Best Buy Canada Ltd. has had a well-used on-site gym at its Burnaby, B.C. head office for a decade.
But when employees started working from home during the pandemic, the company decided to bring the gym to their laptops with a virtual fitness program.
“We realized that staying fit and staying active was something we wanted to continue for people who were already part of our gym membership population and we wanted to offer it in a bigger way because of all the crazy stress that’s been added to people’s lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Carol Graziani, director of human resources services at Best Buy Canada.
“We wanted to go beyond the basics of, ‘How do we get work done?’ to ‘How do we maintain some of our culture and take care of our people in the same way we were committed to doing in the physical world?'”
The company partnered with Curtis Health, a corporate health and wellness service provider that managed its onsite gym, to offer virtual fitness classes to the company’s entire employee base. Employees have access to a regular rotation of classes through a virtual gym website called Thrive, including high-intensity interval training, pilates and yoga, which they can tune in to over Zoom. While head office employees had previously paid $20 per month to attend the onsite gym, access to the virtual gym is free.
Graziani says the company asked Curtis Health to offer two additional classes for its employees: a daily stretch break and a daily 20-minute meditation session. With employees going from “Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting,” they’re not often leaving their desks, so a stretch break is a good reminder to get their bodies moving, she says. Meditation was added to help people “break up some of the stress they’re feeling.”
Prior to the pandemic, roughly 250 to 300 employees out of 1,000 regularly used the gym at Best Buy Canada’s head office. While the company doesn’t have numbers on how many employees are accessing the virtual offering, class sizes have been consistently around 12 to 20 people.
In addition to the virtual classes, employees can access information on nutrition, mindfulness, coping with coronavirus-related stressors and family resources on the virtual gym website. Curtis Health also hosts occasional classes for employees and their children to participate in together. “With schools being closed and employees having their kids at home, there’s a [triple] pressure of being a full-time parent, a full-time teacher and a full-time employee,” she says.
The virtual offering may have been implemented to support employees during the pandemic, but Graziani doesn’t see it as a temporary program.
“People have been very successful working at home and, as we look to the future, I don’t think we’re ever going to see a day when we have 1,000 people onsite every day. I don’t see that as the future of the office for us anymore. The pandemic certainly has given us an opportunity to think creatively in ways we’ve never had to think before.”