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9 ways corporate fitness and wellness programs will change in 2016

James A. Martin | Dec. 18, 2015
Enterprise-wide fitness challenges and wellness programs had a banner year in 2015, thanks in no small part to the proliferation of activity trackers and other wearables. In 2016, organizations will look for programs that take employee health a step further.

We can expect to see a more "multifaceted" approach to delivering new features, according to Jeff Ruby, Newtopia founder and CEO, including live fitness coaching delivered to employees via two-way video conferencing. CIOs will need to ensure their organizations' network bandwidth can support the additional burden, he says. 

Gamification, social networking key to corporate wellness in 2016

To encourage and maintain staff participation in fitness initiatives, gamification and social networking will become even more important in 2016.

"People got super excited about 'the quantified self' in 2015, with a whirlwind of wireless wearables taking the corporate wellness world by storm," says Sonic Boom Wellness CEO Danna Korn. But next year, "we'll see that 2015's mass investment in Fitbits and other devices will be for naught, unless companies find a way to sustain interest in them."

"With employees providing an inherent social networking framework, companies will need to find programs that play upon that sociality by 'gamifying' wellness and encouraging social interaction alongside wellness efforts," Korn says. "All the excitement about fitness, fitness apps, and fancy gadgets will fizzle out without more substance and structured social programming in place." 

"Corporate wellness programs will start to incorporate more fun activities that motivate employees to participate and stick with the programs, including enhanced technology, gamification, competitions and other similar ideas," adds Kelly Johnston, senior vice president of product development at Health Advocate. "As part of this transition, we'll see the 'sticks' start to disappear in favor of more 'carrots,' encouraging employees to take action without feeling forced to do so because of penalties."

An emphasis on sleep in 2016

Many modern activity trackers, including Fitbit's Charge HR and Surge, Misfit Shine 2, and Nuyu Activity Tracker, automatically track users' sleep. Some corporate wellness programs provide employers with aggregated data about employee sleep trends, which they can use to help make staff more aware of potential sleep problems and suggest ways to enhance sleep quantity and quality.

Some employers now believe the blue rays in the "ordinary white light" that comes from devices such as tablets and smartphones can disrupt sleep and affect health, according to Richard L. Hansler, Ph.D., a retired scientist for General Electric and one of three scientists who created the website

Real-time fitness data will help demonstrate ROI in 2016 …

"The big data movement will continue to penetrate corporate wellness programs," says Phil Daniels, cofounder of Healthiest Employers. "Employers are gaining access to the data silos that have traditionally been difficult to translate into decisions. For example, employers are auditing and evaluating claims data, biometric results, and pharmacy usage to feed predictive modeling forecasts on a near real-time basis, instead of waiting for the year-end snapshot. This allows a much more flexible approach to adjust spending throughout the year for the greatest impact and ROI."


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