The Art and Science of Wearable Well-Being Tech
Digital Health Just as wellness programs have developed from focusing solely on a person’s physical well-being so too has the way we use technology to stay engaged and motivated.
Today’s organizations are putting a consumer spin on well-being programs, and innovative tools like wearable activity trackers, social technologies and gamification are helping employees make enduring behavior changes. In fact, wearable technology continues to gain ground year over year—to the point that Gartner Inc. is forecasting that 274.6 million wearable electronic devices will be sold worldwide this year. That’s an 18.4 percent increase over last year.
Benefits for workers and bosses
But for wearables to be of greatest value, data and feedback have to connect with other devices, like smartphones or the cloud. This connectivity is critical for both employees and employers, simply so that data can be used to identify the right programs and policies to help support and sustain employees’ behavior changes and help them meet their individual goals.
And if proof is needed to validate the need for data, consider that activity tracking is used by 37 percent of respondents, according to research from Xerox and the National Business Group on Health. Another 37 percent of respondents reported plans to adopt wearable technology in the coming years.
Employers are seeing the benefit, too, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). In its report, “The Wearable Future,” PwC reports that wearable tech in employer-sponsored health and wellness programs can lead to a healthier—and thereby more productive—workforce. It’s important to note that, although consumers haven’t quite bought into and embraced health care-focused wearable technology in large numbers, they are intrigued.
Expanding awareness and fitness
Incentives like health insurance savings (or even cash) work particularly well to jumpstart new behaviors. But other motivational tactics (e.g., peer support, friendly competition) help sustain new behaviors for the long haul. For example, for gamification to have legs, it needs to be grounded in a basic understanding of how people behave and are motivated to change. Remember: The proper mix of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards is a blend of art and science, and it’s critical to the success of any corporate initiatives involving wearables and gamification.
And lest you believe wearables are the summit when it comes to well-being technology, peaking at tracking steps or sleep, think again. The marketplace is already introducing wearables to help new hires with the onboard process and, in the health industry, to help medical personnel with patient records and remote monitoring. According to Lucien Engelen, the next wearable monitor will actually be inside of you, with a contact lens sensor detecting glucose levels and a nanorobot injecting cancer treatments. You may want to consider wearable technology as your well-being programs move further into the 21st century.