Fitness benefits are a top priority for remote workers

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Work and home boundaries have all but disappeared during the COVID-19 pandemic, as living rooms and bedrooms have become interchangeable with office spaces. With less space or time to focus on personal well-being, employers are offering innovative benefits that allow workers time for themselves to decompress.

Fitness and well-being offerings have become an in-demand perk for the remote worker: 70% of global professionals rank fitness benefits as the most valuable benefit outside of healthcare and are the second highest benefit requested by employees, according to a survey from ClassPass, a wellness classes membership provider.

“Remote workers still crave the fitness benefits they had prior [to the pandemic],” says Nicole Wolfe, head of corporate programs at ClassPass. “There's a recognition [among employers] that fitness helps [employees] combat stress and really helps solidify their work from home routine.”

The coronavirus crisis has brought with it a host of new challenges for employers and employees to overcome. Three in four professionals now work-from-home full time, with one in four relocating permanently, according to the survey. The disruptions have led the majority of professionals to feel disconnected, burned out and stressed, according to the survey.

Read More: Reward Gateway partners with ClassPass on employee wellness benefit

With gyms and popular boutique fitness classes on hold and team-building opportunities relegated to Zoom, there are still some steps employers can take to encourage well-being.

“Executives should send a message to their workforce explicitly recognizing how hard this year has been, that you’re in it together, and that the company cares about them,” says Laura Hamill, chief people officer and chief science officer at Limeade, an organization that helps employers improve the employee experience. “Dial up your employee experience tools that have social components during this time.”

The ClassPass survey found resources and tools like virtual team workouts boost morale and increase productivity: three in five people who participated in such an activity felt more connected to their colleagues afterward. Additionally, 89% of workers say they feel more productive during the workday following a workout.

Additionally, workers need a variety of benefits that will support their overall well-being, including financial stipends to purchase better office equipment, like a desk chair to avoid back pain, Wolfe says. Other benefits may include child care and greater scheduling flexibility.

Wolfe says that employers need to keep in mind that “one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to wellness” as they plan for 2021. Looking toward next year, organizations need to consider offering a combination of virtual and in-person wellness options — the survey found that 92% of professionals hope to return to a physical gym and fitness studio next year. Half of the respondents say they are planning a hybrid mix of in-studio and at-home workouts next year.

Read More: ClassPass adapts fitness offerings for a remote world

Communicating all of the options as you’re making them will help keep employees informed, engaged and understood, Wolfe says.

“Employers [shouldn’t] make decisions lightly — they need to understand where their employees are and what their needs are,” Wolfe says. “Over-communicating with your employees in a time of uncertainty is a valid use of time. We all crave that feeling of understanding and [wanting] clarity. More communication is always great as things shift and change, so employees feel empowered.”

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Health and wellness Voluntary benefits COVID-19 Work from home