Navigating Benefits

Wearable Employee Wellness Programs: Are They Right for Your Organization?


  • Wearable wellness programs could comprise 90 percent of corporate wellness programs in 2021


  • Wearables, such as fitness trackers and smartwatches, can help improve employee health and wellness


  • When implementing wearable employee wellness programs, the privacy of employee health information needs to be a top priority


Posted by March 7, 2019

Employee wellness programs are becoming more and more common across the nation. In fact, a Rand Corporation survey reports that almost 70 percent of U.S. employers with more than 50 employees currently offer this popular workplace incentive.

Some organizations enhance their wellness initiatives with wearable devices—such as smartwatches and fitness trackers–so employees can monitor their progress and join friendly wellness competitions. The Society for Human Resource Management predicts that in 2021, 90 percent of wellness programs will include the use of fitness trackers.

However, there are several things to consider before incorporating wearables into employee wellness programs. Here’s what you need to know.

Benefits of Wearable Wellness Programs

Wearables are being viewed as an optimal way to maximize employee health and wellness. In fact, company-provided wearables could make wellness program participation even more desirable to employees. Other potential benefits of wearables include:

  • The easy ability to track employee health parameters, such as blood glucose, physical activity, blood pressure and irregular heart rhythms.

  • Participating in (and tracking the success of) wellness competitions gets easier, as does accurately rewarding employees for meeting health and fitness goals.

  • Potential improvements in productivity and curbed absenteeism, as well as reductions in health care costs.

In addition to these advantages, wearables are a workplace benefit that could help attract and retain top talent. This could help bolster your organization’s recruitment efforts and cause a drop in employee turnover.

Potential Concerns to Consider

Before implementing company-wide wearable wellness programs, remember that it’s important—and a legal obligation—to keep employee health information private. The health-tracking technology may discover unknown or undisclosed health conditions or disabilities, so an employer’s access to this private health information can be problematic.

Additionally, a federal court judge ruling found that offering financial incentives—equivalent to 30 percent of employees’ health insurance premiums—for wellness program participation fails to keep such programs voluntary. While rewards are an added perk associated with wearable wellness program participation, it’s crucial that these programs remain voluntary by law.

There’s also the price to consider. Just one high-quality fitness tracker or smartwatch may cost your organization hundreds of dollars, but it could be a worthy investment. You’ll likely save money in the long run because wearables often improve employee health and wellness, meaning fewer missed days and lower health care costs.

7 Strategies for Implementing Wearable Wellness Programs

In addition to ensuring your organization abides by health privacy laws, you must also make sure that employees don’t feel obligated to participate when implementing wearable employee wellness programs. There are many ways to go about this. Consider the following seven strategies:

  1. Making the privacy of employee health information a top priority.

  2. Ensuring a limited number of employees have access to employee health information to maximize privacy.

  3. Having policies in place to protect confidential employee health information.

  4. Not sharing health data with supervisors or personnel who make hiring and termination decisions.

  5. Having employees sign a detailed consent form before participating in wearable wellness programs, and including information about how their health information is used.

  6. Stressing to employees that wellness program participation is entirely voluntary, and that opting out doesn’t affect job security, promotion potential, etc.

  7. Not offering large financial incentives for employee wellness program participation.

Wearable employee wellness programs are a popular trend and a workplace incentive that employees can appreciate—or even expect. That’s why offering such a benefit could help with recruiting and retaining top talent, and allow your company to rise above the competition.

Are you searching for tools and resources that help your colleagues manage their dental benefits? Check out offerings within the Employer Toolkit hosted on United Concordia Dental’s website.

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