In the early 20th century, companies began to offer recreation and sports to employees, but those activities were also associated with drinking and smoking (Kerr, John et al, 1996). It wasn’t until the 1960s that companies began to place emphasis on health and health clubs. Today, however, the issue of workplace health has become an integral part of the corporate culture. Work-related stress is one of the leading causes of employee absenteeism and disability claims filed by employees against companies, resulting in millions of dollars of lost productivity and profits each year. Kerr et al (1996) cites that, “In a recent survey across a wide spectrum of workers in the United Kingdom, stress and depression were the second most commonly reported reasons employees gave for sickness and absence.”
Further studies show that employees who participated in some form of exercise program exhibited a reduction in absenteeism. As more companies begin to suffer the ill effects of work related stress among its employees, those same companies have begun to offer and/or implement corporate exercise and fitness programs. One of the benefits of exercise is that it directly affects a person psychologically. Because of this, people have reportedly experienced less depression, stress and fatigue. Kerr et al (1986) supports the importance of exercise in this statement: “Exercise such as jogging and evening walks was the most frequently reported factor for promoting sleep and improving its quality.” Employees who feel well physically and mentally are generally healthier, more satisfied, more alert, better able to adapt to the day-to-day demands of the workplace, and are more productive.
While some of the larger companies offer on-site exercise facilities, smaller companies are likely to establish corporate gym (or health club) memberships, which are then passed along to the employees. Kerr et al (1986) notes several opportunity costs to such facilities and memberships, including “costs and productivity lost due to employees traveling to workouts, showering, dressing and returning to the workplace.” However, when compared to the amount of work employees perform when they feel strong and rested mentally and physically, the benefits outweigh the costs.
When considering a fitness program or facility, one thing to keep in mind is that in order for a fitness program to be successful, employees must be encouraged to utilize what is being offered. By surveying employees to find out what they like, dislike and what they hope to achieve, a strategy can be developed to motivate and attract employees into the programs. Even with the most up-to-date and expensive equipment, fitness programs can only be successful if they are enjoyed.V