Companies often use wellness programs to inspire employees to manage and improve their own health. As the U.S. health care system turns to a more consumer-driven model, the importance of wellness programs is likely to grow. Employers can improve the results of their wellness programs by using high-tech solutions that help make getting healthy fun and easy.
As you incorporate high-tech wellness programs into your company’s health benefits offerings, it’s important to remember that one size doesn’t fit all, says Laura Messenger of Healthentic. “What works for one employer group will not necessarily work for another,” she says. Location, workforce demographics, corporate culture and industry will all have an influence on what approach you take with your wellness efforts.
Here is an overview of some tools that can help your organization reach its wellness goals.
There are a wide variety of mobile applications that can help with employee wellness: calorie trackers, step counters and so on. Ask your health insurance provider or benefits manager if they have any recommendations, or research apps yourself.
Using game theory can boost participation and competition. “There are a number of games that are coming out in [the] benefits and health care space,” says Adam Wootton, founder of Zumfun, which develops educational games and apps for companies. He says employees like status-style games and points out that “employee of the month” honors follow a “classic game structure.” Applying these to wellness apps and wellness efforts can boost success.
Social media networks have changed the way companies communicate with employees, and wellness programs are no exception. Companies can use social media to announce deadlines and kickoffs for wellness efforts, highlight the benefits of better nutrition and more exercise, remind employees to take their stretch breaks and recognize employee efforts.
However, Messenger cautions against singling employees out. “The best ways to launch lifestyle-management programs are either group-wide or opt-in programs for employees and dependents,” she says. Don’t use social media to shame or call out people who aren’t participating or whose efforts are substandard. Instead, recognize successes and talk about goals that have been met.
Many HR departments are beginning to look into the principles of Big Data, taking data sets across a workforce — demographics, amount of sick days used, scheduling, etc. — and finding patterns that can help predict what employees might need in terms of wellness efforts.
Working with your benefits provider and looking at the demographics of your workforce can help you identify what wellness initiatives would work best for your company. For example, employees in high-stress positions who are taking a lot of sick days may need more information about stress relief or even employee-assistance-program information for therapy.
According to Messenger, “the best single way a company can achieve wellness goals is to focus on a culture of health.” As more high-tech tools become available, that goal is becoming easier to reach for many employers. Researching the options and trying new technologies can help your company achieve its wellness goals.