Editor's Note: The following is a guest contribution from Amy McDonough, Vice President and General Manager of Fitbit Group Health.
The beginning of the new year is always a time for reflections and resolutions. As I look back on the past year, the ways in which our jobs and our health are intertwined continue to emerge as a critical theme for the workplace.
Last fall, we surveyed 200 CEOs to get their perspectives on corporate wellness, and the message from the C-suite was loud and clear: They believed wellness programming would deliver healthier, happier, and more productive employees, and they expected to increase their company’s wellness activities in the coming year.
With 2016 behind us, how did those predictions pan out, and what’s to come for 2017?
Grading the Crystal Ball
Turns out CEOs were right on the money – the past year was big for wellness. Fidelity and the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) found that in 2016, 87% of employers offered emotional or mental wellbeing programs and 76% provided financial health programs. Looking ahead, 67% of employers planned to expand those efforts and 17% anticipated maintaining their current level of investment.
The increasing prioritization of wellness in the workplace tracks with trend data: from 1996 to 2016, the percentage of companies offering wellness resources and information has increased from 54%to 72%, and companies offering weight loss programs have increased from 29% to 31%.
With wellness efforts growing, many companies believe that their investments are paying off. This year, 77% of organizations said their wellness program has been effective in improving health outcomes and reducing healthcare costs.
As the spotlight continues to shine on employee wellbeing, employers are looking for new ways to create smarter and more engaging programs to mobilize and empower individuals to take charge of their health and wellness.
Research has found that employee engagement and well-being go hand in hand for producing great performance and strong workplaces. In fact, wellbeing technology provider Virgin Pulse lists culture and engagement as one of the top priorities organizations have for 2017. With the integration of work and life, corporate wellness has become increasingly important for keeping your employees engaged: there is an observable correlation between employee benefits satisfaction and job satisfaction, and 44% of workers say they would be less likely to leave their current employer if they had a well-communicated benefits program.
Thinking about how to effectively connect with your people is critical, whether it’s the office ultramarathoner or the person just starting their fitness journey. There is huge potential in getting someone to take that first step – amongst employees that used an activity tracker for at least half of their company’s wellness program, those with the lowest average step counts had the highest cost savings.
Making it Modern, and Yours
No longer does HR get the short end of the stick when it comes to the latest and greatest in technology. Wellness administrators are now armed with better tools to realize the value of clear measurement and provide an engaging, user-centric experience.
Measuring health impact and reducing costs are no longer bound by intuition and best guesses: health data and analytics are providing unprecedented insight and action. Scalable solutions have provided companies with greater control and customization in program design, enabling more impactful wellness initiatives that are authentic to their people and culture.
What’s more is that wellness programs are incorporating additional data on the front end: over 44 million wearable devices are expected to be embedded in corporate wellness programs over the next five years. Integrating wearable technology into a comprehensive workplace health strategy arms employers with meaningful insights to measure, evaluate and adjust their programs.
ABI Research recently examined the impact of wearable integration and found that corporate wellness programs that use wearable technology may increase average employee participation from 20% to between 60% and 70%, with some employers reporting participation rates above 90%.
All signs show that health and wellness are fulfilling a long-held promise: you need to meet people where they are if you want to change their behavior. Incorporating people and data-centric approaches into your wellness program is a sure-fire way to make 2017 your company’s healthiest year yet.