There is little hard data on how many employers offered workers subsidies to purchase home exercise equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic. This benefit is designed to help employees stay fit, much like gym membership before the pandemic. However, performance managers who support home fitness believe that this is a benefit that employees really appreciate and that complements virtual home fitness classes.

Companies that reimburse their employees for exercise equipment or other home fitness benefits include:

  • Johnson & Johnson As of June 2020, the company has been offering $ 100 per quarter on home exercise equipment as part of its global exercise reimbursement program: “This includes reimbursement for the purchase of cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility training equipment that you use You can stay physically comfortable and safe from your home, “the company told employees in
    Questions and answers about the program.
  • T.New Hampshire State’s Anthem HMO Program Government officials now have a choice of up to $ 450 per year for a gym membership or up to $ 200 per year to purchase new home exercise equipment that “enables full-body cardiovascular or muscular workouts.” Muscle-specific resistance equipment and outdoor gear, clothing and athletic shoes are not included.
  • Labcorp’s diagnostic laboratory The home exercise equipment subsidy was received with a good response, said Kim Beck, the company’s health and wellness director. “We reimburse our employees up to $ 300 annually for a variety of health and fitness related items, including home exercise equipment,” said Beck. “This program has become increasingly important during the pandemic with gyms closed at various stages. It was important to Labcorp that employees felt supported and encouraged to keep their health a priority.”
    According to Beck, Labcorp was still in the process of analyzing the reimbursement slips for 2020. However, the home device subsidy remained an important part of its benefits program, along with virtual fitness classes the company offered during the pandemic.
  • The Wisconsin Wellness Council Member companies broadly supported the pandemic-induced move to virtual fitness programs, although few had started offering subsidies for home equipment, said Marissa Kalkman, the council’s executive director

Another option to consider: employees who need to extend their training time for health reasons can
Use funds in a health savings account or a flexible spending account Buy exercise equipment when receiving a medical need letter from a health care provider.

“As a pension manager, I would definitely like to let employees know about this,” said Terene Allred, SHRM-CP, global HR manager at fitness equipment maker Precor.

Find the right angle

Prior to the pandemic, 32 percent of organizations subsidized or reimbursed offsite fitness center memberships or classes as part of their wellness strategies, while 29 percent provided fitness centers on site, the Society for Human Resource Management’s
Employee benefits survey 2019 found by 2,763 HR specialists. However, it is unclear how many employers have offered to pay for home exercise equipment during the pandemic.

According to Precor’s Allred, “the CEO of a relatively small company wanted to give their employees a discount, and we gave them a code they could use when they went online to buy one of our machines. But [the employees] didn’t attend as much as the CEO hoped. “

If a company offers a standalone discount on equipment without including it as part of a general health and wellness program, employees may not be able to take that into account, she explained.

It is also important to give employees a choice, stressed Kalkman. When evaluating reimbursement strategies, performance managers should ask if employees “can choose what type of exercise or equipment is best for them,” she said.

“A fitness habit will in some ways contribute to broader well-being,” added Kalkman, “but if that is not an individual’s priority, you can throw all the incentives and opportunities in the world on them and them.” won’t chase it. “

An evolving advantage

In December 2020, the interactive fitness platform maker Peloton announced that it would buy Precor for $ 420 million. When making the announcement, Peloton said the deal would help create “the next generation of connected fitness experiences.”

“What’s so interesting about the peloton craze,” said Kalkman, “is that you don’t see the people you would see if you took a bike class,” in a gym. But through the app, she found, people share the experience of exercising together, which can help them stick to their fitness regimen.

Allred foresees a future where employees’ home exercise devices can transmit aggregated data that could help managers optimize their health and wellness offerings. Such data would protect individual identities.

“The more data I have on how people are [in aggregate] The better we take advantage of the benefits we offer them, the better I can tailor those benefits to those our employees want and use, “she said.

Greg Goth

is a freelance health and technology writer based in Oakville, Conn.

Related SHRM articles

Exercise solutions while working from home, SHRMBlog, March 2020

Wellness platforms offer flexibility and raise privacy concerns, SHRM Online, July 2019

Adjustment to company time and company penny, SHRM Online, May 2017