Employee Wellness Program Is Worth the Investment? You Need the Right Tech

SAMMY RUBIN  |  August, 2020

Employee well-being is big business. Deloitte forecasts the corporate wellness market in the US will reach $11.3 billion by 2021.

But as the coronavirus-driven recession forces businesses large and small to take a hard look at their budgets, the unfortunate reality is that there is little indication wellness programs are generating the desired return to justify all that investment.

Despite years of steadily escalating spending on wellness initiatives, the evidence suggests today’s employees are neither healthier nor happier than they were before. Take the findings of another Deloitte study, according to which 77 per cent of employees have experienced burnout. While these employees may be less inclined to head for the exit amid a tightening labour market, an unengaged workforce comes at a massive cost to productivity — $7 trillion globally per year, Gallup calculates.

Is it time for employers to ditch their wellness programs? Far from it. The coronavirus pandemic has underscored the importance of employees’ mental and physical health to organizational success. Employers shouldn’t abandon wellness initiatives, but they should get smarter about them.

That means getting more tech-savvy. According to a report from the Reward and Employee Benefits Association (REBA), 49 per cent of employers say insufficient data is limiting the effectiveness of their workplace well-being programs. Only 53 per cent of employers are confident they can gauge the impact of employee wellness data on their business strategies.

How can technology help us fill these gaps in our data? Here’s what you can do to ensure your investments in employee wellness actually make for a healthier, more productive workforce.

Smart Tech Yields Smarter Insights

Apps, artificial intelligence (AI), gamification, and behavioural science can all make a major difference when it comes to taking your wellness programs to the next level.

Consider, for example, a well-being app that tracks a wide range of activities, from exercise and meditation to sleep and even walking. Imagine the app’s data being fed anonymously back to employers, who can use these detailed insights to help assess workplace morale and stress. Armed with this information, employers can tailor their well-being programs to suit the specific preferences and behaviours of their teams, building on what works and rethinking what doesn’t. AI can also personalize wellness programs for different teams and individuals based on anonymized personal health data, interests, and goals.

By linking your employee wellness program to actual engagement, you can better ascertain the program’s popularity and its overall impact. However, that does leave the question of how to encourage employees to actually participate.

That’s where techniques like gamification come in. Gamification entails applying the principles of gaming to other fields, with the aim of maximizing engagement through real-time feedback, rewards, progress tracking, and competition. An employer could incentivize healthy activities by offering rewards for employees who complete at least 90 minutes of weekly exercise, for instance, or by unlocking new meditation sessions or fitness classes for employees once they’ve completed a certain number of sessions.

Many large companies have IT departments with trained computing experts for whom these tools and techniques will prove easy to implement. For smaller companies, a wide range of external service providers offer these services as well.

Taking the Guesswork Out of Trial and Error

Because ensuring that investments actually yield value for the business is more crucial today than ever, tech-based solutions are a vital component of helping companies understand the success of their wellness strategies.

Eighty-four per cent of employees who are highly satisfied with their workplace benefits report they’re also highly satisfied with their jobs, according to Glassdoor. Recently, we at YuLife commissioned a survey with YouGov, which similarly found that 87 per cent of employees are more likely to stay with an employer if the employer demonstrates a commitment to their well-being. This is precisely why wellness offerings that align with employees’ interests and engagement levels are critical.

While tech-based strategies may sound sophisticated, they are in fact cheaper than heavy investments in external suppliers, making them more accessible for small and midsize business, which typically lack the hefty engagement budgets of larger enterprises. What’s more, the sheer range of solutions already available — from fitness trackers to meditation apps — makes it possible for almost any employer to find an option that’s easy to integrate and intuitive for employees to use.

Employers should expect a bit of trial and error as an inevitable part of finding a wellness program that works. Whereas low-tech wellness programs make it difficult for employers to pinpoint overall effectiveness and engagement levels, a tech-savvy approach equips organizations with the hard numbers necessary to understand how well a program is operating.

Any wellness program worth it’s salt must be truly holistic, empowering employees to take charge of both their physical and mental health. The REBA report referenced above found that mental health is the top well-being concern for 9 in 10 bosses, and the coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the issue through social isolation, financial insecurity, and health concerns.

Now, more than ever, employers must demonstrate their commitments to employees’ whole health. Innovative tech can be a trusted partner in implementing a program that works — with the concrete numbers to back it up.

Sammy Rubin is CEO and founder of YuLife.



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