Employers have long understood that focusing on employee’s health has a multitude of benefits for employees and employers alike. Health insurance companies touted health and wellness initiatives by offering employee newsletters which didn’t hesitate to point out the distinct correlation between obesity and the greater propensity for all sorts of diseases. Some offered seminars where employees could ask questions about a particular health issue. Still others went a step farther and held full blown health fairs with vendors across a broad range of areas from clinics to yoga to healthy eating. Although each initiative may have met with marginal success, they lacked the aspect of real personalization.
In walks wearables. Wearables, as the name so implies, are devices that are worn by the individuals. Fitbit is a perfect example. Having just acquired Twine Health, they are taking aim at helping consumers/employees manage chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension, make lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation and weight loss and allowing all the parties involved in someone’s health, including providers, coaches and families, to collaborate on care plans.
More employees are expecting their benefits offerings to be personalized to their experience and a wearable could easily set a framework to allow that personalization.
The touted benefits of an employer focus on health and wellness are many:
It seems logical enough. Healthy employees tend to be unexpectedly absent less than their unhealthy counterparts. The Wellness Council of America estimates that 100 million workdays are lost to workers’ lower back problems each year. A company fitness program that includes weight loss and muscle strengthening can reduce instances of lower back injuries. Fewer doctor visits and fewer sick days make for a more productive employee population.
Lower health insurance costs
According to the American Journal of Health Promotion, a study of nearly 950,000 individuals showed decreased hospitalization costs, length of stay and admissions for those engaged in a comprehensive wellness program.
Lower turnover as employees feel cared for by their employer
Sometimes just showing you care is enough to reap the rewards of engagement among your employee population. Higher engagement yields lower turnover. For example, the APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award winners report a significantly lower turnover rate than the national rate of 38 percent, as well as a 73 percent employee satisfaction rate. HBR reports that 70% of employee participants reported that their company’s offering is an indicator that their employer cares about them. The real differentiator between successful and failed wellness programs may be whether they deliver on the emotional level as well as the physical.
Wearables offer an opportunity to take employee health and wellness to a new level. One where programs, advice and reminders are personalized to each individual employee. According to ABI Research, 13 million wearable devices will be integrated into corporate-wellness plans over the next five years. Encouraging employees to use wearable fitness devices, such as Jawbone’s UP 24 activity tracker, Nike’s FuelBands or Fitbits, to track their movement, sleep and eating habits and share their accomplishments with their colleagues can motivate your entire office to lead a healthier life, resulting in less sick days, lower health insurance premiums and higher productivity.