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Wearables and company wellness programs go hand-in-hand

Matt Hamblen | June 19, 2015
Fully half of fitness band sales in the U.S. are to companies that pass the devices along to employees, sometimes at no charge, for fitness-related activities, according to Forrester.

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bicycle watch Credit: Motorola

Welcome to the employee wellness program at Iron Mountain, dubbed LiveWell.

About 1,600 of the company's 8,000 U.S. employees use different types of wearable devices to measure how many steps they take and to generate other fitness metrics.

Iron Mountain, a records and data management company, gives employees points for completing various health-focused "challenges" that can be converted later to cash. Challenges include agreeing to drink more than 32 ounces of water each of four days in a week; eating four servings of fruits and vegetables a day; watching a video on ways to reduce stress; and walking 2 million steps over the course of a year.

Of those examples, only the 2 million steps challenge requires connecting a wearable device to a computer portal used by workers in Iron Mountain's LiveWell wellness program. The portal was created with software from Limeade, one of around a dozen providers to companies setting up wellness programs.

Limeade worked with another technology vendor, Aduro, starting in 2013 to help create the wellness program at Iron Mountain under the direction of Scott Kirshner, director of benefits strategy at Iron Mountain.

"We absolutely are fascinated and interested in the possibilities of electronic connections and remote-monitoring devices," Kirshner said in an interview. "I don't want to know individuals' [fitness] results, but we see these tools as ways to keep people interested and engaged..."

"It's part of our overall culture," he added. "For workers, this is about your health, helping you be the best person you can be. It's not about the company wanting to know your personal data."

Iron Mountain is one example of a massive U.S. trend toward workplace wellness programs that increasingly rely on using fitness data from wearables worn by workers.

One-half to two-thirds of U.S. employers with 15 or more workers have instituted some type of wellness program, according to recent statistics from the U.S Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC). That translates into 586,000 companies.

Meanwhile, fully half of fitness band sales in the U.S. are to companies that pass the devices along to employees, sometimes at no charge, for fitness-related activities, according to Forrester analyst J.P. Gownder.

The bottom line for Iron Mountain: The LiveWell program has helped boost employee wellness, reduced doctor visits and lowered the company's health care costs for the first time since 2013, Kirshner said. In other words, the portion that workers are contributing for health care insurance and investments by the company's internally managed fund have left the fund net-positive for the past two years; by comparison, the company's costs were rising 10% a year for the decade before 2013.

 

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