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Risk in Context

How to Shape a Healthier and More Efficient Workforce

Posted by Christine Williams October 11, 2016

Promoting good health is a classic win-win for employees and employers. Employees reap the individual rewards from a healthier lifestyle, while employers take aim at the more than $400 billion annual cost of unplanned absences.

But getting employees to partake in corporate wellness programs is not always easy. Two ways employers can encourage participation is by offering incentives and by taking advantage of developing technology, such as wearable devices.

Incentives

When developing a wellness program, you’ll need to consider several factors, including how it will be monitored, what metrics or key performance indicators will determine success, and what incentives you can offer to encourage employee participation.

Incentives generally fall into two categories:

  • Financial incentives impact your workers’ wallets and include medical plan credits, gift cards, and contributions to health savings accounts. Financial incentives can promote employee engagement, but may not drive long-term behavioral changes on their own.
  • Intrinsic incentives rely on the power of social dynamics; for example, a contest between departments aimed at achieving quarterly health goals. Research has shown that social connections among coworkers, family, and friends can influence employees' lifestyle choices and ability to stick with specific programs — for example, those aimed at helping them lose weight, quit smoking, or increase activity.

Using Wearables

Once your company decides to undertake a wellness program, participation levels and success rates can be monitored through fitness bands, which may gather data on such things as number of steps taken daily, nutritional habits, and sleep patterns. Currently, only 24% of employers use wearables in their health and wellness offerings, according to Mercer, an operating business of Marsh & McLennan Companies.

Fitness band data can be used as a basis for incentive distribution. And through them, they can encourage a sense of community, even “gamifying” fitness — for example, issuing a challenge to all teams with fitness bands to take a certain number of steps in a month to be eligible for a prize. Employees can also use these bands to track fitness on their own.

But employers should be careful. Companies collecting any kind of data on their employees should ensure their privacy. Data should stay aggregated and anonymous. And employers should remember that data collected through fitness bands may not be completely accurate.

Through incentives and health technology, employers can encourage their workers to better manage their health, which can lead to long-lasting lifestyle changes and dividends that employers — and employees — can collect for years.

For more, read Managing the Costs of Occupational and Non-Occupational Absence and Disability.

Related to:  Workers' Compensation

Christine Williams