Employers continue to invest in technology to promote employee wellbeing

Employers continue to invest in technology to promote employee wellbeing despite challenges measuring impact and return on investment, according to recent research from Xerox Human Resources Services and the National Business Group on Health. The study, Emerging Technology to Promote Employee Wellbeing, examined the current use and future potential of four key technologies: gamification, mobile technologies, wearable sensors and social media.

Mobile use is the highest priority, as over half of responding employers are using apps and associated technologies to provide their employees a consumer experience that matches the tablet and smartphone lifestyle. Mobile is also the largest growth area since the 2013 findings, which saw a 16 percent mobile usage. Gamification, social networking and wearable sensors all reported similar usage of about one-third of responding employers.

The use of wearable sensors, a technology not studied in the 2013 survey, allows for the most direct feedback to employees on their wellbeing as well as providing employers with aggregate data on the impact of this technology on employee engagement in health. Reflecting the need for results driven data, activity tracking is now used by 37 percent of respondents with another 37 percent planning to adopt the technology in the coming years.

“Measuring the impact of technology-supported wellness programs remains challenging for employers, particularly where direct cause and effect cannot be quantified,” said Scot Marcotte, client technology leader, Xerox HR Services. “Wearable sensors offer an opportunity for better measurement, but adoption of work-sponsored wearable usage has been slow due to a variety of reasons, including cost of the technology and privacy concerns.”

By far the greatest barrier preventing organizations from using these new technologies is competition from higher-priority issues in their budgets. Concerns over confidentiality and privacy issues were also identified by more than 30 percent of respondents as barriers across all categories, particularly for social media.

“Changes in benefit program design increasingly require individuals to take personal responsibility for their wellbeing,” said Karen Marlo, vice president of the National Business Group on Health. “New technology, such as wearables, provides employers with an opportunity to motivate and empower employees to take an active role in their own health care experience. The key for employers is identifying programs that provide both individualized support and measurable results for employee wellbeing, working to positively impact health and wealth.”

SOURCE: NBGH press release, March 3, 2016.

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