3 Creative Approaches to Corporate Fitness Programs during COVID-19

Working from home has never been more simultaneously common and challenging. And while this is the “new normal” for the time being, work is very different. From not connecting in-person to managing multiple roles while maintaining productivity, the new and ongoing nature of work is difficult—at best—for most employees. And, it’s going to take its toll on both their physical and mental well-being.

As employers adapt their HR and well-being policies and adjust to meet employees where they are (at home), they must also find new ways to meet their physical, emotional, and mental needs. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything—and we must change too. Employers are recognizing this and finding creative ways to deliver well-being and fitness programs digitally to employees.

When it comes to reaching employees remotely, creativity knows no bounds with some companies. From Facebook Live broadcasts to virtual coffee meet-ups and wellness breaks, companies are finding new and interesting ways to bring employees together for the betterment of their health and well-being.

Leveraging Facebook Live for well-being

GE Power in Greenville, S.C. is streaming live classes with something for everyone–high-intensity interval training, Vinyasa flow yoga, Tabata, and nutrition advice–via Facebook Live. And program managers, like Ken Sturm, are creating their own programming and using creative ways to drive engagement.

The GE Power Station Facebook page features daily live workouts, twice daily energy breaks, and weekly “Ask The Trainer” Q&A sessions for GE Power’s 1,200 employees. Ken and his team are not just taking care of employees’ physical well-being, but they’re addressing mental well-being, too, with daily “What’s What” meet-ups, Friday energy breaks, and a weekly “Mind Your Health” seminar.

Sturm says, “All of our content is also being recorded and put on our YouTube channel and our website. We are trying to remove as many barriers as possible.” So far, there has been a tremendous turnout across platforms with traffic increasing steadily.

Virtual coffee for connection

Physical fitness is important to overall well-being, but so, too, is the need for connection. Danielle McMullen, program manager for HP Enterprise in Andover, Mass., is using virtual coffee breaks to connect 313 employees and restore a bit of normalcy in this anxiety-ridden world.

“Each week, we have an uplifting themed topic to share. My goal is to keep it light and fun, and allow it to unfold organically,” says McMullen. “We start with a quote, poem, or story, then move to the topic for the coffee time. I also organize a virtual happy hour and an after-work social that include trivia, Karaoke, fitness, and Seinfeld dancing.”

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Virtual wellness breaks

To address the needs of employees during the pandemic, Jason Tagle, fitness program manager located across the country from McMullen at HP Inc. in San Diego, offers an expanded class schedule of virtual wellness breaks via CubeFit, a program roughly 1,000 of HP’s employees are registered for.

“Employees can participate in a real-time livestream or access video replays via our YouTube channel,” says Tagle. “In addition to the class series, we are currently offering triple the number of bonus classes during the pandemic. They may include longer classes (20 to 45 minutes) and different formats, such as “Ask the Coach,” core, dance, kettlebells, indoor cycle, high-intensity interval training, and yoga.”

Tagle says several participants have commented that while working from home may not match the ergonomic setup at the office, the stretch breaks provide needed circulation and pain relief throughout the working day. “The in-person group exercise classes at our fitness centers are the primary physical activity for many of our employees, and these bonus classes are allowing them to stay active during their work-from-home period,” he says.

Companies like the ones listed above are leading by example in this time of uncertainty. The well-being needs of employees working from home for an unknown amount of time are much different from those with access to the corporate fitness facility and wellness services. Hearing familiar voices and seeing their colleagues’ smiling faces has provided a simple-yet-effective way to provide a much-needed lift for our participants’ spirits, in addition to providing a great workout. And, in many cases, they need a little fun along the way, too.

Jessica Cravens, Molson Coors’ fitness program manager, does this by organizing a regular remote BINGO challenge. “We opened this challenge up to the whole company while the working-from-home policy is in place,” says Cravens. “This aims to get employees thinking about wellness as a whole with the 10K step challenge, drinking a gallon of water, and eating five servings of fruits and veggies.”

Ann Wyatt is vice president, program management & engagement at HealthFitness where she oversees a national account management team. Her role includes strategy development and driving engagement for new and existing health management and corporate fitness programs, employee recruiting and training, program quality assurance and operations management.

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