When Washington State Bank in Iowa remodeled one of its two branches this year and its president, Keith Lazar, had to decide what to do with an extra room, he turned to his employees.
The overwhelming request: a workout area. Mr. Lazar complied, and an apartment above the branch is being converted into a gym. Employees will donate the equipment and set the hours of operation.
Whether $149 million-asset Washington State is the only community bank with its own workout facility is unclear, but what is certain is that a growing number of banks are seeing fit to keep employees fit. Though other industries have long been offering fitness perks, banks have only recently begun to do so as the job market has tightened, said Diane Gerstner, the assistant director of sales for Alex Sheshunoff Management Services in Austin, Tex.
"Banks are realizing that it is more and more difficult to attract and retain quality employees and that they have to do things differently to have some stability," Ms. Gerstner said.
Said Kevin Kiley chief operating officer of the Massachusetts Bankers Association, "Simply put, a healthy employee is a happy employee."
The most popular way banks promote fitness is through discounts at health clubs. For years employees at $450 million-asset Lebanon Citizens National Bank in Ohio have been eligible for a 15% discount at the local YMCA for years but has not actively promoted it until recently, said chief executive officer Stephen P. Wilson.
"We've always had a wide range of benefits, but we have put a lot more emphasis on some of them with the labor shortage," he said.
In-house classes and guest speakers are also becoming more commonplace. A bank in Massachusetts offers in-house Weight Watchers meetings once a week. Ms. Gerstner said the bank president created this plan with the help of the Massachusetts Bankers Association after noticing that so many people were rushing out at lunch or after work to get to diet programs.
Meanwhile, Washington State Bank once a month invites speakers to discuss a variety of safety and health topics.
"Compensation is important, but it's the little things that really count," Mr. Lazar said.
These little things benefit the employee and the bank alike. Companies with healthy and mentally stable employees have lower premiums for health insurance and fewer sick days, according to Ms. Gerstner.
Mr. Kiley added that such employees are more focused and energetic. "Good health and good habits lead to better productivity," he said.