In 2014, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong unveiled the Smart Nation vision for Singapore, where advances in digital technology create new opportunities to enhance the way we live, work, play, and interact.
As we progress on our Smart Nation journey, it is in the organisations’ interests to ride on this new trend by using technology to improve workplace wellness so that the hidden and indirect costs from productivity losses, employee medical claims, absenteeism and presenteeism
Some of the greatest barriers to having employees participate in workplace wellness programmes are:
- time constraints
- lack of employee engagement strategies
- lack of motivation on the part of the employees.
Traditional strategies to improve workplace health like lunchtime talks are generic, ineffective and achieve little. Organisations must recognise the importance of creating a pro-health culture within the workplace which can now be enhanced by technology.
With the introduction of customisable digital platforms, employees can customise programmes that will encourage them to adopt long-term healthy habits and access support for their personal health endeavours, well at the same time, potentially increasing their engagement as employees.
An international medical study conducted in 2015 by healthcare group, Bupa, found that three in five employees would be more proactive with managing their personal health and wellbeing if their employer supported them with a digital platform. This digital platform supports employees to set personal goals, track their progress against friends and colleagues to motivate and inspire them.
Furthermore, a 2012 study conducted by Shape Up, a gaming platform to help players keep fit, among 350 companies in the US showed that technology has greatly enhanced and expanded corporate wellness programmes. This key finding highlights the importance of technological aid:
“94% believe health technology is instrumental in improving employee perceptions of their wellness effort, while 93% believe it increases use of their wellness resources and 90% confirm it has a positive impact on employee health engagement.”
Generally, technology has brought about improvements in workplace health and there are six major benefits:
1. Streamlined Processes
Technology helps to integrate a workplace wellness programme into employees’ daily routines and obtain real-time employee feedback as well as streamline arduous HR processes to administer these programmes.
For instance, lifestyle assessments to understand employees’ lifestyle habits and their preferences for workplace wellness programmes can be carried out online and this will allow HR practitioners to track and analyse trends in employee preferences annually to tailor more customised wellness programmes.
2. Increased productivity
Employees have access to information anytime and anywhere. Digital platforms allow information to be stored securely and reduce the frustration of tracking lost personal data. The Bupa study also saw a 71% increase in engagement and productivity from employees who use wearables such as the Apple Watch or Fitbit.
Well-planned and administered workplace health programmes can help foster an environment of collaboration and communication within organisations and also minimise time spent on meetings or lunchtime talks.
3. Valuable data
Data gathered from wearables and health apps can help an organisation make a business case for a wellness programme. Wearables provide employers with a vast amount of biometric data and help evaluate their return on investment when employees consent to share their information.
4. Supportive company culture
By tracking eating habits, dietary plans, and lifestyle choices for the whole team, supportive relationships can develop and team morale is boosted, thereby creating a more cohesive workplace culture.
A good example is one of our clients who began to organise healthy lunches at his/her company. This evolved into a lunch club where colleagues bonded through sharing cooking/quick lunch fix tips and showing each other support via the digital app platform.
5. Increased health awareness and more motivation
Using wearables can decrease the sedentary lifestyle that pervades the current generation of workers. With features such the ‘Activity’ app on an Apple Watch, employees can track their physical movements and set reminders to get up after sitting for long periods of time and help set fitness goals. This increases employees’ willingness to lead healthier lifestyles.
For example, the HPB launched the National Steps Challenge which tracked using wearables to encourage more Singaporeans to lead active lifestyles. Since its launch in November 2015, 70% of previously inactive participants now walk an average of 7,000 steps a day, with 30% of participants clocking about 10,000 steps a day.
6. Less absenteeism
Monitoring and evaluating real-time data of employees’ physical activity, sleep patterns, and stress levels can help employers identify drivers of their employees’ health risks, encourage them to seek further tests and potentially mitigate long-term disability leave.
We believe that digital technology will create tangible change in the way employers and HR practitioners engage their employees in workplace wellness programmes). As we move towards being a smart nation with more millennials joining the workforce, adopting a digital strategy for workplace wellness is no longer an option but a necessity that helps achieve a symbiotic relationship between employers and employees.