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Why you shouldn’t start an office fitness class if you want a well workforce

Four reasons why a fitness class won't improve the wellbeing of your employees

Is it time to ditch the workplace fitness class?

Among other things I am a personal trainer, and fitness classes are my ‘thing’ (I am a so-called millennial after all and just one job won’t do). They’re buzzy, bring people together, create a sense of team and push people to do things you didn’t think you were capable of. Sounds like your business could really benefit from putting on a fitness class, right?

But here I am and I‘m categorically not going to prescribe a bootcamp as a solution to improve the wellbeing of a workforce (please insert <yoga/pilates/running club> as appropriate). There. I’ve said it – at the risk of losing clients…

AND HERE ARE MY REASONS THAT FITNESS CLASSES WON’T CREATE A WELL WORKFORCE.

1. IT’S AN EASY, ‘SHOWY’ FIX.

One class a week isn’t going to counter eight hours a day of sitting at a desk, grazing on sugary snacks. But hell, it looks good when presented the idea to the Board. Box nicely ticked!

2. IT ONLY BENEFITS A FEW: WELLNESS PROGRAMMES SHOULD BE A BUSINESS WIDE.

But realistically only a small proportion of your workforce will attend a fitness class. Life, confidence, disinterest and overworking get in the way of mass participation. And once the novelty wears off, numbers will dwindle to the hard core few. The good news is, those few will feel great and will have created their own little community. But if your objective is to improve the wellbeing of all your people, you will have fallen flat by just having a fitness class.

3. IT IGNORES THE REAL PROBLEMS.

Stress, overworking, email culture, poor nutrition, and financial insecurity, disengagement – all structural factors that impact on our fundamental human needs. A fitness class just won’t fix this for everyone.

4. IT TAKES RESPONSIBILITY FOR WELLNESS AWAY FROM THE EMPLOYER: FOR ME THIS IS A BIGGIE AND IS IN TWO PARTS.

  • Firstly the employer may be seen to be setting it up, but it’s the person leading the fitness class that builds the relationship with the people taking part. I’ve run many classes where someone is leaving the company and is more sad about leaving the class than the employer.

  • Secondly, many employers think their work is done once they set up the class.They go off and find another box to tick, leaving the class to dwindle in size because they are not doing anything to help the instructor recruit more people into their fitness community. But at least they said they did it. And if it fails? Well it must have been because the appetite wasn’t there among the people.

SO, WHAT DO I RECOMMEND TO HELP IMPROVE THE WELLBEING OF YOUR PEOPLE?

1. GENUINELY SHOW YOU CARE ABOUT YOUR EMPLOYEES.

Talk to them to find out the barriers to wellbeing not what they think is a ‘good idea’. Most people think fitness classes are good idea. But most won’t take you up on it when it comes down to launching it. I can almost guarantee that only a small percentage of your people will get passed session three. Not because they don’t want to, simply because they just won’t.

2. ADDRESS THE FUNDAMENTAL ASPECTS OF WELLBEING BEFORE DOING THE EXCITING BITS.

Sounds boring, but if someone is stressed and time poor, they simply won’t engage in the activities you have planned. And maybe a fitness class will be a good idea once you’ve addressed any mass needs on what the employer can do to encourage people to live a healthier, happier life while in work.

LIKE ANYTHING ELSE, PLASTERS WON’T FIX SOMETHING THAT IS BROKEN.

If you’re serious about wellbeing in your business, it takes commitment and should not be seen as just a fitness thing. Fitness classes are a great add on as part of a bigger scheme. If you are interested in finding out more about how wellbeing can live and breathe in your organisation, contact us at Belong for a chat.

Jennifer Evans is a brand and engagement strategist and started the be:human collective – a network of experts that believe that business should be designed around humans. She is also an NLP wellbeing coach and personal trainer.

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