One of the biggest problems with employee wellness initiatives is that they often lack any way for participants to actively track their progress. Employees are provided with the tools to get started – a gym membership, a diet plan, smoking cessation aid, or a kickoff program such as a company fun run – but are then left to their own devices. This lack of accountability makes it easy for many employees to give up before they really get started.
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Virgin Pulse, a provider of technology solutions that drive well-being, culture, and productivity, recently decided to address this problem. Rather than send employees out into the brave new world of wellness without the right tools, the company began offering each participant in its wellness program a healthy discount on a Fitbit activity tracker.
"Personal activity trackers like Fitbit are a great way to inspire people to make positive changes in their daily lives – walking more, eating right, sleeping better, staying active – and that has a positive impact on employee wellness programs," says Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin Pulse. "Individuals who wear a device are often more engaged in workplace well-being because devices provide an easy and exciting way to track progress, set goals, stay motivated, and see results."
Boyce cites the statistic that 95 percent of employers who offer their employees devices as part of their employee wellness programs say they will continue to do so because of how satisfied employees are with the devices.
"Successful workplace well-being programs tap into these same intrinsic motivators – social recognition, feelings of accomplishment, behavioral nudges – and apply them to larger programs and resources, reinforcing a powerful feedback cycle that helps employees be and do their best both in and outside of the office," Boyce says.
The Upside of Wellness Programs
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Not everyone agrees that wellness programs are worth the effort, but time and again studies have shown that these programs have positive measurable results.
"Research shows that workplace well-being programs can drive critical business outcomes like productivity, retention, engagement, and even profitability," Boyce says.
Among Virgin Pulse's clients, turnover is 29 percent lower for employees who participate in wellness programs, compared to employees who do not.
"In addition, our customers have found that having meaningful well-being programming is a key strategy in recruiting top talent. It's a differentiator that says a lot about an organization's investment in employee's lives," Boyce says. "Workplace well-being programs are the most effective way to improve the employee experience and organizational culture within an organization, and initiating and implementing a program doesn't have to be hard."
Boyce suggests that interested companies start by finding a partner that offers a breadth of wellness programs and solutions.
"No matter where an organization is on [its] well-being journey, the right vendor will grow and evolve with [it]," Boyce says.
As for technological upgrades to wellness programs, Virgin's use of the Fitbit is new, so the results are still rolling in. That being said, the company is confident that the results will be overwhelmingly positive.
"We expect employers to take advantage of priority pricing on Fitbit devices when implementing Virgin Pulse well-being programs, as it provides them with the opportunity to offer employees the best user experience from both a device and technology standpoint," Boyce says.
When considering implementing wellness programs, companies should investigate the technology options available to them. Providing employees with the right tools to track their progress helps them stay motivated and involved in the program. The more workers a business can get to participate in the long term, the healthier that company's workforce will be. Not only does a healthy workforce take fewer sick days, but it also has more energy to apply to day-to-day tasks. Healthy employees accomplish more in a day than their unhealthy counterparts do.
Ultimately, a healthy workforce is a happier workforce, and happy workers are always more productive.