In the last few years, there has been a growing number of fitness trackers and fitness apps filling the market and all designed to motivate and encourage healthier lifestyle choices through increased physical activity. The idea of rewards for activity, growing an online community, and the fun of gamification elements, reveal that wearable fitness tech has caught on like wildfire in the workplace and with consumers in general.
There was a time in the not so distant past when only athletes were able to access biometric data and technical equipment through advanced training centers to help them assess nutrition, body fat, sleep patterns and workout progress.
Today, wearable fitness tech is no longer expensive, unattainable or reserved for professional athletes. The research company, Tractica, predicts that more than 75 million devices will be deployed in the workplace by 2020.
There are so many apps and devices to provide us with helpful personal biometric data. Fitness Trackers and smart clothing interact with Smartphones and track workouts and progress through an accelerometer as well as monitor heart rate through a gyroscope. Many wearable fitness trackers also replace watches as they include a time telling feature.
Examples of fitness trackers include Apple Watch, Fitbit and Jawbone. They monitor sleep patterns, nutrition, activity levels, offer challenges, rewards and can make fitness fun. Smartwatches are quickly taking a leading position in the category of workplace wearables.
In addition, there are many free motivating audio apps to encourage fitness including Nike +, Training Club, Sworkit, FitStar Personal Trainer, Rockmyrun and PaceDJ. The last two, match music to your workout tempo.
Wearable fitness tech offers a huge boost to corporate wellness programs. Employers who offer voluntary campaigns or promotions that involve wearable tech gently encourage employees toward healthier lifestyles. In so doing, they are also positively nudging the needle toward greater productivity outcomes where healthier employees equal healthier bottomline results.
Companies like BP received a lot of attention for their "Million Step Challenge" as they partnered with StayWell and offered employees -- on a voluntary basis-- a free Fitbit tracker and with every million steps an employee walked, they earned 500 wellness points, which accounts for 50% of their annual target. There are other ways this campaign encouraged wellness, but the emphasis shows the influence of wearable fitness tech in the workplace as an embedded component of the company's wellness and benefits program.
What's ahead for wearable tech in the workplace?
As wearables become more accessible and commonplace, employers will increasingly look for ways to integrate them to improve morale and productivity. While big data has many upsides, there remains a realistic point of caution. Not everyone feels comfortable sharing so much data with an employer about their activity, sleep patterns and nutrition. Maintaining confidentiality and employee trust about the way data will be used -- if harvested through a company workplace program -- should be clearly identified and communicated to employees upfront.
Wearable fitness tech will continue to evolve, and it is clearly becoming an integral part of wellness initiatives for companies throughout the world. Understanding how to optimize the effectiveness of wearables to meet the needs of employees and employers will be an ongoing challenge.
Staying on top of the trends and discussing the implications for you and your company is something we're excited to do. Please contact us. We're here to help so you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.