On-Site Gyms at Top Chattanooga Companies Transform Employee Wellness

While many companies offer fitness reimbursements or discounts, some local companies go the extra mile by providing on-site exercise facilities.

Engaging in physical activity produces many benefits that extend into the workday, including improved mental and physical well-being, reduced absenteeism and increased productivity. Placing importance on employee physical and mental health also helps promote a positive work culture.

Explore how these four local companies retain talent and support mental health through on-site exercise facilities:

Volkswagen of Chattanooga

Amanda Plecas, Head of Communications at Volkswagen of Chattanooga, believes their approach to physical activity from the start contributes largely to employee overall well-being.   

“We have an upcoming Volkswagen Annual Health Fair in October of 2023, featuring local vendors and health activities,” Plecas says. “This event will be hosted across 21 Volkswagen locations spanning 11 countries, with each site actively participating in the Health. Care. Run, highlighting the organization’s global commitment to employee health and well-being.” 

Since opening in 2011, Volkswagen of Chattanooga has prioritized employee well-being through its on-site exercise facility. With 24/7 access to the facility, employees can conveniently exercise for free.     

The fitness center provides a variety of group exercise classes, including spin, yoga and educational seminars, ensuring a holistic approach to employee well-being.  

Mandatory stretching for production floor employees occurs before the beginning of the workday. This proactive measure includes warm-up routines specifically designed to help mitigate the risk of injury.    

A team of personal trainers collaborates with plant employees, focusing on tailored fitness programs and classes.

Image courtesy of Volkswagen
Image courtesy of Volkswagen

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

At The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the Aquatic and Recreation Center (ARC) is a thriving exercise facility catering to both students and faculty members. Faculty and staff are eligible for a special membership rate with flexible terms, granting them full access to the ARC.   

The recreation center offers various amenities, including fitness equipment, group exercise classes, basketball gyms, locker rooms and personal training. The aquatic center features a 25-yard lap pool, lazy river, hot and cold spa, two-story water slide and water sports. These options cater to the diverse interests of their faculty and staff, allowing them to partake in a physical activity they truly enjoy. 

Developments are on the horizon at the ARC, as it is set to introduce an F45 franchise in October 2023, a group exercise class that combines functional training with high-intensity cardio.

The ARC also extends a special benefit to faculty members by offering discounted youth swim lessons, an opportunity for families to build lifesaving skills and engage in recreation activities together.  

Cindy Strine, Director of Campus Recreation, UTC, has been with the organization since 2019 and has seen the impact that physical activity has on their workforce. 

“It’s a great place for faculty and staff to interact with students in a casual atmosphere and build a sense of community,” Strine says. “They value the convenience of being on campus and being able to fit in a workout between teaching classes.” 

Strine says, “Faculty who use the ARC tell me it’s the best thing for their mental health.”

Image courtesy of Bella Merritt
Image courtesy of Bella Merritt

Southern Champion Tray

Southern Champion Tray, the leading manufacturer of paperboard packaging in Chattanooga, was voted by the community as 2022 best overall place to work

Southern Champion Tray offers an exercise facility free to all staff and open around the clock, designed to cater to all schedules. 

The state-of-the-art gym features fitness equipment, group exercise classes, a racquetball court and an outdoor basketball court. A 2016 expansion added updated locker rooms and showers.   

In August 2023, pickleball courts were opened in response to growing demand. To promote camaraderie and physical fitness among its employees, Southern Champion Tray organized a pickleball tournament during the grand opening.

“We wanted to make it as effortless as possible for our employees to live a healthy lifestyle and prioritize their mental health,” says John Branum, Lead Exercise Physiologist with Southern Champion Tray for the past 10 years. With that focus on convenience, the exercise facility is located at the front of the building where employees walk past as they start and end their workday.

Image courtesy of Southern Champion Tray
Image courtesy of Southern Champion Tray


UNUM, a prominent provider of comprehensive financial insurance products across various industries, caters to companies of all sizes and is at the forefront of promoting employee well-being and mental health.

Laurie Mitchell, Assistant Vice President of Global Wellbeing and Health Management at UNUM, is dedicated to the design and delivery of health initiatives for 10,000 employees. 

“Our employees recognize that UNUM cares for and supports their well-being,” Mitchell says. “Today, people expect to have these programs from their employer, so I believe that when a prospect is deciding between UNUM and somewhere else, these amenities and support for their health can be a deciding factor.” 

UNUM’s gym is open every day and offers two membership options: in-person and virtual. Employees who visit the gym at least eight times per month are eligible for membership reimbursement.  

A 2020 renovation expanded what was offered, now including in-person and virtual group exercise classes, access to personal training services, a wide array of weight and cardio equipment, as well as an indoor and outdoor track.   

UNUM offices also feature walking workstations, providing employees with the opportunity to stay active while maintaining productivity. These initiatives underscore UNUM’s commitment to fostering a healthy and supportive work environment.

Image courtesy of Bella Merritt
Image courtesy of Bella Merritt

In today’s dynamic business landscape, success hinges on more than just financial gains. This is where on-site exercise facilities step in—a strategic decision with the power to reshape your workplace, transform employee satisfaction and create jobs that contribute to local economic development. 

These local companies are taking a proactive approach that not only demonstrates their commitment to the well-being of their employees but also sets them apart from other employers in the region. 

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