Wearables and Wellness at Work: It's Not Just a Trend

Companies that use wearable fitness tools have lower healthcare costs. Their employees can battle depression and lose weight.
Wearables and Wellness at Work: It's Not Just a Trend
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Prolonged sitting and a lack of sleep are both unhealthy habits most employees can relate to: Knowing how these habits significantly increase the risk of major health issues, Tom Mitchell, CEO of language service provider Global Intermix, decided to take his team’s health into his own hands.

Related: Wearable Technology: A Powerful HR Tool

“This past holiday season, we gifted our team with Fitbit trackers, in an effort to encourage everyone to monitor their health, specifically to move more throughout the day and get enough sleep,” Mitchell told me via email from the company's headquarters in Los Angeles. “Playing off of the competitive spirit of our team, we created monthly competitions around increasing activity and sleep.”

To keep everyone motivated, Global Intermix also set financial incentives, such as gift cards and bonuses, for accomplishing goals. The bonuses -- and the program overall -- worked: After six short months, Mitchell reported, citing just two examples, one employee had lost 25 pounds and another had signed up for a half marathon.

Employee wellness is all well and good, but there's actually more: Wellness, Mitchell assured me, was his major motivator. But the company’s move to get healthy seemed to play a role in its increased sales, month over month.

What's more, this CEO and his team were hardly alone in noticing the benefits of connecting wearables and well-being in the workplace. A recent Springbuk study found that companies studied that used wearable fitness tools had lower healthcare costs.

Related: Wearables at Work? What You Need to Consider.

Here are four additional tech advances improving employee wellness:

Biometric data

New employee wellness initiatives are going above and beyond traditional programs. For example, Intuit, a financial-management solutions company, recently partnered with Arivale, a company that helps users achieve personal goals by translating body language into specific, actionable recommendations.

“Arivale uses cutting-edge science to create a more complete picture of you and your wellness potential and helps you make the lifestyle changes you need to live well,” Scott Beth, vice president of finance operations and workplace at Intuit, in Mountain View, Calif., told me.

“The program also leverages Fitbits to track activity and sleep," Beth added, "and the Arivale coaches monitor this data and provide feedback to the participants.”

Beth reports that the Intuit team members are amazed at what he describes as remarkable results that they’ve seen so far. Through the scientific wellness program, employees are given information from saliva tests, DNA tests and 80 blood markers to better understand their bodies. They’re then paired with a wellness coach who interprets that data and helps them make personal choices to improve their well-being.

Virtual therapy

When most of us imagine improved employee wellness, we picture moving more, eating healthy and making good choices for our physical health. But Jesse Harrison, founder and CEO of Zeus Legal Funding, a lawsuit settlement funding company in Los Angeles, knows the employee wellness benefits of good mental and emotional health firsthand.

In an effort to help his team perform at their best and improve their mental health, Harrison began offering MoodGYM to his employees. “It is a program designed to help with cognitive behavioral therapy," Harrison explained via email. "I treated my own social anxiety and depression with it and I have implemented it in my business, too.” 

At least one employee benefited, as well. One of Harrison's team members found herself in a depressed state, and thanks to Harrison's investment in MoodGYM, was able to improve her mental health. “It was like the difference between day and night," he told me. "In the past, she was aggressive and sharp and she would go out and get clients. She was motivated.

"But in early March, her performance started to decline. She was not making as many sales. She often appeared agitated."

The employee confided in Harrison about her depression, but like many suffering in that state didn’t want to see a therapist in person. So Harrison offered a different kind of help: After introducing her to MoodGYM, he said, he noticed a huge improvement in how she was doing both personally and professionally.

Wearable integration platforms

With so many different types of wearables available -- everything from AppleWatch to Fitbit -- companies interested in these tools need a platform that allows employees to upload and share their information. Renae Coombs is a human resource manager at SAIF, a not-for-profit workers comp insurance company in Portland. Coombs said she knew her team members needed a tool that would integrate with any wearable they already had.

“We use VirginPulse as our platform, and it works with Apple Watch, Fitbit, Garmin -- almost any device you can think of,” Combs said via email. “The activity in steps, networking, competitions and healthy lifestyle nudges [which these tools provide] all give employees points they can redeem for incentives.”

Compliance monitoring

As most employers know, it’s crucial to stay up to date on compliance regulations. But with health care laws constantly changing, this task is more difficult than ever.

A benefits tool like EaseCentral, an online benefits solution, can help streamline benefit processes.

Related: Using Wearable Devices to Help Promote Employee Wellness

Integrating benefits with payroll and other HR services helps employees stay engaged, while saving companies time and irritation. The positive result is more time for companies to focus on what’s important -- their employees' wellness.

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