Benefits Strategy

Gym Reimbursement Programs: The Top Mistakes

Written by Maria

Workplace wellness employee benefit programs are in place in a growing number of companies (companies like Google are actually setting the standard for a world-class employee benefit program), and one of the most common is the Gym Reimbursement Program, or Fitness Subsidies. The idea is great, in theory: companies provide employees with a discount or a reimbursement on gym or fitness facilities, these programs are usually the sharpest tool in an overall compensation package. This offsets the cost of gym memberships. However these programs are often badly planned and not always a good fit for the culture of every company. On that note, you may be interested in learning how to do employee benefits planning!

If you’re considering implementing gym reimbursements in your workplace, here are some common pitfalls that you should be sure to avoid.

Using a paper-based system

One of the biggest problems with gym reimbursement programs is the paperwork. Unless you’re willing to take your employee’s word for it that they’ve purchased membership then you’re going to need to ask them for receipts. Many programs also ask for employees to submit attendance records from the gym. Unfortunately this means that your HR department will have review all that paperwork. Without a plan or a process to automate this new paperwork, you’re in for a nightmare.

Not integrating with payroll

Even if you can verify employees went to the gym, you still have to reimburse them for their gym membership. This adds a new level of complexity to payroll. Employers are left with the choice of either integrating the payments with their existing payroll provider, or spending hours writing checks to employees. Managing this in a large organisation can eat up HR staff’s time, and without a proper management system you’re almost guaranteed to make mistakes.

Limiting gym choices

Employees like to exercise when it’s convenient for them. Having a corporate gym deal with a prestigious national gym chain won’t change this: if your gym locations are not convenient then employees aren’t going to use them. Moreover, many employees don’t like working out on-site, so be wary of investing lots of money in building an office fitness facility. The best option is to work with as many different fitness facilities as you can. Consider working with another company that has relationships with many gyms.

Assuming all employees use a gym

Employers work out in all different ways. Some prefer the privacy of their own home (especially employees new to a fitness routine); others prefer gym chains with all the perks. The goal of a gym reimbursement program is to get employees active and healthy. Make sure your program does not discount those who get their exercise by doing yoga, rock climbing, swing dancing, tightrope walking, or any other of the many ways to be active. When planning a program avoid exclusivity and try and find a solution that works for everyone.

Too much stick, not enough carrot

Don’t ever create a culture that pressures your employees to get active. Instead foster a culture where all employees are motivated to be active. A more comprehensive program, like an Incentive-based Fitness Rewards Program (FRP) aims to influence employee behaviors using small rewards, usually cash. Some employers also offer paid time off as a reward. Employers usually manage these rewards through incentive management systems, like IncentFit.

As recent survey shows, employees prefer cash incentives over all other types of wellness program rewards. Creating a program that rewards a wide variety of activities is going to get the highest engagement. If you would like to gauge your employees thoughts on your employee benefit offerings, feel free to use our complimentary employee benefits survey template!

On that note, here are a few quirky perks that companies are using to attract employees, after all employee benefit programs are meant to make retention and recruitment easier! Also, here are some unexpected wellness perks that you should offer. However, it is important to note that perks alone don’t create company culture.

Being too serious

Remember, work is serious, but employees can still have fun. Be sure and foster an environment where you can improve company culture with a little friendly competition. Going to the gym should not just be another task to check off on their to-do list. Encouraging participation through fun group fitness activities and fitness challenges will make the program seem more like a perk, and less like a requirement.

We hope these mistakes will steer you in the right direction when designing your company’s wellness program. We designed our own Gym Reimbursement Program to solve these mistakes. Just remember that whatever solution you choose, be sure that it puts the health and happiness of your employees first!