Four considerations when adding wearables to your wellness program

According to a 2013 study by ABI Research, more than 13 million wearable health trackers will be incorporated into businesses’ wellness plans by 2018.1

There are pros and cons to adding wearable devices to your organization’s wellness program, and your decision to include these gadgets may depend on your budget, company size and demographics, or current wellness program offering. Before you jump on the wearable wellness bandwagon, here are a few things to consider.

Study the advantages
The benefits of giving employees a reason to think about their health on a daily basis are vast: fewer sick days and reduced presenteeism2 — and that’s just to name a few. Ideally, this companywide emphasis on wellness can prompt employees to take responsibility for their health and make any necessary lifestyle changes.

In fact, a study completed by The Vitality Group showed that employees using the devices successfully reduced their health risk factors. Individuals who had not previously been involved in fitness activities reduced their health risk factors by 13 percent, and those who previously were active reduced their risk factors by 22 percent.3

Find ways to incentivize healthy behaviors
The Vitality Group study also showed that employees were more likely to reduce risk factors such as body mass index (BMI) and cholesterol levels when use of wellness trackers was paired with incentives.3 There are many ways in which you can incentivize healthy behaviors, and lowering health insurance premiums is just one option. Competitions with prizes and other workplace activities also can be a smart way to build camaraderie and employee engagement with healthy behaviors.

Decide if and how you’ll distribute the devices
Giving away a wearable fitness tracker may not be feasible for every organization, so you may want to consider other options:

  • Allow employees to use their existing devices to participate in employee wellness programs
  • Provide inexpensive pedometers
  • Consult your health insurance carrier — they may offer free pedometers or other inexpensive options
  • Buy in bulk and sell the trackers to employees at a discount
  • Offer wearable devices as an incentive for completing a health assessment or other task

Set reasonable expectations for the results
Calculating return on investment for handing out these trackers to employees can be difficult without carefully gathered and analyzed data. By ensuring that you are gathering meaningful data and focusing data analysis efforts on overall improvements in health and other factors, however, getting executive-level buy-in for this additional wellness offering is quite possible.

After assessing your organization’s unique wellness needs, population and budget, you’ll be one step closer to deciding if wearable wellness is the right choice. Keep in mind, the extra attention given to employee health could have major payoffs, making these trendy devices worth considering.


1Corporate Wellness is a 13 Million Unit Wearable Wireless Device Opportunity [news release]. New York, NY: ABI Research; September 25, 2013. https://www.abiresearch.com/press/corporate-wellness-is-a-13-million-unit-wearable-w. Accessed September 18, 2014.

2Workplace Health Promotion. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/businesscase/benefits/productivity.html. Updated October 23, 2013. Accessed September 25, 2014.

3Fitness Devices Impacting Employee Health According to Vitality Study [news release]. Chicago, IL: The Vitality Group; April 23, 2014. Available at http://www.thevitalitygroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/TVG-wearables-news-release-FINAL.pdf. Accessed September 18, 2014.

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