Happy and healthy employees are productive employees. Research shows that companies that offer corporate fitness and wellness programs retain their employees longer, pay less for employee healthcare and have a more teamwork-oriented and productive employee community. According to numerous business sources and articulated by Forbes magazine, “A culture of wellness helps employees feel valued and appreciated because it shows that you support them both professionally and personally. It proves that you are making efforts to help them make a healthy lifestyle achievable. When employees feel that their well-being is truly cared for and valued by their company, they will feel generally happier with their jobs and employers.” As low unemployment rates make employee retention a priority, employers everywhere are prioritizing their people and creating internal assets, like fitness centers and wellness programs, that provide so much more than a paycheck for staff.

The Friedkin Group and its affiliated companies are one such employer, having recently rebuilt their 5,000 square foot fitness center not to expand it, but to adapt it to better fit the needs of Associates. “We made the decision to rebuild our fitness center after re-evaluating the layout and equipment to make sure what we were offering our Associates would meet their current needs,” says Ted Barrall, Director of Compensation and Benefits for The Friedkin Group. “We view our corporate fitness center as a valuable amenity for Associates where they pursue their fitness goals with minimum disruption to their work day in a top-of-the-line facility that both they and the company can be proud of.”

An extension of the company’s existing wellness programs and culture, which includes group fitness classes as well as self-guided training options to use within the fitness center when classes aren’t scheduled, the team wanted to improve the accessibility of the fitness center along with updating equipment and the flow of the space. To address all of these priorities, the team utilized the expertise of Advanced Exercise, a leading fitness facility design and equipment resource.

One of Advanced Exercise’s fitness design consultants, Vaughn Marxhausen, became an integral part of the project with the team from The Friedkin Group. “Vaughn’s years of experience in the industry were invaluable,” comments Barrall. “He knows the ins and outs of every piece of equipment and how they are used. When we weighed the pros and cons of buying certain equipment, Vaughn always had time to talk about what we were interested in, whether it is a large piece of equipment or what the best resistance bands are.” Tapping in to Marxhausen’s expertise in fitness movement flow, and how programming interacts with equipment selection and placement within the facility to allow for all users to be comfortable, the team started an extensive “de-cluttering” process as a first step.

“To make the space more functional and inviting, and less intimidating to anyone wanting to use the fitness center, we opened up the fitness floor, creating more opportunities for group training as a start,” commented Marxhausen. “The Associates with The Friedkin Group that I worked with were amazing collaborators. They allowed me to utilize my knowledge and experience to help them create an amazing fitness facility for the Associates to enhance their fitness and wellbeing. I am humbled to be able to work with such a fantastic group.”

Always placing the needs of its Associates first, Friedkin wanted to make sure the fitness center provided a welcoming environment for people who might not otherwise use a public gym facility or who were unfamiliar with fitness equipment. “We followed a process which we knew would result in an evolution of thinking about what the new fitness center would look like,” Barrall added. “We started off with the space and equipment we already had. Vaughn suggested we move our free weights to the far wall of the gym because, he advised, free weights can look intimidating to people not used to a workout facility. We also moved the mirrors to the far wall which made the facility feel much larger. Again, we used input from various qualified sources along the way which helped shape the final product. Vaughn was very receptive to our input and also did not hesitate to guide us with his knowledge.”

Simple changes were made to the layout, which made a big impact on the end result. The free weight area and the strength equipment moved to create an open space in the middle of the floor for a functional fitness space. Equipment including the Life Fitness Synrgy 360 and a TRX triple suspension bay were added to allow more creativity for individual workouts. “This new functional area now allows the trainers to conduct group training on the fitness floor which they did not have before,” offered Marxhausen.

Though there’s not as dramatic a difference in the advancement of the fitness culture as there is when you update the physical fitness environment, but the positive effects on interpersonal connections become evident quickly. Teams of employees regularly bond during their workouts and get the chance to interact in ways that chatting over a desktop doesn’t allow. “A greater sense of workplace teamwork is a natural outgrowth of participating in an employee fitness program. Employees who exercise together get to know each other better, and those enhanced relationships translate into all kinds of pluses. These relationships help build a company culture of cooperation that can pay off in increased loyalty and in the overall good will that employees feel toward their employer.”

Workplace fitness programs are one way that employers like The Friedkin Group show their Associates that they are valued as they investment in their employees’ health and wellbeing, and employee satisfaction rates naturally rise as a result. In some circumstances, wellness programs are one of the biggest reasons for employees to stay engaged. At Nelnet in Lincoln, Nebraska, departing employees are surveyed during their exit interviews and the top answer to what departing employees would miss the most is the company’s wellness program.

Barrall says the reaction to the improved fitness center is overwhelmingly positive. “Our Associates are very happy to have the new and improved facility, one that is more tailored to their needs. For me, having seen the process from beginning to end, it turned out better than expected.” Having introduced two big pieces of equipment in the Life Fitness Synrgy 360 and the TRX triple suspension bay, employees are enjoying more “free movement throughout the facility while still packing in all the options we wanted” he said.

Another key in opening up the space included storage solutions. “One thing we needed was plenty of storage for smaller pieces of equipment such as bosus, medicine balls, foam rollers, etc.,” said Barrall. “Now everything has its own storage space and the facility looks much better and spacious.”

At the conclusion of the project, everyone seems elated at the outcome. Says Marxhausen: “After any project is completed, there may be things that could have been different, but with this project, the facility outcome was amazing and the Associates are very fortunate to have a company that puts a lot of time and effort into their health and wellbeing. From the outset, Ted and The Friedkin Group created a survey of the fitness habits of the Associates which proved helpful in understanding their habits, needs and wants. We got input from the trainers to better understand how to evolve the programming and match the right equipment to those plans. We worked with the builders and architects to make it all work. The Friedkin Group’s dedication to a culture of fitness and health, and to their Associates in general, really shows when all the moving parts of the project came together.”

About The Friedkin Group
The Friedkin Group is comprised of a consortium of automotive, hospitality, entertainment, golf and adventure companies. These organizations include: Gulf States Toyota, GSFSGroup, GSM, US AutoLogistics, Ascent Automotive Group, Auberge Resorts Collection, Imperative Entertainment, 30WEST, NEON, Diamond Creek Golf Club, Congaree and Legendary Adventures. The Friedkin Group is led by Chairman and CEO Dan Friedkin. For more information, visit www.friedkin.com.

About Advanced Exercise
Founded in 1986, Advanced Exercise is a leading fitness equipment and facility design resource, representing more than 30 equipment brands to bring clients the best new or used equipment solutions to maximize the use of available space and meet the needs of a diverse community of fitness amenity end users. For more information on fitness equipment and facility design services, visit www.advancedexercise.com or call 800-520-1112 to connect with one of Advanced Exercise’s experts.