Future of Work

Improving Employee Health With the Internet of Things

When you think of “employee wellness programs” what comes to mind? Do you think of a poster that tells you to take the stairs and skip the elevator?

Well, plenty of companies still do that, but it turns out they do so much more now, too.

Today, more businesses than ever are using money, incentives, and sometimes penalties to encourage employees to get in shape. Between medical costs, insurance costs, and loss of productivity due to sick days,  a proactive approach to health is always cheaper than treating sickness. The motivation is clear.

According to the Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on health, nearly 90% of employers offer wellness incentives. That’s up from 57% of companies in 2009. The perks are worth more now, too: $521 per employee on average, compared with $260 five years ago.

What employers may not be thinking about is how they can use the Internet of Things to enable these programs. Here are a few ideas:

1) Record gym sessions and offer prizes.

Robin-enabled spaces can tell who is where, when, and how often. You could install a presence tracking system at office gym and reward the most frequent visitors with a spa certificate or health insurance discount.

2) Offer rewards for healthy choices at the cafeteria.

A Robin-enabled company cafeteria could track the purchase history of employees and reward those who hit up the salad bar. They could earn prizes for sticking to a certain calorie count or for eating a certain number of healthy foods per week.

3) Use presence tracking to introduce new people.

Working out should be a social experience. A Robin-enabled space could track who uses the gym the most at what times, and could introduce those people through an email chain and help facilitate group workout sessions.

4) Make a smart gym app.

A Robin-enabled company gym could come with a working-tracking mobile app (sort of like RunKeeper) that corresponds with weight sensors on machines. The machines would track your weights and reps, and communicate that information to the mobile app. The mobile app would automatically log your workouts for you and suggest your next set based on your progress. The mobile app would encourage employees to work out and motivate them to challenge themselves.

5) Play fitness monopoly!

Let’s take back Monopoly from McDonald’s. Your company could come up with a list of healthy activities that you want employees to take part in each quarter. This could be stuff like using a stand-up desk, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or eating at the salad bar. Presence tracking technology could record which activities the employees do.  Employees who complete each item on the list would be entered into a sweepstakes for a grand prize.

6) Do a steps-per-day challenge with wearables.

The Biggest Loser-style corporate challenges are becoming a thing now. While that is awesome, it focuses more on results than on the necessary process for achieving those results. You can’t achieve or maintain results without first establishing healthy habits. If every employee were equipped with a Fitbit or other type of wearable, you could encourage exercise with a “Steps per Day” challenge. To appeal to those who do other kinds of activities like ultimate frisbee, you could measure total activity time per day and base the contest off of that. Pair that with incentives for healthy choices at the cafeteria, and you’ve got yourself a healthy little workforce.

What other ideas can you think of? Let us know in the comments.

Photo Credit: darkmatter via Compfight cc