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7 common pitfalls of corporate wellness programmes

James A. Martin | June 17, 2016
Wellness leaders from Fitbit, SAP, Bank of America and the state of South Carolina share insight and advice based on lessons learned from their organizations' early fitness-tracker based corporate wellness programs.

Some employees are rightfully concerned about how their activity information and other wellness program data will be used — and if it will somehow be used against them. It's essential to communicate clearly, transparently and early about the specific data wellness programs collect and is done (and not done) with the information, according to Anne Oxrider, Bank of America's (BoA) senior vice president and senior benefits consultant, during a session at the recent Fitbit conference.

When BoA first rolled out its wellness program, it saw far lower participation than expected due to employee concern over data collection. Oxrider "spent a lot of time" visiting various bank locations around the country to specify how and why employee data would be safe, and to address employee concerns. As a result, 87 percent of the company's employees eventually participated in the initial wellness program, she said. 

6. Not all employees know how to use activity trackers

"We took it for granted that Fitbit is user-friendly," says Jen Wright, working well director of the South Carolina Hospital Association, who worked with state Representative Neal Collins to get its House of Representatives engaged in activity challenges and programs.

However, some legislators didn't receive or see their invites to join the Fitbit program. Others didn't know how to sync their steps to their accounts, or where to view team activity data. It's important to offer up-front instructions on how to use the hardware and software that fuel activity challenges, Wright says.

7. Prepare to get lots of wellness pitches from startups

There's certainly no shortage of startups entering the field of employee health and wellness programs today. "We get half a dozen pitches every week" from such startups, Russell says.

While companies don't want to miss out on worthwhile additions to their organizations' wellness programs, they should be careful not to make them too complicated for employees. Bank of America's Oxrider said it's important to ask startups about how they protect employee data, as well as how they scale, and also request a list of results their products earned for customers.

Most importantly, organizations need to stay focused on what's important to their employees. "You don't want to give your employees 50 apps they need to look at in order to figure out what to do" about their health and wellness, Oxrider said.


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