Corporate Wellness: Adding Corporations to your Client List
By: Club Solutions Magazine
good business is always looking for ways to save money and cut back on spending, and in uncertain economic times, cost savings have become absolutely imperative. This is actually good news for health clubs, who are uniquely positioned to help a small business or corporation trim its bottom line by investing in health and wellness programs for employees.
Spending money to send employees to the gym or a nutrition class hardly sounds like a cost-saving measure but can save companies untold sums in reduced health insurance claims and lost work days due to illness. Disease and chronic illness cost the American economy as much as $1.3 trillion each year, reported California think tank The Milken Institute in a 2007 survey titled “An Unhealthy America: The Economic Burden of Chronic Disease.” The study found that about $1.1 trillion of the total cost came from lost productivity, while another $277 billion was spent on treatment each year.
Reducing the cost of lost work time and health insurance payouts is quickly becoming a priority for cost-conscious businesses. Corporate wellness programs will likely help this goal, though the benefits of a good program in action are revealing much further reaching perks for morale, performance and an overall improvement in the quality of life of the people involved.
What is corporate wellness?
As more evidence confirms employee wellness programs can reduce future costs, employers are coming around to the age-old idea that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Increased productivity and decreased spending ultimately lead to profitability; after all, healthier employees mean more people working and less costly insurance claims-which both mean savings for the employer.
Companies may be willing to invest in wellness programs that encourage employees to live and eat better, stop smoking, lose weight and engage in more physical activity when they understand the link between better habits and long-term cost savings.
“The corporate community is finally catching on that they cannot pay someone a good salary, stick them in front of a computer or a piece of machinery and keep them happy and healthy for 20 years,” says Brad Pilot, national director of Corporate Sales for Gold’s Gym International. He oversees account managers, who develop and maintain corporate wellness accounts for clients nationwide. “There must be a plan-work, life balance and the health of their employees is a big piece of a company’s success.” Having a plan that focuses on the total health of workers improves morale, as workers come to see their employer as an advocate of better living, not only for them but for their family members.
Nationwide Insurance, for example, offers employee access to a comprehensive corporate wellness program called My Health. Workers can get on-site clinical services, including individual assessments and occupational health information, as well as classes and free or discounted fitness centers for employees, according to Kathleen Herath, associate vice president of Health and Productivity for Nationwide. “Corporate wellness programs make health and wellness resources easily accessible and take the guess work out of trying to live a healthier lifestyle,” Herath says. “Employees appreciate not having to figure out how to be healthier on their own.” And so far it seems to be working. In three years, the obesity rate among Nationwide employees has dropped 7 percent, Herath reports. Smoking rates have also dropped and increases in healthcare costs have shrunk-overall the company has saved $5.3 million in health-related costs.
Workers at ARUP Laboratories in Salt Lake City take part in a similar program operated out of the company’s own on-site wellness center, where they can take part in 27 group fitness classes each week, as well as 15-minute fast workouts, massages and a weekly “Walk with the CEO” power walk, says Wellness Director Rebecca Fietkau. “Employees tend to feel more loyalty towards a company where they feel valued and empowered with education and resources to meet their personal health goals and balance their work/life,” she adds.
With all these benefits to employees, morale and a business’ bottom line, it’s easy to understand why companies would want to get on board. Entering your club into the equation can be relatively simple when you come to understand the services you already provide can be adapted to corporate clients.
Be The Solution
Health clubs are in a unique position to capitalize from the trend toward employee wellness because they already offer health and fitness services-key components to most corporate wellness plans, says Beth Loechler, National Director of Corporate Partnerships for Anytime Fitness. “Clubs of all sizes should realize they have a very valuable resource they can provide,” Loechler advises. “The objective for fitness organizations is to offer cost-effective programs that are both versatile and flexible in order to support the busy lives of employees.”
One of the best ways to take advantage of the corporate wellness club is to reach out to companies and find out about what they may need in terms of services or features. Anytime Fitness offers its corporate clients a wide range of health and nutrition expertise, from low-cost, regular information for employees to fitness packages and training programs located at clubs or at the place of employment.
Some larger corporations may house their own wellness centers, run by an on-site staff of nurses and dietitians, health coaches and trainers. They may contract with a club for additional services or fitness discounts. Other businesses seek out health clubs with programs that include discounts for employees and their family members, and regular information on total health and nutrition specifically tailored to help the company meet its health goals. Herath suggests club owners concentrate their outreach efforts and health campaigns on smaller and mid-size companies, as larger employers are likely to already have their own fitness programs, partnerships and wellness centers.
When you do find companies interested in talking more about your club’s services, the key to attracting their business is positioning your club as an economical way for an employer to improve on-the-job performance while creating measurable health goals, suggests Jeff Quammen, director of Corporate Sales for Urban Active. Economic results, associated with a well thought out and implemented wellness program, can open the door for corporate partnerships, he adds.
Before deciding to branch out into corporate wellness, club owners should take a good, hard look at the range of services they provide to make sure what they plan to offer is feasible. “Do your research,” Herath advises. “Know the scope of your services and what you can really deliver on. Make sure you have the expertise on board to deliver on new programs you’re offering.”
While many companies seek out larger health clubs for their fitness offerings, Loechler suggests health club owners looking to add an employee wellness component to their business start small and act locally, establishing themselves as health experts in the community.
Getting involved in nearby health campaigns, such as walks and sponsored weight loss challenges, or providing input on ordinances and proposals related to total health and wellness is a good way to get people to think of your club as health and fitness solution, working right in their neighborhood.
Creating packaged health and wellness information that companies can distribute to employees, such as newsletters or emails containing fast facts and seasonal tips, is another low-cost way to start partnerships with businesses in the area. It’s essentially free marketing, Loechler suggests. “There’s a bigger, more altruistic message, and the sponsor is Anytime Fitness,” she says. “We look for ways we can streamline our initiatives to their daily operations. After we’ve finished our getting-to-know-you phase, we can work our way up to something more substantial.”
Club owners can also look to business associations and to their own members when trying to build a word-of-mouth reputation for a club’s commitment to health, even at the corporate level, Quammen says. “This will drive interest and provide solid lead information on whom to contact and define their level of interest.” It’s also a good way to get instant credibility for a newly developed program or offering.
Gold’s Gym International began its corporate wellness program in 2002 and currently has 842 companies participating, which account for about 20 percent of the club’s total membership, according to Pilot. In fact, the program has had a huge impact on member retention-Gold’s adds more than 25 new clients to the program list each month.
“We can look potential clients in eye and tell them that a wellness program will benefit not only their bottom line in the reduction of health care costs but in not-so-tangible ways like helping their employees be better husbands, wives, parents,” Pilot adds. “Exercise will pay dividends they have not even considered. What client can say no to that?”
Keep a good thing going Marketing your club as a relatively low-cost solution to an enormous financial problem is only the beginning. In order to get and keep corporate clients, you will have to make sure your services are individualized to meet the needs of that particular company.
“Fitness clubs need to see the health of the company in the long run as their client,” Loechler says.
If you’re introducing a new population of gym members to your client list you’ll want to consider liability, especially if you are sponsoring classes held outside your club. Anytime Fitness makes sure all staff members are covered by liability insurance for the work they do, Loechler says, whether at the club or on-site at a facility. Independent contractors employed by Anytime Fitness are also covered by personal trainer coverage.
Nationwide Insurance works with local companies, who provide trained instructors for group classes and offer their own liability coverage, says Eric Unger, an exercise coach who provides personal training for associates at the Nationwide Wellness Center in Columbus, Ohio.
Other ways to minimize liability include the use of liability waivers for employees and arming club staff members and new clients with proper training and information on services and equipment being offered, Quammen says. “The best protection for any club owner is proper employee training, a good informative consultation and a professional demeanor.” A good consultation will help a new client define health goals and understand their own personal risks. Accurate information, communicated by a trained staff member, is another way to eliminate your liability, he says.
When you take the time to understand what an employer is looking for in a corporate wellness program, and tailor your services to those needs, companies will come to see your club as an advocate for healthier living, Pilot says. And when that happens, success is sure to follow.