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The fitness industry, the pandemic, and the future

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fitness industry during pandemic

In 2019 the fitness industry grew to ever greater heights. Buoyed on by global government  understanding of the value of a healthier population, and an increasingly wide gap between the  ultra-wealthy and the middle class, there seemed to be no stopping the march towards success. A  younger population less interested in drinking and smoking and a lot more interested in looking  good on camera. Fitness had become an affordable luxury and pursuit beyond simply having a  summer beach body.

The pandemic can be seen through the prism of the different sections of the industry. For example,  outdoor bootcamps were less immediately affected, and faster to open. Large box gyms, reliant on  inactive member bases, were quick to close, slow to open and faced financial impacts that could  shape the immediate future of the industry and beyond.

Then the pandemic struck and within the space of a few weeks the industry was suddenly plunged  into doubt and fear – indoor training seemed like it could be one of the easiest spreading  environments.

The industry response was nothing short of incredible. Within weeks it had completely pivoted and  was now offering an online version of its classes and keeping members along the path to their goals  – and mental health. Beyond that, fitness classes became more than just about fitness and  represented often the only community contact that an attendee might have in a day during the  lockdown.

We have experienced three main stages so far – the immediate backlash, the response, and the  second wave of understanding. Hopefully, they will soon be joined by a fourth, but for the time  being here is what we’ve learnt so far and what it means for the fitness industry.

The immediate backlash

The first thing that we saw was that the fitness industry seemed very likely to be hit, and very early.  The second thing was that the industry was largely being ignored in favour of hospitality.

This seemed to fly in the face of mounting evidence that health and fitness largely dictated the  potential danger of the virus, with the obese and unfit hit most hard. If anything you could say that a  reasonable response to the virus would have been mandated weight loss boot camps.

Why was the industry so exposed?

Closed spaces

With rising rents and the popularity of small box fitness, the industry has been working in smaller  and smaller spaces. This was a bad sign and there were concerns over viability if class sizes were  reduced by a large amount. This immediately looked to impact the most customer-focused  businesses – small group and boutique classes.

This didn’t impact personal trainers in the same way, and with this an important revenue stream for  most businesses, many clients switched to this format.

Indoor sanitation and cleaning

Quite simply, the perception of many fitness spaces was that of bad hygiene. The reality is of course  quite different. Reputation is vital and most fitness spaces recognise that cleanliness and safety are  key parts of customer happiness and retention – and even beyond that the ability to stay open in the  face of regulations. You could say that the fitness industry was ahead of the game in this respect.

Demographics

Different types of fitness appeal to different age groups. Once it was clear that the virus was less  dangerous for younger clients, the immediate fears subsided greatly.

Level of sweat

An early South Korean study showed that low impact exercise like yoga and Pilates were actually  incredibly low infectivity risks. The study was based on two infected instructors who taught both a  high impact dance based class and also low impact classes on the same day. The clients who  attended the high impact class were infected considerably. The low impact class? Zero infection  cases.

In March 2020 most fitness businesses closed their doors with the future uncertain. In what will be  looked back on as one of the most incredible stories of the pandemic, most did not stop trying to  help their clients.

Response

The response of most fitness businesses was to ask:

• How can we help customers maintain their fitness

• How can we ensure the survival of our business

• What does that look like

There were only really two options for business owners – try to stay open and relevant, or shut down  for a time and try to survive.

In countries like the UK, this was greatly helped by grants that were made to the hospitality sector,  including the fitness industry. However, this was also tempered by the lack of help with rent  payments. So, effectively, grants were made to support private landlords. This meant that sitting still  wouldn’t be enough.

In shock, and in the space of about two weeks, around 50% of small fitness businesses had switched  to an online offering supported by software systems like TeamUp that pivoted to help their  community of users.

The response was amazing. Customers didn’t just embrace the new classes… they loved them. Communities coming together

Stuck in lockdown, many customers felt disconnected and lonely. Online fitness classes filled a  huge gap and even the before class chat became a key connection point.

Some fitness owners ran quizzes and fun sessions just to focus on that community aspect. Disposable income

Although many were struggling with loss of income there was also the flip-side with many fitness  customers on furlough. This meant more disposable income and combined with the boredom of  confinement a rise in impulse purchases.

Blended online and in-person

As studios started to re-open, new and exciting business models emerged. The main one being a  blended model where online classes now filled an important role in the consistency of training. Now  there were options for when a class had to be missed due to other commitments.

A second wave of understanding

Most gyms re-opened in the early summer of 2020. With smaller classes and continued online  classes, it felt like a short term break from what was coming next.

Gyms and studios emerged as one of the safest environments

A UK study found that in 300,000 cases there were only 72 confirmed cases of the virus in gyms.  That was incredibly low and testament to the safety measures that fitness business owners had put  into place.

Customers desperate to get back to fitness

A study run by TeamUp with one of their Pilates customers showed that 50% of customers were  desperate or willing to get back to in-person classes. This was tempered by the other half of  customers wanting or being willing to continue with online classes in some form.

Misplaced fears

As the second wave gained pace, the UK, like many other countries, implemented a tiered system  for determining how businesses should respond. They included gyms closing which provoked a  furious backlash.

One owner in Liverpool refused to close his doors, and was fined by the police multiple times. The  industry rallied behind his story and others, and the overwhelming sentiment led to the changing of  the rules around gyms, meaning they only had to close in the most extreme of cases.

The evidence supported this approach and it was another great example of the industry being able to  effect change.

The future holds different risks and opportunities for different sectors. The format and size of  classes is a key part of any response.

What does the future look like?

For each type of fitness business, the future looks different. Class size, membership models, facility  specifications and the demographics of their members are big factors.

Class size

Class size is a big factor in the success of in-person or online classes. If a business is not profitable  with small classes they might be unable to run them, or if they cannot help clients in a personal way,  then they will face competition from pre-recorded sessions.

Membership models

Memberships that are too inflexible risk cancellation if circumstances change. The same for  offerings that are dependant on a particular set of equipment that can’t be replicated at home.  However, some fitness offerings like pole fitness did not struggle to replicate their programs to keep  customers motivated and happy.

Facility types

Entrance size and physical safety of common areas are factors. Also, the shape and overall floor  space will likely dictate class size for a long time to come.

Personal training is less affected but the number of trainers on the floor and the extra time spent  cleaning will impact profits.

Member demographics

It goes without saying that the older the customer group, certainly for the first wave, the more  impacted a business will be. An outstanding example of a response to this is the Pilates industry  which, despite unfavourable demographics, found that their help extended easily through screens.

What does the future look like for…?

Depending on the type of business, there is also a very different outlook and set of opportunities. Box box gyms

Without a doubt, big box gyms are the most at risk. Despite having the space for larger classes and  occupancy, their financial model is not based on the members actually at the gym. With huge costs  including rent, equipment and cleaning, they are under a lot of threat.

There is also the perception of less safety in a bigger environment.

With customers at home they are also not close to the big gym they use near their office.

In an industry whose profits are based on membership fees for inactive clients and who naturally  have a less active community, the future is looking challenging. Of course there are outstanding  businesses in this sector who will find a way to thrive.

Boutique and small studios

In-person might vary in availability but the good news for the smaller class sector is that they have  shown themselves to be able to adapt quickly and customers being willing to accept change.

Coached online – small classes via platforms like TeamUp for Zoom. This is the perfect blend of  online and small group coaching. The industry has adapted and the quality of classes and delivery is  very high.

It’s clear that customers place their fitness relationship at the centre of their world and independent  fitness businesses who do the same will survive and thrive.

However, it is the time to adapt and blend models if these businesses rely on large indoor classes,  specialist equipment, or coach heavy training that cannot be replicated online. With a bit of  imagination and innovation, this shouldn’t present an impassable obstacle.

Home gyms and pre-recorded online classes

Home gyms and pre-recorded online classes are likely to boom for the foreseeable future. New  programs launching and equipment sales are at breaking point. The only thing stopping this sector is  the availability of global shipments. Even movie stars have jumped on this wave. However,  competition is high, and the problem remains that when you pay for a coach you pay for  accountability and results. Online interest tapers off quickly and results can be disappointing.  However, this is not true of coached online…

The conclusion

Whatever the immediate future holds, the fitness industry has shown itself to be capable of  incredible feats of change and adaptation. Fitness customers wanting results aren’t going anywhere,  and even with a more diverse offering of routes to their goals available, are never going to stop  needing accountability and support. The industry is ready for whatever comes next.

About the Author: The article has been written by Tim Green. Tim is the Head of Marketing and Partnerships at TeamUp.

Guest Post

Compelling Statistics about Workplace Discrimination

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Workplace Discrimination

Today’s modern workplace is one that is inclusive, diverse, and collaborative. This is partly due to advancing technologies like the internet and open concepts and environments.

People from all over the world are more connected than they’ve ever been before because there is a need to collaborate for the projects they are working on and produce an outcome that is favorable for them and the company in general.

There is also more care for the company’s culture and the employees’ morale, mental health, and work-life balance. By making these a priority, employees have become more productive and happy, and the company more successful. However, this is not the case for all organizations.

Defining Workplace Discrimination

Recently, discrimination has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds. All over the world, many instances of discrimination, ranging from gender, race, age, disability, citizenship status, sexual orientation, medical condition, marital status, religion, and national origin, to name a few, have been put in the global spotlight.

Unfortunately, the majority of these types of discrimination occur in the workplace. Work or employment discrimination can be defined as treating someone in the workplace differently or less favorably than others because of their race, color, age, religion, sex, gender identity, and so on.

Employment discrimination also includes harassment by managers and co-workers, denial of reasonable workplace change based on religious beliefs or disability, improper questions about or disclosure of genetic or medical information, and retaliation from the company after an employee files an investigation or lawsuit against them.

There are many instances of unconscious bias and workplace discrimination, some beginning even before an employee starts working with the company. Even during the hiring process, a company can discriminate against an applicant.

Common Types of Discrimination and Their Effects

The International Labour Organization (ILO) blames the continuing discrimination on prejudices, stereotypes, and biased institutions that have resisted legal efforts and policy measures made by governments, organizations, workers, and employers against unequal treatment at the workplace.

The most common types are subconscious and systematic or institutionalized discrimination. Subconscious discrimination or unconscious bias is the behavior that stems from learned stereotypes that will automatically show up when interacting with people. This type can be harder to prove because it is more subtle unless reflected in its atmosphere.

Systematic or institutionalized discrimination occurs regularly in the workplace because it is an inherent part of its culture and practices, thereby creating a disadvantage for people who are different from their more preferred employees.

Aside from being morally wrong, discrimination in the workplace often traps people in low paid, informal economy jobs. Meaning, the discriminated population will get stuck in the worst jobs and be denied benefits, social protection, training, capital, land, or credit. What’s more, women are more likely to be engaged in the more invisible and undercounted activities than men.

The ILO presented a report that shows those who suffer from discrimination, particularly based on their sex and race, face a persistent equality gap. This gap divides them from dominant groups who enjoy a better life or benefit from anti-discrimination laws and policies.

Workplace Discrimination in Numbers

Since it was established in1997, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been investigating charges of discrimination against an employee or job applicant and enforcing laws that protect employee rights. It has received over 1.8 million complaints since then.

Workplace discrimination is illegal in the U.S.; however, studies have also shown that despite state and federal laws addressing discrimination based on race, there are still biases against hiring black and Hispanic employees in over two decades.

Of the 1,889,631 discrimination complaints EEOC received from 1997 to 2018, 49% were cases of retaliation, 34% were race-related, 32% disability, and over 30% were based on sex. From the total number of cases, 64% were officially dismissed as having found no issue after investigation, while only 3.2% were considered for legal action.

In addition, 18.3% were closed for administrative reasons, 8.1% were settled, 4.8% were withdrawn by the charging party, and 1.4% resulted in an informal resolution between parties. According to the government agency, cases closed for administrative reasons include the charging party deciding not to pursue the case, lack of communication, or withdrawal request from the charging party.

Steps to Take Against Discrimination

In light of the high numbers of discrimination cases, companies should work hard in eradicating workplace discrimination. But this can be done successfully only if everyone is involved in promoting a culture of equality and diversity and equal opportunities for all. Here are some ways to reduce and eradicate workplace discrimination in your company:

  • Analyze your current employee population and form a committee for equality and diversity. Ensure that the members came from diverse backgrounds. Set goals and policies that would enable the company and the employees to grow. A company that embraces diversity will reap the benefits of having a wider talent pool, which translates to improved productivity, a broader market, and a raised profile within the community.
  • During the hiring process or recruitment, treat all applicants fairly and equally. Evaluate each against the same set of criteria. Another way to evaluate applicants fairly is to have a panel interview so that more than one person gets to decide who the best candidate out of all the applicants is.
  • In terms of compensation and benefits, ensure that no employee is compensated any more or less than their other colleagues based on their race, sex, gender identity, religion, or disability. Offer the same benefits that all employees in that level are enjoying. For employees with children, offer both maternity and paternity leaves.
  • Review your current work policies and processes, or ask a lawyer to review them for you. Make changes wherever necessary. These may include implementing a comprehensive equal opportunities policy, training employees in sensitivity and diversity issues, providing accommodations for those with disabilities, and setting disciplinary actions. Establish open communication to report incidences of discrimination and treat them seriously, sensitively, and confidentially.
  • In the office, install wheelchair ramps and other accessibility options. Have a room where employees can do prayers, mothers can pump milk, and they can have some quiet time. Make sure that all employees can access the same office facilities and amenities.
  • When it comes to promoting an employee, ensure that all have an equal opportunity for promotion regardless of their sex, gender identity, race, etc. At the same time, provide equal opportunity for training and ensure that everyone has access to mentors.

End Discrimination Today

Discrimination in the workplace will not vanish by itself, but failure to eradicate it helps perpetuate poverty, creating an intricate web wherein the discriminated will continue to experience a low quality of life or social exclusion.

By eliminating discrimination, individuals, businesses, and society at large will benefit: a boost in one’s self-esteem and morale, enhanced productivity and competitiveness of companies, and a better economy.

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5 steps to shape company culture around hybrid work- Are you ready for the big change?

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remote work

You are probably going to lose a major chunk of your workforce if you’re planning to call your employees back to the office full-time. According to Microsoft’s recent survey, 74% of employees are keen on flexible remote work options. Meaning- The future of work is here and it is hybrid. With the current business ecosphere showing employee dominance, your best bet is to go hybrid.

Nevertheless, historically, it has been seen how employees slack off if they aren’t within the sight of their boss/manager. Or has this been passed on as a baseless claim? Some managers do have their insecurities as they feel employees are working in the dark. Though they are suffering from “perceived work productivity” syndrome, their concern cannot be completely brushed off.

This is where the need for a balanced and apt hybrid work culture comes into picture.

Before the pandemic, merely 15% of companies, as per a survey, had flexible working policies. That jumped to 76%in the year 2020 with the pandemic casting a shadow over the world. While shrinking global economies forced to shut many companies, several others chose to take the only working option left- Remote.

The business world cannot go back to how it functioned in pre-covid times. Hence, it is vital for leaders to build a hybrid work environment that accentuates, rather than depletes, employee productivity. For this, they need to consider the elements that charge the ions building their foundation. These include energy, focus, coordination, discipline, and cooperation. A good leader imbibes all of them in the company culture to align employee expectations and company plans.

Smart leaders are those who stay a step ahead by identifying the needs of tomorrow and creatingtheir solutions today. With the cards in favour of the hybrid workplace model, your best bet is to develop one with a positive attribute at your organization. Here are the steps to follow to create a positive hybrid work culture essential for any company’s growth:

Invest in the right tools:

Collaboration, document sharing, communication, attendance marking- are some of the many benefits the right kind of tools can provide to a remote working organization that mostly remains in the dark if it doesn’t clench onto technology. This, in turn, hampers the company culture- affecting employee productivity.

Technology soared to become a vital support system since the pandemic began. Though it has its own share of boons and banes, this man-made innovation can tremendously boost the productivity of a company, given it is utilized in the right way. A good HRM software is the first step towards this. If you do have one in place, determine its usability for a hybrid workplace.

Match flexibility with consistency:

The complex web containing different hierarchies of an organization needs to be grouped into appropriate teams for regular but comfortably gapped WFO days. It is vital for everyone in the company to meet each other in-person after certain time intervals. This ensures the human touch isn’t lost and collegial relationships blossom.

Assign different days of the week to different teams but provide autonomy over their workplace of choice. However, you allocate the days, make sure it doesn’t coincide with the major chunk of the workforce.

Step up your employee experience game:

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that employee experience is more than just perk-system. It is about putting care, trust, honesty, purpose and motive at the top of the heap. While hybrid work means a dispersed workforce and greater hardships in enriching this domain, recruit your CEO, stakeholders and higher management to show the care, build the trust, create belonging and hear everyone in the business. Focusing on diversity & inclusion and employees’ mental health can prove to be the other aspects beneficialin creating positive hybrid work culture.

Streamline communication processes:

Physical proximity makes innovation and teamwork easier, but not necessarily better. Read that again. The factor that strikes a chord between both is communication. Group projects are delivered faster and with the best outcome when completed with proper collaboration. And collaboration requires the right form and tense of communication.

To get things going at the regular, if not faster, pace, ensure there is no communication gap between employees. Any form of hinderance can negatively impact the behavior of a worker, ultimately hampering the work culture.

Sowseeds of transparency:

Organization leaders should be aware of the implications their actions can have on the company culture. Their moves should be shared transparently in the workplace to build trust amongst employees and keep them informed despite being away from the office physically. Detachment and a fear of missing out develops in remote working employees who previously used to work on-site.

This fear can be stopped from turning into anger if leaders step in to share a range of inputs, strengthening their bonds with the company.

Don’t let company traditions die:

The last thing you’d want to do when creating a positive hybrid work culture is erasing the old traditions the company followed when “normalcy” prevailed. Instead of discarding them, find new ways to keep the traditions alive. These are the ones that helped employees stick with your company. Scratching them would mean bringing down the morale of your workers. Put your best minds on identifying methods to bring these to life in a new way.

Creating a positive hybrid workplace culture requires fostering of the desired environment in leaders’ minds first. Take charge of the shipas shifting workplaces mark the beginning of a new odyssey. Don’t refrain from change, the world has already embraced it.

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Guest Post

3 ways Gamification will Revolutionize your Business

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Gamification in business

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated employee engagement levels. A recent Gallup study shows that employee engagement had increased from 36% in 2019 to 39% in 2020. There are various reasons behind this sudden jump, such as:

a. 45% of employees said they got feedback in 2020 compared to only 26% in 2019.

b. 38% of employees working from home were more engaged than 32% of those working on-site.

But the same study shows that 14% of employees are actively disengaged. Although the engaged to actively disengaged ratio had gone down from 2.7-to-1 in 2019 to 2.6-to-1 in 2020, companies need to identify the vacant spaces and fill them.

Gamification is an excellent strategy for increasing employee engagement levels to all-new higher levels. Many statistics show that employees who have fun at work are more productive and engaged and finish their work well before deadlines.

a. Research by Catapult shows that absenteeism costs UK businesses £554 per employee. Absenteeism can significantly decrease when employees have fun at work.

b. A survey sponsored by Alfresco shows that 65% of employees interact and collaborate with their colleagues multiple times a day. Thus, if employees enjoy time with their colleagues, they will work better and communicate more effectively.

c. According to a study by the University of Warwick, happier employees are 12%-20% more productive than those who are not.

These statistics prove why gamification is essential for your business. Now, let’s see three use cases of how gamification can revolutionize your business.

1. Make your training sessions compelling instead of grueling.

We all know how boring training sessions can get. I have participated in several L&D programs sponsored by the companies I have worked in. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that most people are either busy chit-chatting with their colleagues or sipping extra cups of free coffee. Thus, the primary purpose of training sessions is somewhere lost.

And, why do you think that happens?

People can give various explanations, but the primary reason is boredom.

Employees get bored of training sessions because there are no fun-filled activities to hold their interest.

This is where gamification comes in. Instead of after-session surveys or post-training tests, you can provide real-time polls to check what they have understood and what they have skipped.

And it has never been as easy as it’s today. You can ask the participants to install apps when they enter the L&D room, where they will take polls, surveys, and tests.

You can plan some group activities and hands-on sessions where learners move their hands and legs, as it has several therapeutic benefits. A mild physical activity will go a long way in helping participants to drop boredom.

2. Start a “boredom removal program” at your workplace.

Yes, you heard that right.

A “boredom removal program” is similar to a “pest removal program” frequently conducted by municipal corporations. Boredom is not very different from pests. The latter contaminates the external environment while the former infects our minds, but they function along the same lines.

Follow the steps below to cut of the roots of boredom in your company:

a. Arrange for face-to-face meetings (or online conferences if physical meetings aren’t possible) with managers and junior executives to find out reasons for boredom.

b. Avoid asking closed-ended questions that have simple “yes” or “no” answers. Instead, learn the technique of asking open-ended questions that brings emotions into the equation. You can better judge the employee’s psyche by understanding their feelings.

c. Gamify your interactions. Instead of reading out notes or displaying dull PowerPoint presentations, say what you want to say in the form of games. Online Games have a unique power to engross players for hours. Give puzzles, assign collaborative tasks, and do some physical exercises to suck the boredom. In short, allow the participants to think. Employees who think and come up with innovative solutions never get bored.

d. There is nothing else that gets people more excited than competitions. No matter how much you see, listen to, or talk about equality, people still like winning and watch others losing. Our brains have reward centers that activate when we win a competition. Moreover, our minds are hardwired to experience the thrill of winning over and over again. So, organize branch- or nation-wide competitions and you will be surprised to look at the results.

3. Gamification stimulates the ideas creation process.

Companies conduct pre-market release surveys and research to get an idea of how their products will perform in the market. Gamification can completely transform this process by augmenting our mental processes that dictate our ability to analyze, respond, and react in different situations. There are two ways of doing this: alternate reality games and live-action role-playing games (LARP). Let’s discuss them one by one.

In alternate reality games, the players remain as they are, but the reality around them changes. Jane McGonigal, a gamification expert, has developed a game called “World Without Oil” to show how companies can stimulate the ideas creation process. In the game, the participants become part of a world with an extreme oil shortage. The players receive reminders about the change in oil prices, notifications of oil shortages, and alerts about countries fighting over remaining oil reserves. Players constantly share insights about how the new changes in the world are impacting their lives. This data is collected and is used by different industries for long-term planning scenarios.

On the other hand, in LARP, players take on new roles but the reality around them may or may not change. A new role allows players to shed off traditional social norms and observe the world without predefined criteria and beliefs. For example, researchers at the University of California developed a game called Battlestar Galactica to study the impact of wearable devices.

In this game, the players act as the survivors of an alien attack on their home planet. They need to adjust to new communication patterns based on mental and physical health signals that originate from the clothes they wear. Through this game, researchers gain valuable insights into how wearable technology can positively change human interactions.

Conclusion

Companies across a broad range of industries are using gamification techniques to significantly improve their processes and give a powerful voice to their employees. Gamification plays a vital role in holding the employees’ interest by fostering creative thinking, re-imagining resource consumption, and exploring future challenges interactively. Traditional industries like the automobile industry can also use the gamification technique to understand the benefits and drawbacks of electric cars and the strategies they can implement to emerge as industry leaders.

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