Seemingly out of nowhere, businesses across Europe have become excited by the subject of health and wellness at work. Many societies across Europe have come to believe employers have an important role to play in keeping people happy and healthy. And employers for their part see the benefit of doing so: fewer sick days, a more engaged workforce and a more productive one.
Of course, when a trend gets this much attention, it is fair to wonder how much real substance there is behind it: is this focus on health and wellness at work all hype, or is it becoming a reality?
When weighing up this question it is worth remembering that workplace health and wellness are not new to HR. It has long been the practice of many companies to promote the health of their employees; by making fruit freely available, for example, or including health insurance in their benefits schemes. What’s different today is that new technologies, chiefly wearable fitness devices and ‘connected objects’, enable HR to come up with innovative approaches to health and wellness that make workers even more engaged and productive.
And this, of course, will assist HR in having a larger, more visible impact on the organization’s revenue.
People in Europe are taking control of their fitness like never before and this includes at work.
What should make HR teams even more excited is that, to a large extent, they will find themselves pushing against an open door. People in Europe are taking control of their fitness like never before and this includes at work. Using smartphones and other sensors (such as Jawbone and Fitbit), they are measuring everything from how many steps they take on their walk to work, to the time it takes to jog back home, to how many calories they burn during the day, even their heart rate and stress levels at work; and the list goes on. There is also an interesting gamification aspect to this, with many people choosing to share vital statistics with friends and colleagues in a spirit of friendly competition.
With the grassroots appeal of this technology already in place, HR has an important role to play in channeling peoples’ enthusiasm into programs that benefit both employees and the wider business. In the latter case, health and wellness technologies can be used to address health risks within the workplace such as stress, fatigue, or strain injuries from physical activity (or in the case of desk workers, a lack thereof).
Taking physical activity as an example: through connected health and wellness devices and cloud applications, companies can share recommendations with desk-based employees on steps they can take to prevent physical discomfort caused by sitting down all day. This could be gamified – for instance by getting employees to form competitive sports teams and use social media to generate a buzz around matches and encourage collaboration on and off the sports field.
As long as the appropriate steps are taken to protect employee data this is a great way to motivate employees, build stronger working teams while improving the general health of employees.
Thanks to connected devices and cloud applications health and wellness at work has, therefore, most definitely arrived. But HR teams must ensure any such programs are based on clear and measurable goals. The benefits of doing so are a more engaged, collaborative and happier workforce and this always means great things for overall productivity.
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