A growing number of employers are building their employee wellness strategy around the use of wearable fitness trackers.

What’s so appealing about this new technology—aside from the ‘cool’ factor—is that they rely on gaming techniques and social support to keep individuals and groups moving toward a common goal.  For employers who successfully integrate fitness trackers into their workplace wellness programs, this is a win-win, because they help employees meet individual goals while moving the larger organization toward its corporate health goals.

Tracking trends

According to technology consultants, Endeavors Partners, 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 18 owns an activity tracker. By 2018, U.S. employers will integrate more than 13 million wearable health and fitness tracking devices into their employee wellness programs.

A recent study investigated how companies are using wearables to engage employees in workplace wellness. Of the 46 percent of employers who said they offer fitness trackers as part of their wellness programs, here’s what’s trending:

  • 51 percent pay the total cost of the device

  • 53 percent extend this option to spouses and dependents

  • To receive a fitness tracker, the most common requirements for employees include signing up for a program or campaign, completing a health assessment survey, or earning points as part of their overall program participation

  • Nearly 22 percent of employers don’t have any requirements in place for employees who want to receive the device, other than to simply register to receive one

Why push wearables?

Skeptics of the wellness industry like to believe employers have ulterior motives for offering employees activity trackers. But 94 percent of employers said they offer them simply as a way to increase physical activity.

In addition:

  • 77 percent want to increase employee engagement with their health

  • 74 percent want to add a ‘fun factor’ to their wellness program

  • 62 percent want to see improvements in employee health

  • 51 percent want to see improvement in performance and productivity

Just how long does the party last when it comes to wearables in the workplace?

  • 59 percent of employers said the majority of employees were still using their devices more than 12 weeks after launch

  • 54 percent said the majority of employees were using their devices six months after program launch

  • 95 percent of employers said they would continue offering fitness trackers as part of their wellness program due to high employee satisfaction with the devices.

More than fun and games

Wearable technology continues to evolve, so expect to see more savvy employers and wellness providers using this technology to get employees to the wellness party. And you can bet more research will be conducted to identify the connection between wearable devices and health outcomes.

Wearable technology may just become a staple in comprehensive workplace wellness programs of the future.