Why fit staff are good for business

Fitness programs could be a great way to motivate your staff - and will also make them more productive, says Jon Perry.

SME owners are acutely aware of the importance of finding and keeping good employees. Work environment, bonuses, perks and flexibility in working conditions are just some of the ways business owners keep a smile on the faces of their people – but have you ever thought about star jumps, squats and Zumba classes as tools to keep your employees satisfied and also productive?

The effects of stress and ill health on employee productivity is possibly something you’ve already experienced in your business, with poor health and absenteeism costing Australian business $7 billion annually.

The less fit and active an individual is, the less equipped he or she is to manage stress, maintain energy levels and concentrate during the day and the more likely her or she is to be affected by sickness and disease.

Findings from workplace studies at Monash University in Victoria suggest that companies that introduce workplace health programs enhance employee performance, creating a healthier work environment and aiding in employee retention.

Most employees these days understand the personal benefits too. A study conducted by the 2011 Australian Fitness & Health Expo among thousands of consumers found that the new primary motivator for people to exercise was to feel good as opposed to simply looking good, which was the primary driver in the past. This shift reflects an increased understanding of overall wellness and the affects food and exercise can have on multiple areas of our lives including our mental health, happiness and ability to cope with stress.

The problem, according to the same Australian Fitness & Health Expo survey is finding the time and motivation to get active. Over 41% of people see finding time to exercise as the biggest challenge to staying fit, followed closely by motivation, nominated as a hurdle by 38.8% of respondents.

By providing a little help, direction and time through a corporate fitness program, you can help motivate your employees to become more active and watch the positive outcomes at both an individual and business level.

But what does this mean for a small-medium business that doesn’t necessarily have the space to install a 50 square metre fully functional gym or the budget to cover individual employee gym memberships costing up to $1500 per employee per year?

Luckily, with technology advancing and the fitness industry continually innovating, today there are a range of options SME business owners can consider to help give a new meaning to ‘a healthy business’. Here are some of the latest solutions available in the market:

  • Get into the fitness zone. Technology has advanced significantly when it comes to health and fitness equipment and you can now squeeze much more into a small area than you could 10 years ago. HQH Fitness, for example, work with small and medium businesses to implement Fitness Zones that include a range of different tools and accessories to appeal to different employee tastes and fitness levels. One type of fitness zone involves functional fitness equipment including dumbbells, Swiss balls, foam rollers, boxing gear plus a cardio-based rowing machine, treadmill, cross-trainer and/or bike. This can be set-up in in a 4-5 metre space from around $3,500. There are even more compact models that fit into a 2.5 x 4 metre area. Get the basic equipment you need first then allocate an annual budget to upgrade or add to the space to keep the room fresh and inviting to employees. Ensure any upgrades and additions are based on employee demand.
  • Replace the water cooler. The term sitting disease is unfortunately one that belongs to the new generation of static workers. It is now known that if you sit for more than half an hour without getting up for a break, the affect on blood sugar levels, metabolism, productivity and heart is significant. To counter this, you can introduce small and simple opportunities to get people up and moving during the day, even if it’s only for short stints. Increasingly, businesses are replacing the old water cooler with something else that encourages people to move. Take the new Buzz Site by PowerPlate. Created specifically for use in offices, the affordable station offers a workout that can be completed in normal work attire to help resolve the most common problems caused by sitting at a desk all day, like tension in the lower back and stiffness. It is designed to be used a few times per day for three minutes at a time to improve circulation, instill better posture, boost concentration and enhance productivity. Technogym also have the Kinesis Personal workout unit which provides more than 200 workout moves in less than one square meter.
  • Get a little outside help. Exercise in groups is the future according to leaders in the industry. Even traditionally solo sports like running are moving to a group format. That’s because it’s becoming increasingly clear that people enjoy the opportunity to socialise and workout at the same time. For this reason, group personal training sessions can be a very popular solution for SMEs looking to introduce an affordable training program. Available from under $10 per employee per week, onsite or offsite, there are many Personal Trainers who offer mobile services ideal for the small business.  The PTs provide their own equipment and make use of local parks to conduct small group sessions at lunch times, before or after work. Onsite classes such as pilates, yoga or Zumba are also an option.
  • Join forces. Align with a fitness company that can provide product discounts or corporate gym discounts to your employees. You can even split the set-up cost of a gym or fitness zone with another business in the local area and share the facilities, or select a personal trainer who can use your fitness room after business hours for free in return for training your employees at a special discounted rate.
  • Lighten the weight. The financial weight, that is. Provide a subsidy that can be used by employees to contribute towards a gym membership, boot camp program or series of classes.
  • In the know. Provide workshops and seminars on fitness and health to help educate employees about food and exercise and provide clever advice, tips and tricks they can use in their everyday life.


Whatever you decide to do it’s important to create a team environment in the workplace and encourage employees to support one another. Internal fitness or health challenges often work well. You can even allocate a ‘fitness hour’ to employees that they can take during the work day, helping them to fit exercise into their busy work-life balance. This may seem like you’re paying them to take a break – but this mindset has to be broken. The benefits of a refreshed employee, full of adrenalin and endorphins is a far greater asset to your business than one who is stale and lacking energy.

It’s also important to gain employee buy-in to whatever fitness initiative you choose to implement, and this can be achieved by surveying employees and putting popular options up for vote. Also, don’t let your fitness zone or program get stagnant. Have someone in charge of a ‘fitness club’, just like a social club, within the business. Their role is to arrange partner workouts, team events, guest speakers, challenges and event entries throughout the year. This representative should also be empowered to put forward recommendations for new equipment purchases.

Once you have a few ideas of what would suit your business, its size, floor space and employee personalities, shop around. Have a list of goals and request a few companies to present a proposal and ideally a 3D model of the end-vision for the space or a full description of the 12-month program. If you can, visit a trade show like the Australian Fitness & Health Expo so you can see all of the latest solutions and compare under one roof.

Written by Jon Perry, Director of the 2012 Australian Fitness & Health Expo, Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre April 27-29. www.fitnessexpo.com.au

promoted stories