – we value your questions and feedback.

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