Technology Revolutionizing Workplace Wellness

Wellness in the workplace is a huge and growing trend these days. Makes sense, right? A healthier employee is a happier employee—and also a more productive one. That’s why employers are introducing wellness programs in droves, and at the same time turning to technology as a tool to monitor, promote, and reward their employees’ fitness achievements.

Currently, 70 percent of U.S. employers offer a wellness program, an increase from 58 percent in 2008. It’s no secret that investing in employee wellness is worthwhile in the long run. Not only do wellness programs help employers to lower healthcare costs and reduce sick days, but research shows they improve employee engagement and retention as well.

Getting employees to take advantage of a wellness program is not a slam-dunk, however. Participation is sometimes low, with employees citing lack of time or interest as two of the primary reasons. That’s where technology comes in, making getting involved easier for employees—and a whole lot more fun.

The fun kicks in courtesy of a group dynamic that promotes good-natured competition to achieve wellness goals, which aligns with another trend among employers: offering rewards or bonuses to employees who complete health and wellness objectives. Currently, four in 10 employers offer these types of incentives, with another 8 percent planning to implement them within the next year.

So, just how does the latest technology help get—and keep—employees healthy, thereby boosting employer profit wellness? Let’s examine the various options.


At any gathering of a half-dozen or more employees, look at their wrists; chances are at least one will be wearing a fitness tracker. Nearly 40 million American adults are currently using such devices, and that figure is expected to double within the next three years.

The most popular brand is Fitbit, but companies like Garmin, Apple, Jawbone, and Misfit are also in the wearable tracker game. These devices allow employees to monitor various fitness activities, such as how many steps they’ve taken, how many flights of stairs they’ve climbed, and how many calories they’ve burned. Such measurables lend themselves nicely to interoffice competition. Whoever comes out on top will earn company bragging rights—or something more tangible like a trophy or monetary prize.

One savvy move for employers wanting to increase workplace awareness is to subsidize wearable trackers for their employees. A lot of companies do that—not only for their employees but sometimes even for employees’ spouses or partners. Whether companies pay for the devices or employees do so themselves, expectations are that wearable technology usage will continue to rise. Xerox Human Resources Services conducted a 2015 survey of 200+ employers, in which 37 percent reported using wearable technology; another 37 percent said they were planning to adopt the technology in the years ahead.


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. The best thing about gamification is that it is a great motivator. Participants strive to win a challenge, whether it’s losing weight, eating healthier, or achieving measurable fitness goals.

Implementing a gamification strategy with monthly or quarterly incentives is a great way for employers to build a wellness-oriented culture. With the camaraderie and feedback that such competitions generate, employees have stronger incentives to reach their goals.


Apps for fitness trackers are just one of many tools that allow employees to monitor their health. There are mental health apps like Headspace, which features proven meditation and mindfulness techniques. Sleep apps, which track users sleeping habits and in some cases help them drift off to sleep with calming music, words, and sound effects are popular. And food tracking/nutrition apps, which keep tabs on caloric intake and the nutritional content of the food the user eats. Wellness-minded employers will encourage employee use of those apps that best fit the fitness and health objectives of the workplace.

Program Analytics

There is also technology that allows employers to analyze their wellness programs and redirect them to meet the needs of their employees better. It’s not just about return on investment, but also about employee satisfaction. Analytics allow employers to pinpoint aspects of their wellness program that are receiving less-than-favorable ratings. Responsive employers will then use this information to make modifications that will improve their employees’ satisfaction and boost participation.

Social Media

Dr. Rajiv Kumar, founder/CEO of corporate wellness platform ShapeUp, identifies social interaction as the biggest technological trend over the past decade. How do you add social interaction to a workplace wellness program? Kumar recommends focusing on these four elements: peer coaching, friendly competition, group support, and social accountability. There are many social tools for encouraging interaction, including apps, forums, and Facebook groups—to name just a few. Social media has the power to drive such interaction, which increases employee interest and ultimately determines the success of a corporate wellness program.

In the future, we expect even more employers to adopt wellness programs. And why wouldn’t they? With technology advancing so rapidly, the ease of implementation is great—and the rewards for employer and employee even greater.

Choosing Tools to Promote a Culture of Wellness

Have you made promoting a culture of wellness a top priority in your workplace?  Well, I have to tell you, you’re on the right track—and others would do well to follow your example. Why? Because placing emphasis on workplace wellness is one of the most effective ways employers can help boost employee productivity, reduce absenteeism, and control healthcare costs. And it makes sense for your employees too, since they’ll be the direct beneficiaries of a workplace program that staves off sickness and helps build better long-term health and wellbeing.

Making workplace wellness a priority is the place to start, but having the right tools to support your employees is also really important. According to Morella Devost, founder of holistic health website Transformation One, there are 11 keys to creating a culture of wellness, and having the tools to facilitate your wellness initiative is one of them. Tools can encompass elements such as gym equipment, fitness trackers, and health assessments, as well as various communication platforms like newsletters, bulletin boards, health websites, recipe sharing, and more. These tools are not a program in and of themselves but are essential elements in supporting your workplace wellness program.

Workplace Tech

You also have the category of workplace tech, with wellness technology, showcased by those wearables that are all the rage, including fitness trackers, smart watches, and heart rate monitors. What’s not to love? And, in addition to the basic functionalities of wearable fitness trackers, which aid in setting personal goals—i.e., tracking the number of steps or flights of stairs—these tools can provide workplaces with a way to monitor group goals or even set up friendly interoffice competitions.

Fitbit, the leading name in fitness trackers, offers your employees easy-to-use software and services for planning, tracking, executing, and managing a group health program. Employees motivate, inspire, and encourage each other by participating in group programs, making it more likely they’ll continue working toward their fitness goals. In fact, Fitbit data shows that users tracking their activity with one or more friends are 27 percent more active than those going it alone.

These days many organizations committed to forging a culture of wellness are buying or subsidizing the purchase of fitness trackers for their employees, citing the return on investment they realize through higher productivity and lower absenteeism, which often more than offsets the cost of the devices.

On-Site Gyms and Other Options

We see another trend that supports workplace wellness in the increase in corporate fitness centers. But as Forbes points out, following the trend without having a strategy to support it is an exercise in futility. Having a qualified staff run the fitness center, as well as maintaining ongoing fitness programming and initiatives that bolster such use are among the key elements that will make the significant investment in a fitness center pay off.

For those companies without the budget to put in a fitness center, there are many cost-effective alternatives. You can invest in fitness tools like yoga mats, exercise balls, and other non-tech fitness products as a way to encourage your employees to integrate physical fitness throughout their day.

Promoting Physical Comfort

While physical fitness is important to workplace wellness, physical comfort is another component. According to Staples Business Advantage’s second annual Workplace Index Survey, a majority of respondents (employers and staff) agree that ergonomic and functional furniture is a significant factor contributing to higher productivity. Providing furniture that helps improve posture and ensure employees’ comfort throughout the workday is a substantial step to take in support your organization’s dedication to wellness.

Workplace design is another important element to promoting health and workplace wellness. Spaces that encourage walking and movement, proper task lighting, adequate noise masking, and good airflow are essential components in making an office more productive—and healthier.

Promoting a Positive Outlook

And what about job satisfaction? It turns out, to no one’s surprise, that workplace wellness also ties into the importance of job satisfaction as a means of helping employees have a positive outlook on work and life. Again, technology is necessary here. According to the Staples Business Advantage survey, respondents identified inadequate technology as one of the top three causes of lower productivity and reduced job satisfaction. Conversely, the most productive and satisfied employees are those who have access to the latest technology such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets.

However, technology can be a dual-edged sword. We’re finding it difficult to disconnect from our jobs because of technology that is driving an “always-on” work culture. That has led to the majority of workers—53 percent—feeling overworked and burnt out. This inability to easily disconnect from our tech also underscores the importance of promoting a workplace culture of wellness that considers not only the “big things” but the “little things” as well. Yes, onsite gyms are nice—many employees find this to be a great perk—but they’re also looking for other amenities as well (a well-stocked break room, for instance).

So, while tools are important, don’t overlook the importance of personal connections—employees motivating other employees and managers modeling healthy behavior for employees to emulate.

A healthy, more productive staff is the ultimate goal of a workplace wellness program. Make sure the tools—and your people—support the program to achieve a better culture of wellness for everyone in your organization.

This post is sponsored by Staples Business Advantage.

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