Wearable devices like activity trackers have shown the potential to enhance employee participation in wellness programs, but getting the most out of a device requires more than simply asking employees to use it, a recent study found.
The report by the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) identifies some best practices for employers incorporating wearables into workplace programs. Wearables in Wellness: Employer Case Studies on Use of Wearable Tracking Devices in Wellness Programs examines how employers are using wearables and what outcomes have emerged.
“We see a lot of promise in the use of wearables as a component of a comprehensive wellness program, but we need to continue our focus on research that uncovers what works and what doesn’t,” said Jessica Grossmeier, HERO vice president of research, in a statement.
“Early research supports that a device, on its own, will not change health behaviors over the long term,” Grossmeier added. “That’s why we’re focused on identifying those leading-edge strategies that employers can use to ensure an effective, safe, and engaging approach for employers and individual participants.”
For businesses that have added wearables to their well-being efforts, or are considering doing so, HERO identified some practices that have shown promise:
- Give or subsidize devices for employees rather than requiring them to buy their own;
- Set goals and encourage employees to meet them and earn incentives;
- Involve spouses and domestic partners to increase participation and create a support system outside the workplace;
- Use a pilot program to identify ways to improve the effort before expanding to the entire workforce; and
- Modify the program from time to time to keep employees engaged.
HERO’s study began by contacting 37 employers. Seven of these underwent detailed interviews, and three ultimately were featured in the final report. These three organizations—BP, Emory University, and Ochsner Health System—employ a combined total of 60,000 people and, according to HERO, have taken a comprehensive, results-oriented approach to the use of wellness wearables.
“Through this effort, we found that forward-thinking employers who have been early adopters of well-being best practices are also implementing wearables in creative and effective ways,” said Jack Bastable of CBIZ, who contributed to the report. “They’re realizing success, in part, because they are supporting their device strategy with a sound communication strategy, making it financially feasible, and encouraging long-term use.”