Corporate Wellness: the Case Against Wearables for Employees, and the Importance of Behavior Change

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Intel Free Press

For employers interested in using metrics to decrease healthcare insurance costs and boosting employee productivity, the latest commentary might be interesting:

According to a panel of experts profiled in Forbes, a wearable device given to employees doesn’t create behavior change.

The Argument Against Wearable Devices for Employees

Sometimes, awareness of meaningful metrics can help move numbers. For example, several studies found self-monitoring of weight significantly improved weight loss outcomes. However, some experts argue that not all individuals may be intrinsically motivated to take active steps (let’s just get the early puns out of the way now) to improve their health.

Therefore, although we support the development of wearables like the Fitbit, Jawbone, and Nike+, a device is not the only necessary component to actually healthier and more productive teams.

The Exercise Habit Is a Good Starting Point

Fortunately, studies on behavioral psychology and habit change indicate that a wearable device focused on physical activity tracking may serve as a viable starting point for boosting overall employee health, due to one important finding:

Exercise catalyzes improvements in nutrition, sleep, and stress reduction, more than any other factor, according to studies on both men and women.

This phenomenon is due to exercise being considered a “keystone habit” by New York Times reporter and author Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit. In other words, the research suggests exercise as a habit that allows other healthy habits to fall into place.

To improve employee health, start with exercise.

Corporate Wellness Strategies That Actually Work

1. Go Beyond Commonly Tested Biomarkers

Health risks are unique to each company, so it’s important to test the full spectrum of biomarkers, not just the most common ones that “check the box.”

Read more about unique health risks for each company, why this matters, and examples of different company health challenges.

There are newly established biomarkers that most employers are not tracking that you should be measuring, including :

  • hs-CRP
  • vitamin D
  • TSH
  • magnesium
  • cortisol
  • ApoB
  • HbA1c

2. Make Health Fun and Easy

To better envision a suitable corporate health program for your company, it may help to learn about existing programs that work for other companies, and adapt to your employees accordingly. It’s about what works for your population, and meets them where they’re at.

For example, companies like Zappos, Motley Fool, and Google are prioritizing fun activities for health.

Other companies like Fitbit, BP, and Applico are creating a company culture around physical activity. In particular, BP employees have completed 13 million steps collectively since the implementation of their employee health program, while Applico has significantly reduced healthcare insurance costs as a result of a wellness program called “Cloudfit”.

How WellnessFX Can Help

In addition to working with consumers, WellnessFX also works with employers. Companies love the simple and streamlined experience of identifying their population’s unique needs, and employees get a deeper look at their health while learning how to make meaningful change.

Learn more about WellnessFX’s Corporate Wellness Program

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.