Collage of online exercise classes With many employees still working remotely, employers have had to get creative on how to build community distantly. (Photo courtesy of ClassPass)

Though the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge us in so many ways, more and more employers are realizing that well-designed corporate fitness and wellness programs can provide significant relief for their employees. A recent survey of 2,185 professionals from 19 countries found that 89% of professionals feel more productive during the workday after exercising and 96% feel considerably less stressed. 80% of professionals shared that fitness benefits have been essential in helping them develop new routines during the pandemic.

Related: ‘Healthy’ habits? It’s all a matter of perspective

If you are considering scaling or revamping your fitness and wellness benefits for 2021, here are the top five trends to have on your radar:

1. Customization and flexibility are challenging the cookie-cutter approach

The needs of your team can vary, and it’s important to provide a range of wellness options that cater to various members of your team. One team member may be interested in high-intensity morning bootcamps that raise their heart rate, while other team members may prefer to have guided meditations during lunchtime. Our needs are variable, especially with some professionals balancing childcare or working from bedrooms for the foreseeable future. Look for programs that provide a wide variety of offerings and appeal to members of your team with different goals, needs, and ability levels.

2. Private group fitness classes are on the rise

With many employees still working remotely, employers have had to get creative on how to build community distantly. There has been a major spike in the number of private virtual workouts for teams, with companies organizing live streamed yoga, HIIT and dance classes. Three in five surveyed professionals who have participated in a team workout report feeling more connected to their team afterward, and this trend is likely to continue through 2021 as we look for ways to foster connectedness. Consider organizing a midday workout for your team to change up Zoom happy hours and offer something more interactive.

3. Team challenges are driving engagement

Driving engagement, especially for new benefits, can be tough. However, I have witnessed people teams do a fantastic job of encouraging participation through company challenges. These challenges can be as simple as measuring which department has the highest level of engagement for a company program over a week. You can also design more complex challenges, such as a company bingo board that rewards employees who complete multiple activities like attending a guided meditation and taking a walk in the middle of the day.

Adding an element of fun can generate more participation and connectedness, and prizes such as a shoutout in a company newsletter or a $25 gift card can go a long way in brightening the day of a team member.

4. The lunchtime workout is in

For the first time ever, 12pm is the most popular time to workout. Our routines have shifted as our offices have moved into our living rooms. We are no longer commuting to work, walking around large offices, or doing walk and talks with our managers, and professionals are using lunch as the perfect stretch break.

Employers should select benefits that people can incorporate into their regular routines, and that will empower them to do their best work and develop habits that stick. Give your employees permission to step away from their devices, and to savor their lunch breaks. They can use that time to knock out a kickboxing class, and work the remainder of the day with renewed vigor.

5. Employees want to provide their input

Most of us are no longer seeing our teams face-to-face, and it is more important than ever to offer regular opportunities for employees to provide feedback on what’s working and where they need additional support. You can conduct brief, easy-to-complete internal surveys to solicit employee feedback on your wellness benefits, and to make adjustments along the way. For example, if you’ve offered a special workout for your team, ask your team what worked well and where you can continue to improve the program. By staying on top of employee preferences, you can better ensure program alignment and participation.

Look for benefits that will help your team to feel active, productive, rested and recharged for the year ahead.

Nicole Wolfe ([email protected]) is head of corporate programs at ClassPass, the leading global fitness membership. In addition to offering memberships to individual subscribers in 30 countries, ClassPass offers a robust employee wellness program that has reached one million employees across companies of all sizes since the start of the pandemic. Nicole works with businesses to design the most cost-effective, customizable and employee-centric wellness program available in the market, working to shift the corporate wellness landscape from calorie counting to comprehensive programs that truly reward health behaviors such as workouts, meditation and self-care. 


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