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What is the ROI on corporate fitness centers?

Vaughn Marxhausen and Bryan O'Rourke discuss whether corporate wellness programs and building an onsite fitness center is worth the time and money.

Q: "We are building a wellness center at our corporate office and are trying to determine whether it is feasible to build a fitness center at our smaller locations too.  Are there any guidelines as to when it is feasible and has positive ROI to build a corporate fitness center?  Is there an industry average as to what percent of employees say they will participate when surveyed, and then what percent of those employees actually become regular users of the fitness center?"

A: Larry Chapman’s research, "Proof Positive: An Analysis of the Cost-Effectiveness of Wellness," found that worksite health promotion programs can be credited for substantial reductions in sick leave (27.8 percent), health costs (28.7 percent), disability (33.5 percent) and workers comp costs (33.5 percent). Every dollar invested saved $5.50 in related costs, and many studies show that for every dollar invested in wellness, there's a $3 to $6 return in cost savings. Therefore, to calculate ROI, determine the cost of sick leave, health care, disability and workers comp for the employees each fitness center would service and using Chapman’s research, calculate potential savings. That should give you an idea of potential returns based on the investment you anticipate.

Most well conceived on site health facilities experience roughly 60 percent of employees using the fitness center one or more times a month. Without a facility on site, only 20 percent will use a health club on their own accord. The key to success is a combination of facility design and more importantly, an organizational commitment to a comprehensive wellness program.

A recent study of corporate wellness conducted by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC), which interviewed 45 health industry experts and representatives of benefits consulting firms, health plans, wellness companies and employers sponsoring wellness programs found that employers that lack the ability and commitment to support a comprehensive wellness program may be wiser to stay on the sidelines. It may be a good idea to engage an experienced consultant to advise you on crafting a thoughtful wellness program to insure results which justify your investment.

Bryan O'Rourke
Principal & Chief Executive, Integerus, LLC





A: The percentage of participation of the workforce that participates in a wellness program or company built fitness facility is really dependent upon the company culture. This culture starts at the top and filters down.  It is usually difficult to increase participation or grow a program, if the culture of wellness is not present.

There may be a sense of “Build it and they will come” but more effort needs to be placed into a corporate wellness program in order to capture the highest participation percentage. Many companies have seen high participation, but their culture is wrapped around the whole wellness concept. When you do achieve a level of participation that is desired, it is vital to have consistent participation in order for a higher return on investment. 

Here are the 3 P’s that will have a big impact on participation:

1. Professional Presence: Having an experienced, highly trained fitness professional on-site to facilitate programs while providing education, motivation and support to the workforce will ensure a more consistent flow as well as obtaining desired fitness results for the employees.

2. Programming: Innovative programming and services to increase interest. Offering top programs/trends in the fitness industry will draw a variety of audiences from your workforce. Yoga, spinning, Zumba, cardiovascular equipment, strength (i.e. free-weights), etc. will provide that “something for everybody.” Incentive programs will create a friendly competition between the employees not to mention it will provide motivation and increase participation.

3. Promotion: Just having a program or facility is not enough, you must advertise to your target markets.  There are multiple ways to create interest and maintain participation. Newsletters, informational/educational e-mails, social media, lunch’n’learns, etc. will keep wellness on the top of their minds.

There are a lot of stats out there on participation percentages, and it’s all over the board. When a company decides to invest in a corporate fitness facility for their employees, the company must decide what’s important to them and what they want to see as the outcomes. Saving one employee from a heart attack can save a company hundreds of thousands of dollars, which becomes a great return on the investment.

Vaughn Marxhausen
Area General Manager, Houstonian Lite



IHRSA recently wrote a story on whether onsite clubs posed a theat to our members. Click here to check it out.

Reader Comments (2)

Wow, this fitness center is simply awesome. Here we can learn many kinds of exercise and fitness tips to be fit and fine. I would recommend to everyone to join a fitness club or to work under a trainer. I must say you can learn lots of things under his guidance.
We support IHRSA and we are committed to corporate fitness and wellness. The American worker needs more corporate fitness programs.

Keep up the great work.
June 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Paterson

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