This time of year, Citigroup Inc.’s fitness centre would likely usually be packed with New Year’s resolutioners working out and catching up with colleagues. 

Not this January. The company’s Mississauga, Ont., fitness centre was a popular place for its employees to break a sweat together. But when the coronavirus pandemic halted in-person activities last March, the company sprung into action to ensure it continued to support employee’s physical health from a distance.

“It’s not just something that is a ‘nice to have,’ it’s become integrated into the [Citigroup] culture,” says Christine Discola, the company’s director and country human resources manager in Canada. 

Read: Citigroup’s proactive approach to wellness includes onsite gym, trainer

Indeed, prior to the pandemic, approximately 30 per cent of the organization’s employee population in Canada utilized the facilities, notes Rachel Conacher, program manager of EXOS, the fitness consultant firm that manages Citigroup’s fitness centres across North America. So in response to the crisis, the company put its fitness membership fee on hold for all employees and moved the program online, providing classes running the gamut from meditation to yoga to high-intensity workouts and even a virtual running program.

With the move to a virtual setting, Conacher says the program can now reach Citigroup’s employees across the country, rather than just those who live in close proximity to the site in the Greater Toronto Area. The comprehensive online fitness program is now provided a few times daily — five days a week — and is available to all employees and their families. The sessions have been so integral to employees’ well-being, the company expanded it to include a registered dietician and four high-touch, one-on-one virtual personal trainers.

Read: Employees prioritizing fitness benefits during pandemic: survey

The company has also increased focus on its employees’ mental well-being, adding program offerings aimed at maintaining and promoting a positive and supportive workplace culture, says Discola. The programming consists of on-demand webinars on dozens of topics — from sleep management to the importance of hydrating with water to self-care, mindfulness, positivity and gratitude. Citigroup has also rolled out a resiliency series on an ongoing basis since the start of the global pandemic 10 months ago.

Although there may be fewer virtual classes offered when the pandemic likely recedes later this year and things get back to some form of normalcy, she says Citigroup’s focus on wellness and delivering a culture of support is here to stay. “Right now, we don’t have a time horizon for returning to work,” she noted. “We expect this to be for the long haul and . . . so post-COVID-19  . . . we anticipate a segment of the population to work  from home for the long term [and] we want to ensure and have the right balance of support for those employees as well.”

Copyright © 2021 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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