How to Get Staff Engaged In Your Workplace Fitness Plan

How to Get Staff Engaged In Your Workplace Fitness Plan

The words "workplace" and "fitness" don’t always make easy bedfellows. Most modern businesses in the digital age rely heavily on working at a desk, looking at screens, and most likely also sitting in meetings for large parts of the day.

So workplace fitness has become not just a modern buzzword, but an increasingly important incentive to join a company. And while HR departments might have their hands full with the many demands of their business, planning a workplace fitness program might not be top of mind. 

In this guide, we’ll look at how to get the workplace engaged with their wellness program, improving the take-up and maximizing the engagement. This guide is designed for anyone who wants to make sure that employees or business users are getting the most from a fitness plan - whether they are a workplace manager, or if they are offering fitness services, for example as a gym owner.

What is a Workplace Fitness Plan?

A workplace fitness program is usually offered as part of an overall employee wellness package. It might include elements of fitness programs within work, for example incorporating a running club or yoga exercises into the working day.

But a workplace fitness plan might also encourage employees to use their wellness package plan, such as attending the gym, making use of nutrition talks or other ways to improve their health and fitness.

Workplace wellness is increasingly seen as an important part of an employment package, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns. However, there are often challenges faced by both employers and fitness professionals when it comes to engagement with workplace wellness.

Why is Workplace Wellness so Important?

Having a healthy workforce is important for many reasons. On the one hand, healthy workers are much more productive and are more likely to be happy with their jobs. Whereas unhealthy workers are more likely to take sick days, or worse still, not take sick days but be less productive at work.

By offering employee wellness packages that are easy to use and accessible, employers reduce the amount of time lost to illness and poor health and improve staff retention.

workplace fitness plan

What are the Common Problems with Workplace Wellness Plans?

Although businesses often now include workplace wellness and fitness plans as part of the job spec, there are some common problems.

Lack of Awareness

Many employees may not be aware of the existence or details of the fitness or wellness programs offered by their employer. Poor communication or limited promotion of these programs may also result in low participation rates.

Time Constraints

Employees often perceive lack of time as a major barrier to engaging in fitness or wellness activities. Balancing work responsibilities, personal commitments, and family obligations can make it challenging for employees to prioritize their well-being during working hours.

Sedentary Work Environment

Jobs that require prolonged periods of sitting or desk work can contribute to a sedentary lifestyle. Overcoming this sedentary work culture and encouraging employees to be active can be a significant hurdle for employers. This can be especially true if they need to travel any distance to take part in their fitness plans.

Lack of Motivation

Some employees may lack the motivation or interest to participate in fitness or wellness programs. They may perceive these activities as optional or unrelated to their job performance, resulting in low engagement levels. This can also be down to the work or business culture.

Limited Resources

Insufficient resources, such as inadequate fitness facilities, equipment, or dedicated spaces within the workplace, or close by, can hinder employee engagement. If employees do not have convenient access to resources needed to participate in fitness programs, it will most likely discourage their involvement.

Health and Physical Limitations

Certain employees may have health conditions, injuries, or physical limitations that restrict their ability to engage in certain fitness activities. Employers need to consider accommodating these limitations and providing alternative options to ensure inclusivity.

Lack of Social Support

The absence of a supportive social environment or a lack of peer involvement can make it challenging for employees to stay motivated and committed to fitness or wellness programs. Building a culture of support and encouraging team participation is crucial for long-term engagement.

Financial Barriers

Financial constraints can be a significant obstacle for employees, especially if fitness programs or resources come with additional costs. Employers can address this challenge by offering free or subsidized gym memberships, discounts on fitness equipment, or partnering with affordable fitness providers. Many employees may also run fitness challenges designed to be accessible to all.


Maintaining long-term engagement in fitness or wellness programs can be challenging. Employees may initially show enthusiasm, but sustaining that commitment over time requires consistent efforts from employers to provide ongoing support, motivation, and program enhancements.

With all of these common challenges in mind, what steps can you take to encourage employees to make the most of their wellness program and take control of their personal health and fitness?

workplace wellness includes healthier sitting solutions

How to Plan a Workplace Fitness and Wellness Program

On this site, we have previously looked at how to create a corporate wellness program. But we’ll look now at how to get staff eager to make the most of their fitness package.

1. Communicate Clearly 

Perhaps the most important part of encouraging engagement with fitness programs is to communicate what is on offer, and how to access it.

For new staff members, this may include a welcome email or package which details what they are eligible to access as part of their wellness program. Encourage them to sign up for whatever the benefits are, whether that is signing up for the free (or discounted) gym membership, or downloading the health and fitness app.

However, don’t assume that all employees will take advantage of this offer on the first email. Schedule follow-up reminders and keep their fitness top of mind.

2. Run Fitness Challenges

Fitness challenges are a great way to raise awareness of personal health and encourage employees to take part. There are many ways you can run a fitness challenge that is accessible, inclusive and fun.

A good office fitness challenge is to have a team-step goal.

Set the office into teams (ideally not all in the same department), and then offer daily or weekly prizes for the team that gets the most steps. 

Alternatively, run an office Olympics, with prizes awarded for the teams that do best in fitness goals. This might include cross-trainer challenges, weights lifted or even a team sports weekend such as soccer or baseball.

Of course, the focus should be on physical activity that all of the office can take part in, so make sure there are options for the less physically able, and be sure to make teams a mixed ability.

Local fitness owners such as personal trainers can even offer bespoke fitness challenges to local offices. This is also a great way to promote your fitness business.

3. Include Fitness During Work Hours

While it might seem counterintuitive to allow employees to workout or do fitness during work hours, this can actually be a great way of boosting productivity and reducing stress. Schedule 30 minutes in the morning to do yoga, which can greatly improve focus and reduce stress.

Or, alternatively, factor in a stress-busting workout once or twice a week.

As an example of the effectiveness of group fitness at work, consider the Japanese practice of Taiso. This group exercise carried out at factories, offices and schools across Japan is credited with helping group bonding at work, improving mental dexterity and even keeping people fit into old age! 

workplace fitness plan

4. Promote the Benefits of Wellness

A simple approach is to promote a healthy lifestyle as part of the company culture. This might be as simple as putting up posters in your break room or around water coolers promoting the benefits of regular fitness.

It might also be a quick chat during weekly meetings to remind everyone to take advantage of any fitness offers the company promotes.

Some other methods to promote wellness at work might include:

  • Intranet or internal emails encouraging people to take full advantage of fitness packages and opportunities
  • A screen-free lunch break where employees are encouraged to get away from their desks and walk instead
  • Presentations or talks about wellness from local fitness professionals to highlight the health risks of sedentary lifestyles or stress at work

There are many other opportunities to also encourage a healthier lifestyle in the office.

5. Form a Wellness Committee or Appoint a Head of Wellness

When it comes to building a company culture of health and wellness, it sometimes takes some form of leadership or culture change. While senior management will usually have other challenges of running a business, appointing someone within the business to act as head of wellness can be a good way to encourage engagement.

There could also be a group or committee who organize the office fitness challenges and work to promote the awareness of regular exercise and healthy lifestyles.

Businesses could also partner with an external agency, for example, a local personal trainer business or gym studio, who could then visit on a weekly or monthly basis to encourage healthy living. 

For gym business owners, this is also a great way to partner with local businesses and promote your gym business. They can also engage with staff using gym management software such as Arbox to send event updates or promote healthy living.

6. Make Sure Management are Involved

Employee health is not just for the rank and file. Management should also take part in any workplace fitness challenge and ongoing healthy lifestyle program.

This ensures that everyone is aware that fitness is part of the company culture and it breaks down the ‘them’ vs ‘us’ divide that can permeate some companies.

The benefit for managers is that they improve their own physical fitness and reduce stress, while also building a better bond with the team. And a knock-on effect of this is that when people feel connected to their management, they have better job satisfaction, so it’s a win-win all round!

7. Focus on Healthy Food at Work

While many offices look forward to donut days, or reward employees with sugary snacks, these treats can have a negative impact if they’re used too often. Building a culture of healthy food and focusing on nutrition is a great way to help people stay focused on their health and well-being beyond just physical exercise.

Having a daily or weekly free fruit basket is always a good start, and encourages staff to enjoy eating nutritious snacks.

Another option is to swap out the sugary and salty snacks in the office vending machine for more healthy options. Or, if there is an on-site cafeteria, look to create a menu that is designed to be more nutritious.

workplace fitness plan include healthy food for workers

8. Run Wellness Away Days

Taking the team away for a wellness retreat or fitness away day is an excellent way to build team rapport and increase morale. While you don’t want to offer one of these every week, or even every month, it can be great to do something either quarterly or every six months.

A popular wellness away day is to head to a meditation or yoga retreat. Other options might include nature walks, cycle tours, running a 5k or 10k or fitness boot camps.

Of course, an away day shouldn’t be compulsory, but should be appealing and accessible to all employees.

Fitness professionals looking to offer wellness away days as part of a corporate offer or package should make sure to factor in transport, catering, accommodation if necessary, and make sure to account for any special requirements, both physical and dietary.

9. Make Wellness Plans Fun and Accessible

Whatever the plan, it needs to be accessible to the whole team. Most employees will find focusing on wellness and fitness a fun way to spend some time at work, and for younger employees, it’s often seen as a necessity.

To make it accessible this might mean:

  • Making participation optional
  • Scheduling classes or meetings at accessible times
  • Being flexible with timings
  • Rewarding participation or progress
  • Making the event itself something enjoyable

Encouraging friendly competition is obviously a fun team-building exercise and can help strengthen bonds in the office.

While you might try your best to get everyone involved, there will probably always be a small percentage who resist and try not to get involved. The best thing to do is simply respect their decision but make it easy for them to change their minds and take part if they want to. 

Never shame anyone into taking part in any wellness plan. Usually once they see the benefits of taking part in office fitness challenges, or the progress that some people might make, they may change their tune and get involved.

How to Manage a Workplace Fitness and Wellness Program

When it comes to managing a workplace fitness program, having regular scheduled events is the best way to ensure consistent engagement.

Offering opportunities to engage at different times is also going to increase engagement. So for example, having a morning fitness class on one day, but an afternoon one on another day, and maybe even an after-work option on another day.

This way you offer the widest opportunity to staff to get involved.

Depending on the size of the organization involved, you might also need to accommodate for different shifts and locations.

While this can get complicated, the best thing to do is to track fitness program attendance in scheduling software.

With Arbox you can manage company wellness programs including managing classes, attendees and even sending reminders and updates. Fitness professionals managing corporate wellness classes can also sign up for Arbox to manage their fitness business scheduling.

Join a live demo to learn how Arbox can help get organized and provide an amazing client experience.

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