One of the significant HR trends in recent years has been in employee wellness.
Organizations have embraced the idea that they have a role to play in the health and happiness of their employees outside of work hours. Their reasoning: contributing to this area will help better retention rates and improve engagement and productivity.
Often combined with flexible benefits packages, employee wellness is one of the new frontiers in HR. And so it comes as no surprise that it now has a digital dimension, with several platforms launched to help companies improve employee wellness.
Finding the balance with tech
In times gone by, employees showed up for a number of working hours and then left for home, their work and domestic lives divided and entirely separate. Modern thinking is more holistic, taking the view that work is an inseparable part of a person’s life and what is good for one part is good for the whole.
This is laudable on one level. But it can be potentially intrusive on another. There is, of course, a separate debate on workplace surveillance tools, which has become popular during the pandemic as people work from home, with some suggesting they are an invasion of privacy and, in some ways, unethical.
As with many of these issues, the best way is to find a balance. And this should be a consensus between the employer and employee. Here, digital tools can help.
Today, many people are using wearable technology and smartphone applications to track their health metrics, everything from how far they walk each day, how much sleep they get to how much they eat.
Connecting this to a wellness platform, which aggregates personal data across working and home life can help people make better health decisions. Are they being too sedentary, going to bed too late, overeating sugar? Collecting data in a feedback loop can influence these behaviors.
In-house, wellness tracking can create employee challenges that can be fun and also healthy. For example, there can be a step challenge with a real-time leaderboard and incentives for improvement. This can help drive a sense of team, which easily translates to work performance — particularly if everyone is healthier.
Mindfulness becoming core
Beyond physical health, the platforms can also venture into the domain of mental health, offering mindfulness exercises and meditation which can help relieve workplace stress.
A look at some recent business transactions in the HR software space show where this is heading and how technology companies combine capabilities to create richer solutions.
“By adding TinyPulse listening capabilities, Limeade is poised to deliver the next-generation employee well-being solution that fits seamlessly into people’s daily work,” said Limeade founder and chief executive Henry Albrecht.
Still in North America, health engagement platform Tictrac has announced a strategic partnership with data company PAI Health to deliver “personalized content from a diverse community of wellbeing experts to help make healthy behavior change happen” both for employees and for consumers.
Key to this will be PAI Health’s “proprietary science-based algorithms that prescribe exercise for optimal health and improve cardiorespiratory fitness.”
Another player is Vantage Fit, which offers a comprehensive corporate wellness platform, where the language is around “revolutionizing employee wellness journeys” based on incentive programs.
These programs come with specific targets for employees to achieve in steps, calorie, and water intake. Meeting targets makes employees eligible for incentives such as fitness rewards or digital money.
Even collaboration tool Slack is moving into the wellness area, with the WellBeings Slack app trialed in Canada earlier this year.
It comes down to offering a choice
So far, there is a lack of evidence on how successful these tools are in achieving their goals. In many cases, it will depend on the workplace culture: in some workplaces, people will be cynical and apathetic, and in others, the tools will be embraced.
Allowing people to opt in and out will be the difference between employees seeing this as an intrusion and a chore, or something which builds collaboration and health and makes a positive contribution, not just to health, but to productivity and profit.
Lachlan Colquhoun is the ANZ correspondent for CDOTrends and HR&DigitalTrends and the editor of NextGen Connectivity. His fascination is with how businesses are reinventing themselves through digital technology and collaborate with others to become completely new organizations. You can reach him at [email protected].
Image credit: iStockphoto/fizkes