Jul 21, 2016

Editor’s note: Collecting and analyzing health data can help you make better decisions when it comes to selecting benefits plans and programs, especially healthcare programs. How to do this is explained in this related article How to Use Health Data to Make Smarter Health Plan Decisions.

Tech is taking over health and well-being management. In a survey of more than 8,000 consumers in seven countries, Accenture found that 33% use mobile health apps today compared to 16% in 2014. In addition, 21% use wearables, up from 9% in 2014.

This trend isn’t limited to individual use — employers are using more apps and wearables in corporate wellness programs. The State of Workplace Well-Being survey by my employer, Limeade, found that 46% of organizations surveyed use wearable devices as part of their corporate wellness program, 44% use wellness platforms or software and 30% use apps.

Integrating these devices, apps and software into a wellness platform doesn’t have to be challenging. Here’s the right way to use tech to engage employees in well-being initiatives:

Make it accessible

With a majority (53%) of the 300 employers in a survey admitting that participation is a problem, technology makes things easier — that’s the whole point. And health apps and other mobile platforms should do the same for wellness programs.

Employees don’t have time to track every healthy action, so they need something that’s easy to use. Using tech that looks complicated will drive employees away, instead of drawing them in.

Employees know mobile devices. They use them all day, every day — some employees even use their mobile devices for work more than 20 times a day, according to a survey conducted by Wrike.

Mobile devices are natural and easy for employees to use. Piggyback your wellness programs on the mobile tech your employees already use daily. That way, even hard to reach employees will be more likely to pick up their phones and get involved.

Make it fun

People love playing games — especially on their phones and mobile devices. In fact, according to a 2015 report from The NPD Group, Americans spend more than 2 hours a day playing mobile games, on average. So what makes them so addicting?

Most mobile games use a level system. When players earn a certain amount of points, they unlock the next level in the game. And each new level means new challenges or rewards. There’s always something new for players to reach toward. They want to hurry up and complete the level they’re on to get to the next one.

Harness that power of mobile gaming to boost your wellness program. Use a points and levels system to encourage employees to keep going. At each new level, offer different well-being challenges and new rewards. Employees can track their progress and watch their points accumulate on their mobile device. Give employees health apps and platforms that use gamification elements to keep your wellness program fun and engaging.

Make it supportive

Although some employees may be hesitant to share data collected on health apps and wearables, social sharing among peers can make the experience better. Employees need support to make and keep lifestyle changes, and tech makes that possible.

When employees share their progress and frustrations with coworkers on social media or internal social networks, they feel like they’re not alone. They feel like they’re sharing the experience with the team and that’s powerful. A Yale University stWell-being participation surveyudy published in October 2014 found experiences people share with others are amplified — people become more absorbed and engaged in an activity when sharing it.

That’s why 38.6% of employers surveyed in The State of Workplace Well-Being survey use social sharing in their wellness programs. Social sharing helps employees feel supported. It brings the team together and keeps them motivated, even when committing to lifestyle changes gets difficult.

Make it integrated

Tech can be a great social tool, but it’s also powerful when it comes to integration. Ensuring your program seamlessly integrates with wearable devices and health apps will make tracking progress painless for employees. Making it simple to integrate and easy to track will help employees have a better overall experience with a wellness platform.

Viewing real-time data in a wellness program not only keeps employees accountable for their goals, but it helps motivate them as well. After all, 77% of those surveyed by Accenture said that using wearables makes them feel more engaged with their health.

Make it personal

We all know that one size doesn’t fit all. That’s why it’s important to use the power of the platform data to segment employees and deliver the right content to them. For example, employees in the Chicago office may see content related to a local charity walk, or managers may see training content on how to get employees involved in wellness initiatives. The more personalized and tailored a program is, the more likely your employees will find activities relevant for them.

But just because it’s personalized doesn’t mean employees are giving up their privacy. Assure employees that their personal data is safe. Review privacy policies and explain what happens to any collected data. Let them know it’s protected by HIPAA. Explain where it goes, who sees it, how it’s used and that it’s viewed in aggregate not on an individual level. Be transparent about data and privacy so employees feel comfortable using wearables, apps and other tech in your wellness program.