Personal wearable technology has been a growing trend for a number of years, and now Fitbits and other health-tracking devices are making their way into the workplace.
According to research firm Forrester, half of all fitness band shipments in the U.S. are being received by companies in order to track employee health and wellness. ABI research estimates that by 2018, over 13 million wearable activity trackers will be an integral component of employee wellness programs.
To provide companies with in-depth insights, Fitbit Wellness has been developed as a program to allow companies to assign devices to their employees for in-depth insights, which can be set for personal or group fitness goals and managed by a user-friendly dashboard. This interactive wellness program has been implemented by companies across the nation, including Adobe, BP and GNC.
Companies that are integrating wearables into their workforce predict that, in the long term, the devices will significantly help reduce healthcare costs as employees become more active. According to an article on tech site CIO, Vista Staffing Solutions in Salt Lake City estimates that companies will reap savings of about $38,035 annually from reduced medical expenses with use of RetroFit, a program in which Fitbit connects to Wi-Fi enabled scales.
Employees enrolled in Fitbit Wellness at Vista collectively lost close to 800 pounds in a single year, which helped lead to a closer-knit work environment that revolved around better health and wellness.
The CIO article also noted that at cloud consulting firm Appirio, over 300 employees participated in Fitbit Wellness and came together to post workout tips, health-focused recipes and training schedules to platform CloudFit.
Fitbit Wellness states that in addition to creating a “culture of well-being,” employee wellness programs can also increase productivity, acquisition and retention. In 2013, about 45 percent of employees surveyed stated that “an employer-sponsored wellness program would encourage them to stay in their current employment situation.”
Wearables in the workplace seem to have endless benefits, but there are also some challenges to consider. One issue is the cost to invest in the technology, particularly when there can be a lack of evidence for a return on investment in the early stages. In an ever-digital world, the need for privacy and fear of compromise is also a concern. Federal regulators have debated the issue of employers obtaining “medical information,” such as an employee’s heart rate, which would fall under the ADA’s confidentiality requirements. However, most employers send the information gathered from Fitbits to a third party to help mitigate employee questions and maintain their privacy.
Despite these concerns, wearables in the workplace seem to be a trend that is here to stay for employers and health-conscious (or competitive) employees alike.