Using Tech Wearables for Corporate Wellness
There is a price to pay when workplace wellness is neglected and it can affect the entire organization. Welnys previously explored the trade-offs of not prioritizing wellness, including absenteeism, which translates to lost time, money, and poor productivity. In addition, it can also impact growth due to high staff turnover rates. Among these aspects, mental wellness is often overlooked and costs companies globally around $153 billion annually. In this regard, businesses that invest and promote a healthy workplace culture like Google, Wegmans of New York and Accenture for instance, have implemented various tactics to keep employees healthy.
While they offer anything from yoga sessions to workforce health screenings and immunizations, other companies like Iron Mountain are turning to wearables to encourage their employees to be active. Iron Mountain's wellness program, LiveWell, requires employees to wear fitness trackers, like Fitbit, so they can participate in fitness- and health-focused challenges — e.g., walk X number of steps, drink X ounces of water — to earn points. These points can, later on, be converted to cash. Wearables are at the center of this innovative approach.
Adjustments like this, as well as the benefits of corporate wellness programs, underscore the crucial role wellness managers play. Biz Journal notes how these healthcare professionals are able to create customized wellness programs and solutions to help employees identify and achieve their health goals. As a result, the demand for non-clinical roles like these in healthcare is growing, with Maryville University detailing how there has been a 20% increase in medical and health services manager roles in the U.S. and this is expected to continue until 2026. This growth will be driven by non-clinical healthcare professionals aiming to improve how the modern workforce looks after their mental and physical wellbeing.
Nowadays, the latest programs are utilizing wearables and based on an American College of Sports Medicine Survey on health and fitness professionals, this trend is likely to continue. It illustrates how wearable technology is the top priority for corporate wellness in 2019.
So, what are the pros and cons of using wearables for corporate wellness?
Wearables like Fitbit do not necessarily make you “healthier”. However, according to cardiologist Tara Narula in an interview with CNN wearables, “make it easier for people to work out”. They usher in a step towards physical activity, which is key to good health. As Dr. Narula explains, people need to “find ways to incorporate working out and exercise into their daily lifestyle and routine so it becomes a habit,” and using wearables offers one way of doing so.
Good health is incentivized
Requiring employees to utilize wearables can aid companies in rewarding employees who meet their fitness goals. Granted, framing good health solely as a matter of incentive is not ideal, nevertheless, it is a means to a healthy end. Besides, the goal is to get employees focusing on their health, and this is a start. It is especially useful for employees with chronic conditions, like diabetes and high blood pressure. With wearables, companies can monitor at-risk employees, who are then rewarded if they keep their sugar and blood pressure levels in check.
Although mandating the use of tech wearables requires significant investment, the result of this investment can be much greater. Remember the aforementioned trade-offs that occur when workplace wellness is neglected. If using wearables does improve employees’ health, most of those trade-offs, along with their costs, will be greatly mitigated.
On the other hand, information gleaned from wearables can reveal undisclosed medical conditions, and this could possibly drive a wedge between employer and employee. It may even lead to unintended workplace discrimination. The crux of this issue is which health metrics can companies actually monitor, or whether or not they are even permitted to do so. Formulating guidelines to this end can be tricky, if not downright impossible and will involve wellness managers familiar with the legalities.
In the event that privacy issues are actually agreed upon, data security will be the next logical challenge. Wellness programs involving the use of wearables will inevitably entail consolidating data, likely through an app or an online portal. As a result, employees’ health information will be at risk of data breaches.
Your average fitness tracker costs anywhere between $60 and $100. That’s on top of the costs of creating data-consolidating apps and training personnel involved to lead the program.
Now, there is no cut and dry answer as to whether companies should incorporate wearables for company wellness. However, they might want to consider, hiring wellness coaches or managers, and companies looking for wellness managers don’t need to look far! Welnys offers a comprehensive database full of respected professionals who can develop a variety of customized and diverse wellness programs. Improving employee health can increase company morale, prevent burnout, and enhance productivity, which in turn benefits everyone in the long run.
Author: Stacey Goodman