Confessions of a benefits manager: Candid tests online gyms


Big Bad Boss has put on weight and he’s not alone. This week, I sat in on a digital conference with the Higher Beings, our senior leadership team, and it was like staring into a box of hamsters. Big Bad Boss must have stepped on the scales, because he’s asked me to research some online gym facilities to get us all in shape and healthy.

This is the kind of project I like. I get to research a subject I am actually interested in rather than pensions and insurance. I might even get to chat to a few fit men, which doesn’t happen often in my life I can tell you.

Existing resources

We already have a corporate gym membership, but as it closed right now we need something we can all access online. I check in with the current provider just in case it has some online resources we haven’t been told about. Nope. Its website just says the world has ended, it is closed, and go away, or words to that effect. I note that our existing agreement is almost up, so it might be sorry it wasn’t a bit more enterprising in these unprecedented times. After all, the National Ballet is offering online fitness classes, as are various aging celebrities, so surely an actual gym could do it?

I could contact our reward consultant, Smarmy Consulting, as I know it has an extensive health and wellbeing offering. However, I can’t face the hard sales pitch and extensive fees. No, I am going to enjoy this little foray into the world of fitness on my own. I type ‘corporate online gym’ into my search engine and have a random look around.

Exploring alternatives

AnyOld Gyms has facilities near to the office and I see it is offering online classes now. I sign up for the 30-day free trial using my special spam-avoidance email address. I also register incognito with Virtualbuff and OfficeActivate.

AnyOld Gym has a complicated website, so I need to hunt around for information about how it would work with us. Unless I am missing something, it seems more geared up for retail customers. The classes look good though and I spend a lovely hour doing Yin Yoga and meditation just to check. Yes, I am actually getting paid to do yoga. Sometimes I love my job. But not often.

You might be able to guess what attracted me to VirtualBuff; the front man is particularly watchable. In fact, I could gaze at him doing high-intensity workouts all day long. I don’t join in this time; he is very bouncy and I don’t want to overdo it. All the classes are live which is mixed blessing. I think live classes are better for motivation but much harder to schedule into a busy day. Interestingly, VirtualBuff is set up to link to wearable technology and you can train against others on a special leaderboard. This might appeal to C-suite who are all competitive alpha males even if they are bit chubby these days. Another thing I like about VirtualBuff is it offers online personal coaching, which we could either provide to all staff as a voluntary benefit, or perhaps just have as a special perquisite to the Higher Beings. I think Big Bad Boss would like that. He likes to make the top floor feel special.

Engaging opportunities

OfficeActivate is way more corporate in its approach. I’m told it can help with our employee engagement and that healthy employees are more focused and perform better at work. And a healthy workforce will keep health insurance claims down. I can see all this ticking the box with the Higher Beings in C-suite. Anything that says we can get more out of employees for less cost is a winner.

Another firm, MuscleCorp, offers a two-way live stream so employees can engage with each other. Eeew. I can’t think of anything worse. It was bad enough in our real-life gym, when you could bump into your colleagues all sweaty from their workout. I’m still trying to unsee the vision of Big Bad Boss in lycra. MuscleCorp tells me online fitness is a great way to interact in a non-work environment, building team cohesion and even to help networking with clients. I think not.

Decision time

It is time for another yoga class to make up my mind. Even though it’s quite high testosterone if that’s your thing, Virtualbuff still has the best selection of yoga and pilates for me. It’s time to come out as a client and talk about cost. I ask what else it can offer their corporate clients. It seems there is much more than I’d discovered for myself. There are many other health benefits on its corporate wellbeing platform including nutrition, diet clubs, back recovery, and even life coaching. Somethings are duplicated by our own wellbeing platform, but I don’t think that matters; there is no such thing as too much wellbeing. I just have to convince Big Bad Boss.

Actually, it’s not that hard a sell. I use some of the blurb from one of the other firms; all that stuff about healthy employees working harder and costing less. Even with some nice sweeties to offer the kiddies in C-suite in terms of private coaching, VirtualBuff will cost a whole lot less than our current gym. When I mention box-fit classes Big Bad Boss is sold.

I am delighted to learn that VirtualBuff will offer me free private fitness coaching for a month just for signing up. I do hope I get to train with the lovely front man. Expect a newly toned Candid next time you see her.

Next time… Candid applies for her own job.