The provision of a workplace gym raises the bar when it comes to office perks, but careful planning is needed for these places to succeed, says Cyril Parsons.
06 January 2020 | Cyril Parsons
1. Count the numbers
It pays to carry out the appropriate research to make sure that the new facility is perceived as a genuine perk and will be regularly populated. If nobody uses the gym, it's not a real benefit.
The team should be canvassed in the early stages when workplace studies are carried out and assessments are being made. A lot depends on the size of the company. For instance, if you have 450 members of staff and 275 are keen to have gym facilities, it's a green light - depending on space and budget.
Even if just 20 per cent of the staff are interested, there is still the potential to make a good investment. It just means that the facilities don't need to be as ambitious. You can work with that 20 per cent to identify the basic equipment requirement - drill down to what they really want and budget accordingly.
To deliver something meaningful, you need to know what the end product means to the team.
2. Check the equipment selection
Just because a workplace gym is on trend and within budget doesn't mean that it is right for everyone. A cross section of employees should be taken into account.
A company with large numbers of older employees, for example, might prefer a workout space that provides more focus on health, wellbeing and downtime, rather than rigorous exercise. The workplace study plays a key role here.
There are some simple ways to guarantee that the space appeals to the many and not the few. Introduce a mixed range of equipment in the first instance. Gym equipment is big and bulky so rent - don't buy, and don't get locked into any long-term contracts. This gives you the opportunity to see what gets used and what's ignored so you can change the selection accordingly after a suitable trial period.
Be careful not to overfill the space. Allow room for the option to host different types of workouts and classes. Larger companies may want to budget for an external resource, such as a weekly yoga or Pilates class, on the premises. Leave yourself physical room for some manoeuvre and you can create a more organic space.
3. Create a wellbeing culture
Workplaces that focus on employee wellbeing are essential to building the employer brand. Installing a new gym is an effective way to do this - but the gym should be just one part of a broader wellbeing culture.
There are many ways to reinforce this culture and to demonstrate a real commitment to staff wellbeing. Offices are generally becoming more people-focused, with nurturing elements of biophilic design and quiet spaces for employees to recalibrate and take time out.
Make sure that you have an optimum amount of these spaces for mindful activities and downtime. Prayer rooms are also welcome in the mix.
4. Maintain enthusiasm
Gyms are notorious for being enthusiastically populated in the first instance, with a tendency for that popularity to wane. Workplace teams can motivate staff to use facilities by setting up exercise groups to encourage the social aspect and provide some support.
Workers can be incentivised by time. Instead of the gym being a break from the working day to be taken at lunch or at the beginning or end of a day, one session a week could be taken during working hours.
It's also an idea to invest in the accoutrements to make the gym more attractive and accessible - adequate shower facilities and changing areas, healthy snacks and vending options and water stations to keep individuals on track.
For employers looking to forge ahead and score points in a competitive recruitment market, the gym, done properly, is an investment that should pay off. Members of staff are likely to perform better as they gain from the positive effects that exercise allows and this will enhance productivity, supporting a company's successes in the long term.
Cyril Parsons is joint managing director and co-founder of design and workplace consultancy Office Principles