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Updated: January 11, 2021

Best of Business 2021: Employee services

Janine McCarthy, personal trainer at Worcester Fitness

Outside of restaurants and bars, gyms may be the businesses affected the most by the coronavirus pandemic, with far fewer people willing to take a chance on getting infected by working out inside next to others. 

Worcester Fitness at 440 Grove St. had to shut down for about four months early in the pandemic and has since remade much of its space to be safer. Equipment is now 14 feet apart, members are required to wear masks at all times and must sanitize equipment between each use. For those who might be forgetful or not realize how close they are to another member, Worcester Fitness’ staff provides quick but gentle enough reminders.

"Everything is running, but nothing is running like we're used to it running,” said Kat Butterfield, the gym’s director of operations.

Those precautions have helped keep Worcester Fitness afloat, but it hasn't been able to work magic at a time when countless businesses have had to close temporarily or permanently because of the pandemic.

“It’s taken a huge hit on our business financially,” Butterfield said.

Membership is down by at least half, placing a huge burden on the 40-year-old family-run business, which has a sibling gym in Plymouth.

Working out at a gym may be understandably worrisome to many these days, but Butterfield said nowhere else outside the home may be as sanitized as a gym. Many members who’ve toured the gym before re-activating their membership have been comfortable returning, she said. Its swim program and massages have continued running like usual, and when the weather was warmer, the gym took advantage of extra space in its parking lot to hold some outdoor activities.

Another factor has helped, Butterfield said: Worcester Fitness’ dedication to cleanliness and customer service, two attributes that have likely never been as valued or necessary.

“Our staff really goes above and beyond for a top experience,” she said.

-- Grant Welker

Notable runners-up: Planet Fitness, Release Well-Being Center


Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Locations: Boston, Worcester, Quincy, Hingham;
Top executive: President & CEO Andrew Dreyfus
Founded: 1937
Employees: 3,800

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Blue Cross not only unveiled a new plan to reduce healthcare inequities, but expanded access to care and invested $218 million to support its members, customers, clinical partners and the community, including $101 million in premium refunds and anticipated rebates.

Notable runners-up: Fallon Health, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care 


HYPE9 of the Corridor 9/495 Regional Chamber of Commerce
Location: Westborough,
Top executive: President & CEO Karen J. Chapman
Founded: 2007
Employees: 3

HYPE9 is well known for its outside-the-box networking events, workshops to build essential career skills, and opportunities to be involved in the community and with the chamber in leadership activities. During the pandemic, the chamber was vital in providing information on government relief, as well as with webinars designed to help businesses stay afloat.

Notable runners-up: Young Professionals Women’s Association of Worcester, Worcester Young Businessmen's Association


Provo Wealth Management Group*
Location: Shrewsbury,
Top executive: President & CEO Christopher P. Provo
Founded: 1992
Employees: 8

Over the past 29 years, Provo has not wavered from its passion of treating every client like its only client. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, that passion was put to the test, but the company and its employees uncovered every work around to maintain its client satisfaction.

Notable runner-up: Fidelity Investments 


Location: Westborough,
Top executive: Mark Altman, speaker, trainer & coach
Founded: 2014
Employees: 3

MindSetGo’s focus is centered on sustained habit change, continuous learning, and making sure its trainees are confident, comfortable, ready and willing to immediately apply their improved communication skills to their personal and professional lives. In 2020, the company pivoted to help companies with two core problems, remote leadership and change management, shifting its emphasis to supporting C-suite executives. 


Sullivan Benefits 
Location: Marlborough,
Top executive: President & Owner Chrystine M. Heier, CEBS, LIA
Founded: 1998
Employees: 10

Sullivan Benefits is a boutique firm focused on maximizing its clients’ return on their investment in their employees. As the coronavirus pandemic unfolded, this involved offering new tools, resources, technology, guidance and support around new legislative requirements, and facilitating communication and connection with their employees. 


Nichols College
Location: Dudley,
Top executive: President Susan West Engelkemeyer, Ph.D.
Founded: 1815
Employees: 330

Nichols College has long been recognized for its dynamic career-focused business education, preparing graduates through professional development and leadership programs, experiential learning opportunities, an engaged alumni network, and a supportive campus community. As the pandemic hit in the spring, Nichols switched to remote-only learning but brought students back on campus in the fall through an emphasis on testing and safety.

Notable runners-up: Assumption University, Clark University

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