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Pros and cons of using fitness trackers for employee wellness

James A. Martin | March 25, 2014
In February, during one of New England's harshest winters in memory, some employees at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, began deliberately parking further away from their offices.

"Employers are increasingly calling the shots on how employees receive their benefits — and workers may be penalized or rewarded depending upon how they take care of themselves," writes John F. Wasik in The Fiscal Times. "That means they may be subject to regular monitoring and told to enroll in healthcare management programs."

Best Practices

The administrators and participants in these initiatives shared advice on how to make the most of employee wellness programs that incorporate wearable monitors.

"Offer the fitness trackers as an incentive and give them away where possible," says Appirio's Daly. "Provide challenges that motivate employees to participate in your company wellness program using the tracker. Be transparent and explain how the employee metadata results may be used."

Offering fitness trackers for free isn't enough to incentivize employees, adds Asynchrony's Vance.

"You must design events around the program and give awards, even as economical as a T-shirt," Vance says. Find creative ways to recognize employees who are really committed. I also recommend just starting somewhere with these programs, even if it's small. We've always tried to communicate to our employees that this is something that will evolve over time, and we'll try to add at least one new 'initiative' to the program each year."

Granat, of Practice Fusion, suggests setting a company-wide fitness goal for a month and making sure anyone who hits the goal is recognized appropriately.

"We use raffle tickets as our reward and once a month we will pull a raffle ticket at random for a prize," such as a Bose sound system, an Amazon Kindle Fire tablet and an iPhone, Granat says. "One-off challenges also seem to be popular, such as offering a prize for walking the most steps in a single weekend day."

These are the early days of fitness-tracker-based corporate wellness initiatives, and employers looking to launch their own programs will face challenges. An informed and strategic approach can minimize risk and result in happier, healthier and more inspired employees.


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