Employers are increasingly seeing the value that a wearable fitness tracker program can provide to employees. According to a report from Endeavors Partners, employers in the United States have plans to integrate more than 13 million fitness tracking devices into corporate wellness programs. This makes sense, given the technology allows employees to carefully track their progress and adds an element of gamification and social support—factors that can greatly influence results.
There’s no denying the popularity of wearable fitness trackers. Nearly one in 10 Americans over the age of 18 already own one. It’s more than just a fad.
CCS Insights’ global forecast for wearable technology (including fitness trackers, smartwatches, virtual reality headsets and wearable cameras) reveals that this market alone is expected to grow from 84 million units in 2015 to 245 million units by 2019. By the end of 2018, the global wearable market is projected to reach $25 billion in sales. New devices and features are being developed all the time based on consumer demand.
Introducing Wearable Fitness Trackers to Employees
Employers should not simply hand out fitness trackers like candy. Instead, it’s important to offer them to employees who demonstrate a genuine interest in getting fit and becoming more active. In order to receive a wearable fitness tracker, most companies require employees to sign up for a health program or wellness campaign. The individuals may be asked to complete a biometric health screening and questionnaire that identifies certain health goals.
If this is something you’d like to implement at your organization, it is important not to target any specific demographic with a fitness tracker program (for example, overweight employees). Educate all employees about the value of being able to track their progress and outline how a fitness device can support their greater well-being.
In order to make the fitness tracker program a success, companies can offer incentives. For example, employees might earn points for completing a certain number of steps each week or achieving personal fitness goals. They can exchange the points for extra time off, corporate merchandise, a gym membership or gift cards to local attractions. Some organizations hand out cash rewards or make a cash donation to a charity.
While the company can assume the total cost of each fitness device, it may also allow employees to purchase the device at a corporate-negotiated discount, through payroll deduction.
How Can Trackers Improve the Health of Employees?
When an employee begins using a fitness tracker, a mind-shift occurs. Exercise and activity start to take on a more important role in the employee’s life. According to Robert H. Shmerling, MD, “The point of activity trackers is to become more aware of how much (or how little) activity we’re doing so that we can make positive changes.”
An employee who has never paid much attention to how much exercise he or she is getting each day will start to be mindful of this. This allows the employee to become in tune with his or her body on a regular basis, which translates to other healthy lifestyle changes.
The Endeavors Partners study indicated that the effects of using a portable fitness tracker are long-lasting. More than half of the employers included in the poll advised that the majority of employees were still using their devices six months after the program launch.
Are They Worth the Investment?
To determine if adding a wearable fitness tracker to your company’s corporate wellness program is worth the effort, it’s important to identify the “why” behind doing so. Is it to improve the health and well-being of employees so they can become more productive? Is it to add a “fun factor” to the organization’s wellness program? Is it because other companies are offering them?
For most businesses, the benefits of providing fitness devices far outweigh the costs. Employers save an average of $6 for every $1 spent on employee wellness, according to the National Council on Strength & Fitness. There are also many indirect benefits, such as increased energy and reduced absenteeism. The social element of a fitness tracker helps to keep people motivated and creates a culture of support for all employees. This increases engagement and helps teams become stronger.
When employers invest in the health of their employees, everybody wins.