Wellness programs are implemented by employers to ensure good health of their employees. They are essentially efforts to curb rising healthcare costs and not just benefit employees but also employers, as they reduce absenteeism due to ill health, increase productivity at work, improve employees’ loyalty, and reduce workers’ compensation and disability costs. Some of the benefits to employees include improved physical fitness, greater stamina, lower stress levels, increased well-being, self-image, and self-esteem.
Currently, 70 percent of the U.S. employers offer a wellness program, an increase from 58 percent in 2008. Wellness programs also improve employee engagement and retention in the long run. Getting employees to take advantage of a wellness program is the key to successful implementation, ensuring high participation rates. That’s where technology comes in, making involvement easier for employees and ensuring a lot more fun.
Technology — The Major Influencer
Nearly 40 million American adults currently use a wearable device and this number is expected to double within the next three years. These devices allow employees to monitor various fitness activities, promote fitness and competition, and increase awareness. A number of employers are subsidizing these wearables, with nearly 67 percent of companies reporting that their employees use these wearable technologies.
Gamification marries technology and game-playing in a way that engages participants and helps them achieve their goals. There are three components of an effective gamification strategy: rules, rewards, and social interaction. Implementing a gamification strategy with monthly or quarterly incentives is a great way for employers to build a wellness-oriented culture.
Apps for fitness trackers are just one of the many tools that allow employees to monitor their health. Wellness-minded employers encourage employees to use apps that best fit their fitness and health goals at the workplace.
- Social Media
Social media interactions have emerged as the biggest technological trend over the past decade. Employers should start focusing on peer coaching, encouraging friendly competition, group support, and social accountability to increase employee interest, which ultimately determines the success of a corporate wellness program.
Usage of AI and Analytics to Design a Future-Proof Wellness Program
Like in other industries, the wellness industry has started exploring possible implementations of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to evaluate data with the ultimate goal of helping people realize how wellness programs are helping them succeed in their health goals. Going forward, AI will play a larger role in deriving conclusions from this data. Wearables may soon be able to monitor health functions such as metabolism and suggest possible outcomes of their actions.
Big data capabilities for medical and pharmacy claims data often include powerful algorithms that enable sophisticated risk stratification methodologies. An employer can better understand the risk stratification of its workforce as it compares to benchmark group populations. In other words, plan sponsors can better understand whether they have greater numbers of “high health risk” or “medium health risk” employees in their covered group. This is important, as larger numbers of higher-risk individuals suggest a greater urgency to create strategies that lower these risks. Preventive screening is one such strategy. With big data health analytics, the gaps in care can be better understood.
Innovative corporate wellness (AI & analytics enabled) is going to be the future megatrend in the pursuit to achieving greater employee engagement. However, with the involvement of technology, privacy advocates are raising concerns about data mining and the confidentiality of employees’ information.
Shaping the Future of Wellness Programs
- Data Integration
Data integration is the most important driver of the wellness program. Data can be collected from software platforms, wearables, and so on. Some of the biggest insurance companies have started investing in digital health startups. Wearables track certain aspects related to the health of employees. Some employees engage with software platforms or web portals that encourage them to integrate wellness with incentives.
- Addressing Financial Need
Forward-thinking programs will take a step ahead and use the available data to tailor financial offerings. When employees are in debt or otherwise experiencing financial issues, stress can reduce their productivity at the workplace, increase absenteeism, and ultimately lead to poor health habits or illness. Employers have started to assist their employees with debt reduction, and are now providing individualized assistance in planning for retirement and healthcare costs in retirement. They will need to figure out how to use the available data to help tailor financial solutions for employees that need them.
Data combined with increased insights into the benefits employees need and use will streamline programs and help them become more effective, which will ultimately increase their credibility. At the same time, such data will help organizations create more holistic approaches to wellness. This will include everything from occupational to emotional and physical wellness, driven by a process that will recommend options to employees who exhibit dependency signs. In time, this will increase adoption and help employees with what they need.