Tracking What Matters: How employers can drive employee engagement through a wearables program

Employee engagement is a nearly universal challenge for health benefits leaders implementing wellness programs. While some may find it easy to point to employees’ lack of interest in wellness, we know this is not the case. American consumer spending on wellness far outpaces employer spending, as consumers invest $139 billion a year on weight loss, gym memberships, sleep solutions, and other ways to reach or maintain wellbeing goals.

How then can employers harness some of this enthusiasm for wellness and drive engagement in the employee health benefits programs they invest so much in?

It’s clear that technology is at least part of the solution. In our State of Digital Health Report, Castlight found that 98 percent of employees have used technology to meet a health goal. But, the harder question is which technology solution is attractive enough to jumpstart employee engagement in a workplace wellness program?

Look down. The answer may already be on your wrist. Wearables, or activity trackers, have become increasingly common among both consumers and employers. That’s a good thing, because wearables can play a critical part in a successful, integrated employee wellness strategy.  

Recently, we discussed how employers can make the most of these powerful digital wellness tools in their employee health benefits program in a webinar with Taylor Helgren, an expert from Fitbit Health Solutions, and Julie Wilkes, an award-winning benefits leader from Accenture.

The webinar explains that wearables are a uniquely beneficial tool that can achieve three primary aims.

First, wearables can help support a culture of health among employees. An employee who has a Fitbit and sees all of their colleagues wearing and tracking their health with one is more likely to engage with their own wellbeing. And, wearables provide an easy platform to implement employer-driven engagement tactics such as device or activity incentives, individual challenges, or company-wide competitions.

Second, while some may think of wearables simply as activity trackers, they can broadly improve employee wellbeing. For example, the webinar explains that when users begin tracking steps with one of the devices, they are also provided opportunities to gain actionable insights on their sleep, to address stress or mental health, manage a chronic condition, or learn how to eat healthier. By getting employees to adopt one healthy habit, employers are much more likely to spark behavior change among them broadly.

Finally, and most importantly, as Julie explains in the webinar, wearables can drive engagement throughout an employee health and wellness program, not just with the devices themselves. She says, “Our program isn’t just about steps, but it’s what we call the hookline to get employees interested, wearables provide a simple and easy way to get their attention.”

Once an employee is tracking their steps or monitoring one aspect of their health through a wearable, this frequent engagement in benefits can make them more aware of and likely to engage in other health benefits offerings. We have seen this proven with Fitbit directly integrated as part of Castlight’s health navigation platform.

While more employers have or plan to adopt a wearables program as part of their benefits strategy, there’s a big opportunity for employers to harness this powerful driver of employee engagement. Our digital health report found that 42 percent of employees report walking more or tracking steps as a top three health goal, yet only 9 percent currently access this through their employers.

To learn more about how wearables can play a key role in unlocking engagement in your health benefits strategy or to hear more details about employers’ experiences, check out the full webinar here.