How Tech Changes Up Health In The Workplace

Justin Jed

When employees have a poor work-life balance, technology is often blamed – it’s always on and accessible. In fact, 44% of employees surveyed recently by Wrike said they check or use their mobile device for work more than 20 times per day. I use an app called Instant to monitor my own phone usage, and most days I unlock far more than 20 times and use more than 200 minutes per day.

That sounds pretty bad. We immediately picture red-eyed professionals hunched over their phones at all hours of the day and night. Despite this dire image, technology can change workplace well-being for the better. It’s making employees healthier. Here’s how.

Wearables bring wellness to work

The health tech market is booming. In a survey of more than 8,000 consumers in seven countries, Accenture found that 33% use mobile health apps today compared to 16% in 2014. In addition, 21% use wearables, up from nine percent in 2014.

The health tech trend is set to keep growing, and employers are jumping onboard. According to More than Participation: How to Engage Employees in Well-Being by my employer, Limeade, 46% of organizations surveyed use wearable devices as part of their corporate wellness program, 44% use wellness platforms or software, and 30% use apps.

But if employees are already overburdened with tech at work, how does this new wave of health tech help them? Wearables, wellness platforms, and apps allow employees to integrate lifestyle changes into their work and personal lives, helping employees easily track their activity, often in the background.

After all, a 2015 survey of employees published by Quantum Workplace and Limeade found that 49.8% of employees want time for healthy activities at work – and technology can make that possible.

Wellness platforms and apps that integrate with programs employees already use at work make it easy for employees to jump on board. They automatically send updates and reminders to their phones, keeping them on track. The uptake of more health tech in the office has allowed wellness to become another part of the workday.

Gamification solves the engagement problem

Employees aren’t engaged in their work, but it doesn’t stop there. They’re not engaged in their health or employer-sponsored wellness programs either.

In our employee wellness program participation report, 53% said participation was the biggest challenge to the success of their program. Sustaining interest and active involvement in the program and developing long-term health habits were the next most common pain points for employers.

But the rise of gamification is re-engaging employees in their health. How? For one, tech makes wellness easier and more fun, which is a big selling point. For instance, a 2014 study conducted by Aon Hewitt found that 40% of millennials said they are more likely to participate in health and wellness programs if they are easy and convenient.

The convenience of health tech draws employees in, and gamification elements keep them involved. Employers are using apps and programs where employees can earn points for the well-being initiatives they participate in and the progress they make. And just like their favorite phone games, these points unlock new levels, new challenges, and rewards. It’s no wonder that 77% of those surveyed by Accenture said that using wearables makes them feel more engaged with their health.

Ultimately, gamification is so powerful because it also provides a clear set of rules and a framework for participation. The game elements show employees exactly what they need to do earn rewards and how to advance through the program.

Social creates more supportive environments

We think of technology as an antisocial activity. We see face-to-face interactions dwindle in favor of emails and other forms of electronic communication. We think of employees as isolated and alone. But that’s not true – tech, and more specifically health tech, can actually help create more supportive work environments.

Thirty-nine percent of organizations we surveyed in our employee wellness program participation report said they use social sharing in their wellness program and 52% use competitive team challenges. Social media tie-ins allow employees to easily share their progress with peers and cheer each other on.

In addition, internal social networks can be used to share goals, keeping everyone accountable. Launching friendly competitions through tech can increase the impact of gamification, increase participation in the program, and rally everyone around a common goal.

Above all, these social elements help employees feel supported, bringing the team closer together. They’re all experiencing the same program and the same challenges together. These shared experiences are powerful to keeping employees happy and invested in programs.

Technology is often the scapegoat for poor work-life balance and burned out employees. But when used right, health tech can actually transform workplaces into supportive, healthy environments.

The Internet of Things is changing our world, transforming the office into one part of Our Digital Planet: A More Intelligent Workplace.

Justin Jed

About Justin Jed

Justin Jed is the vice president of product management at Limeade, the corporate wellness technology company that measurably improves employee health, well-being and performance.