“It’s none of your friggin’ business” July 16th, 2015, by Ken Buckley

Otherwise titled: Harnessing the power of wearable tech and fitness trackers for employee health

It’s true: with great power comes great responsibility. And there’s no doubt that fitness trackers are powerful little things.

They have the power to transform workplace health. They have the power to create an energised, focused, collaborative, can-do culture; they have the power to inject fun, competition, incentives and team bonding and unprecedented social sharing and personal accountability into your corporate wellness program.

But they also have the power to completely turn people off, to the point of utter disengagement. Most fitness trackers and wearable tech can record your steps, your calorie intake, your sleep. They can connect with wi-fi bathroom scales and record your weight every morning.

As an employee, do you really want your employer to know how much you weigh? Or that you had a second serve of cheesecake last night and stayed up late to watch sport? No, nope, nopey-no, noooo. As the heading says, “it’s none of your friggin’ business”.

And as an employer, do you really need that data? This is a more complicated answer – because you kinda do, just not at that individual, granular level, and not in an identifiable way.

In the US, many employers do want and record this individual data. It’s all to do with the fact that employers pay for health insurance, and there’s a long history of recording employees’ health stats and giving incentives or penalties for participation in health initiatives. And, not surprisingly, there’s a lot of backlash and debate about the pros and cons of this.

But here in Australia and New Zealand, most companies using activity trackers, or any other source of data such as an online health risk assessment, are only after aggregate reports. Those with a good online platform, with a step-based challenge for example, might ask employees to voluntarily share their data on daily steps, but it’s voluntary and no other personal data is shared.

So, where does that leave you, as Corporate Wellness Manager?

Firstly, there’s no ignoring activity trackers and wearable devices – not that you’d want to. The thing is, your employees are already using them.

They’re using them to motivate themselves to better health – to lose weight, get fit, increase their steps, understand their body and integrate healthy habits into their lifestyle.

They’re using them to motivate each other – they’re talking about it on social media, sharing results and giving virtual high fives. They’re talking about it in the workplace.

And you know who those employees are? They’re your corporate wellness goldmine – the ones who know they need to do something about their health, and are ready to change. AND, they’re your “rocket fuelled” employees, the motivated doers who are already fit and want to get even fitter, and want to be rewarded for their efforts.

The fitness tracker and wearable device industry is growing exponentially. By 2018, more than 13 million wearable activity-tracking devices will be integrated into employee wellness programs, based on estimates from ABI Research.

Likewise, digital health is also growing – employees now expect to access on-demand expert information about health issues, fitness, nutrition, sleep, stress, and information about their own health progress, stats and rewards.

You want in on that for your workplace health program.

It all comes down to how you use them.

How to use the power of fitness trackers in your corporate wellness program

1. Don’t just hand them out and leave it at that.

Some employees will love it, but many will resent it. They’ll see it as yet another infiltration of work into their personal lives.

They’re a tool, not an end-game. The organisations using them the most effectively are integrating them into gamified challenges and comprehensive digital wellness programs. They’re using competitions, dashboards, and leaderboards combined with content, social sharing and incentives. These platforms bring disparate teams together in an unprecedented way, with a laser sharp employee value proposition: feel great!

They report vastly improved team bonding, rivalry-turned-camaraderie, and clearly measurable improvements in fitness, sleep and overall health.

Example: Employees take part in a step challenge, that takes them on a virtual trek from Kakadu to Uluru, for example. Teams of four compete against other teams, and each week they can see where their team in comparison to other teams. They can see how their extra steps can help them and their team win the game.

They upload pics and comments, they receive tips on how to increase their steps, say with walking meetings, or group walks at lunchtime, or active commuting. Employees sync their device to the system, so their so steps are automatically recorded for them.

2. Be clear on what data, if any, you’re recording, and how you’ll use it

You may find you just need to measure steps, and leave it at that. Are you only ever collecting anonymous, aggregate data?

Make sure you have a clear confidentiality statement and policy, so your employees feel comfortable in taking part.

3. Use the energy and momentum of the wearable device phenomenon to fuel your corporate wellness program.

Use them to reward those who are looking after their health.

Use them to creating social bonds, break down silos

Use them to inspire and motivate and engage employees in fun competitions

Use them to energise.

Use them to create a fun, positive, proactive culture.

 

 

Oh, and by the way: we’ve got a really cool way to do ALL this. It’s called Activate. Find out more!

 

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