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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.

"We have achieved these results because wellness is just one component of a total health strategy," Kirshner wrote recently in a public comment on a controversial proposed rule by the EEOC that would affect employer wellness programs. Iron Mountain's results, he added, came "without significant cost-shifting to employees."

Carrot, not stick

Rewards work well for motivating workers to better fitness, Kirshner said. For example, for drinking 32 ounces of water a day for four out of seven days, a worker gets 20 points. For walking 2 million steps in a year (about 5,500 steps a day), a worker gets 100 points. When a worker reaches 1,000 points, Iron Mountain offers some assistance on a life insurance plan. At 2,000 points, there's a cash payout of $200, and for 3,000 points, the payout reaches $400.

While 100 points for 2 million steps might sound cheap, there's plenty of worker interest. Each year, about 1,200 workers reach 3,000 or more points, Kirshner said. One woman who reached the 2 million step threshold reported she is "never off her feet," Kirshner said. She walks around her job site instead of relying on a golf cart and corrals two children at home.

Growing workplace interest in wearables

While wearable devices aren't required for the lion's share of Iron Mountain wellness challenges, the devices have boosted the LiveWell program's profile and are set to take a bigger role.

Work groups occasionally buy the same fitness device and then exercise using the same fitness app so they can easily share their results among members of the group. The social aspect increases friendly competitiveness and keeps people engaged.

After two years with LiveWell, there are now 88 different apps and devices supported at Iron Mountain. The devices come from Fitbit, Jawbone, Pebble, Apple Watch, Moto 360, about 10 different Garmin devices and many others. "Some of the users are religious about it," Kirshner said.

Iron Mountain doesn't offer the devices to workers for free so far -- as some employer wellness programs do -- but is planning on discounts combined with points earned so that workers and their families can purchase devices in an upcoming online Iron Mountain fitness mall.

Low levels of concern over data privacy

During the two years of LiveWell, only one employee has raised questions about how the devices are used by Iron Mountain, he said.

"Up-front, we have been clear we will never see individual data results and people will not be judged based on how many steps they are taking or exercising," he said. "It's all about making you as healthy and productive as you can be. It's rewards-based, not a punitive approach."

 

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