HR Tech Turns to Wellness

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Human resources is poised to help companies increase productivity by improving worker health though wellness tech.

Because it is both inward and outward facing, HR is uniquely positioned to help businesses take quicker advantages of workforce trends and opportunities. HR recruiting and onboarding tech, like the solutions offered by our company, Brightmove, are used by companies to create efficiencies, save money, and smooth staffing processes.

In addition to cloud and other types of recruiting tech, organizations are looking for cost reductions and streamlining of benefit packages in light of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

According to a report from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), some companies are reducing benefits, while others are taking a hard look at how to improve employee health through preventative measures—and in some cases, that means integrating emerging mobile options.

New approaches to wellness

SHRM suggests that companies must be competitive in areas other than salary offerings to remain relevant in the recruiting marketplace.  Evaluating changes between 2011 and 2015, benefits in the following areas saw a general boost:

  • Contribution to health savings counts (HSAs)
  • Mental health care coverage
  • Short term disability
  • Contraceptive benefits
  • Laser methods of vision improvement
  • Occasional telecommuting

Benefit areas that stayed about the same, or declined include:

  • Family-friendly opportunities, like bringing a child to work
  • Personal services like workplace cafeterias with subsidized items, and executive club accounts
  • Housing subsidies and moving expenses

One area seeing growth across the board is employee wellness programs. Of companies responding to the SHRM survey, approximately 70 percent offer wellness programs. Of companies offering health care coverage, 46 percent use wellness and preventative health programs to try and reduce health care costs.

Addressing rising health care spending around obesity, metabolic, and other disorders, companies are implementing a variety of helpful programs to create awareness and help employees address potential physical problems.  Some of those programs include:

  • Reimbursement for fitness classes, or on-site fitness, or relaxation classes
  • Health, wellness, and lifestyle guidance and coaching
  • Programs targeted at specific issues like smoking and weight loss
  • Nutritional guidance
  • Onsite health support, like using a standing desk
  • Workplace vaccination and health screening programs
  • Wellness incentive rewards, bonuses—and penalties
  • Health care discounts for involvement in a variety of health-related programs
  • Telephone nurse lines and massage services
  • Less frequently offered are nap rooms, onsite medical services, sick rooms, and gardens

Tech and wellness

Wellness tech and wearables offer a boost to company-driven preventative healthcare initiatives.

Fitbit activity trackers, and related devices, are becoming a common feature of employer-sponsored offerings.  Fitbits, wearable bracelets that track activity, are super social tools for motivating employees to engage in wellness programs.

For Fitbit, corporate wellness is a growing business.  In September of last year, Target Corp. contracted with Fitbit to provide more than 330,000 devices to company employees.  Target plans to provide a clip-on activity tracker free to employees, or offer a subsidy to workers who want a pricier wristband activity tracker.

A study cited by Harvard Medical School suggests wearable tracking monitors offer advantages that include:

  • Accountability: Activity wearables register, record, and report movement throughout the day.  According to researchers involved with the study, “When you can see what your activity levels are, and you know that someone is checking them, there’s accountability, and you’re motivated to work harder because you want to comply.”
  • Accuracy: Guessing at mileage, or time spent exercising does not have the potency of a device that delivers straight out metrics about how far you went, or how intense you worked.
  • Motivation: Feedback on incremental improvements is powerful incentive to try harder next time.

Whether from Fitbit, or other manufacturer, wearable activity tracking devices are quickly gaining traction in corporate wellness programs.

In addition to monitoring exercise output, mobile apps also offer insight and guidance on what employees are putting into their bodies.  A recent New York Times article describes efforts by businesses to help employees make good nutritional choices in their cafeteria and beyond.

One of several on the market, Zipongo is a food decision app that allows employees, or users, to enter their food preferences and biometric data if they choose.  The app offers menu choices and raises awareness of better choices—instead of simply saying “don’t eat that.”

Ahead remain questions about data gathering, privacy laws, and whether these helpful technologies and wellness practices will be provided across the board by U.S. employers.

As wearables, apps, and staffing software options expand, HR tech offers support on hiring productivity and preventative healthcare, among other benefits.

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