Anticipated Changes to Corporate Fitness and Wellness Programs in 2016
The popularity and effectiveness of employee fitness and wellness programs has greatly increased in recent years. 70% of US employers now offer some form of employee wellness program, up from 58% in 2008 according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Despite this trend and the benefits wellness programs can provide to productivity and workplace moral, many companies will face new challenges in 2016 related to such programs. In the following we will summarily address some of the prominent trends related to fitness and wellness program development anticipated to take the lead in improving employee health in 2016.
- A focus on emotional and spiritual wellness
- Social and emotional wellness is increasingly being understood as a major factor for overall productivity, team cohesion and creativity in the workplace. The trend of "mental well-being" has some tech companies looking to incorporate technology that measures brainwaves as well as programs that focus on mediation and the emotional and social aspects of wellbeing; all in attempt to improve workplace cohesion and productivity.
- Subsidized activity trackers for significant others
- According to Heather Kennedy, director of customer success at Fitbit Corporate Wellness, a number of organizations are not only considering subsidizing the cost of Fitbit activity trackers for its employees but also for their partners and spouses. Companies are recognizing that social support from close loved ones is integral to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
- Technology to make fitness endeavors more convenient and comprehensive
- Many modern corporate fitness and wellness programs already employ activity trackers, but 2016 is anticipated to bring additional technologies and applications into the mix. We can expect to see a more "multifaceted" approach to delivering new features, according to Jeff Ruby, the founder and CEO of Newtopia. This may include dynamics such as live fitness coaching delivered directly to employees via two-way video conferencing.
- A focus on gamification and social networking that most people tend to enjoy
- To encourage and maintain staff participation in fitness initiatives, gamification and social networking will become even more prominent in 2016. Sonic Boom’s Wellness CEO Danna Korn emphasizes the importance of adding a social and gaming component to fitness initiatives, predicting that without such, the popularity of fitness trackers will quickly fade.
- An emphasis on obtaining adequate sleep
- Many modern activity trackers, including Fitbit's Charge HR and Surge and Misfit Shine 2 automatically track users' sleep patterns. Some corporate wellness programs provide employers with aggregated data about employee sleep trends, which they can use to help make staff more aware of potential sleep problems and suggest ways to enhance sleep quantity and quality. It is recommended to limit one’s light exposure from smartphones and tablets right before bed as it can reduce normal melatonin activity.
- Real-time fitness data to help demonstrate returns on investment (ROI) to CEOs
- Phil Daniels, cofounder of Healthiest Employers, explains that modeling forecasts are becoming more real-time with a new wealth of data. A recent study from the RAND Corporation found that for every $1.00 invested in enterprise wellness programs, the overall ROI is $1.50. However many companies may continue to struggle with measuring true ROI values because the largest expense related to health is insurance - and there are too many external factors which can impact this coverage.
- Addressing privacy or security concerns
- Some employees worry that the activity and other health data collected by employers will be used against them, potentially causing their health insurance premiums to increase and their chances for a promotion to diminish. Though most corporations are working hard to overcome such concerns, it is likely impossible to set everybody’s mind at ease.
- Implementing more fitness challenges that are tied to charity
- In 2015, Target was among a set of large enterprises that tied fitness challenges to charitable donations. "A growing body of research suggests that altruism is an effective, low-cost, and meaningful way to reduce stress and improve wellbeing," says ShapeUp's founder and CEO Dr. Rajiv Kumar. Kumar predicts that employers will look to capitalize on the connection between altruism and fitness in 2016.