Hundreds of employees take advantage of free summer access to HelWell

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A membership to HelWell ordinarily costs between $39 and $94 per month for faculty and staff, but officials provided access to the gym for free for employees this summer.

More than 200 faculty and staff took advantage of free access to the Lerner Health and Wellness Center provided by officials this summer.

Administrators gave staff and faculty access to the gym this summer through Aug. 15 to boost “employees’ well-being” as part of University President Thomas LeBlanc’s strategic initiative to improve institutional culture. University spokeswoman Crystal Nosal said officials instituted the change following a recommendation by the faculty and staff care work team, one of four teams created last spring to provide recommendations on how to improve GW’s institutional culture.

“The care work team was charged with soliciting input and ideas from all levels of the University’s stakeholders,” Nosal said in an email. “They heard from faculty and staff who said they wanted more options for both mental and physical well-being at their workplace.”

Nosal added that officials are in the process of gathering feedback to determine “future access opportunities.” She declined to say if the initiative has caused an increase in the number of faculty and staff paying for a membership package to access the center since August.

A membership to HelWell ordinarily costs between $39 and $94 per month for faculty and staff, depending on the membership package purchased, according to the gym’s website.

The summer access change comes months after a culture assessment conducted last year with the help of the Disney Institute pinpointed poor communication and service culture as top issues among GW employees. Officials hired an inaugural chief people officer, who started last week, to oversee a “major reorientation” of GW’s human resources operations.

Andrés Samayoa, an assistant professor of educational leadership and higher education at Boston College, said the initiative might “foster greater community” among faculty and staff on campus year-round while ensuring a “sustained footprint” within the center.

He added that the free access to the gym could promote a healthy lifestyle among employees, which is one strategy to lower their insurance premiums.

“Many employers also encourage wellness and healthy habits amongst employees as insurance premiums might decrease with preventative care, and healthful living with gym access can be one such strategy,” Samayoa said in an email.

Ilena Peng contributed reporting.

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