Connected devices and cloud-based applications are making it easier than ever for companies to help their people stay healthy and engaged. Seemingly out of nowhere, businesses globally are excited by the subject of health and wellness at work. Industry experts and researchers seem to believe employers have an important role to play in keeping their people happy and healthy. And employers, for their part, see the benefit of doing so: fewer sick days and a more engaged, productive workforce.
Of course, when a trend gets this much attention, it is fair to wonder how much substance is behind it. Is this focus on health and wellness at work mostly hype?
When weighing this question, consider that workplace health and wellness are not new to HR. Companies have long promoted the health of their employees—by making fruit freely available, for example, or including health insurance in their benefit plans. What’s different today is that new technologies, including wearable fitness devices and “connected objects,” enable HR to come up with innovative approaches to health and wellness that make workers more engaged and productive.
What should make HR teams even more excited is that, people are already eager for this to happen. Employees are taking control of their fitness like never before, including at work. Using smartphones and other sensors (such as Jawbone and Fitbit), they are measuring how many steps they take on their walk to work, the time it takes to jog back home, how many calories they burn during the day, even their heart rate and stress levels at work. There is also an interesting gamification aspect, with many people sharing statistics with friends and colleagues in a spirit of friendly competition.
Capitalizing on the grassroots appeal of this technology, HR has an important role to play in channeling people’s enthusiasm into programs that benefit both employees and the business. In the latter case, employers can use health and wellness technologies to address health risks within the workplace, such as stress, fatigue, and strain injuries from physical activity—or in the case of desk workers, a lack of physical activity.
On that last point, through connected health and wellness devices and cloud applications, companies can share recommendations with desk-based employees on ways to prevent physical discomfort caused by sitting down all day. This initiative could be gamefied—for instance, by getting employees to form competitive sports teams and use social media to generate a buzz around matches and encourage collaboration on and off the sports field.
As long as appropriate steps are taken to protect employee data, this is a great way to motivate employees and build stronger working teams while improving the general health of employees.
Thanks to connected devices and cloud applications, health and wellness at work has most definitely arrived. But HR teams must ensure any such programs are based on clear and measurable goals. The benefits of doing so are a more engaged, collaborative, and happier workforce, meaning great things for overall productivity.