Employer interest in using these intelligent devices to track physical activity and cultivate healthy behaviors is growing, but they have yet to be widely adopted. According to an NPD Group Connected Intelligence study, ownership is low—only 11% of those surveyed own an activity tracker and only 3% own a smartwatch. And at $99-plus, these devices are expensive, making it costly to outfit a large workforce.

[Image credit: Bloomberg]
[Image credit: Bloomberg]

One of the benefits of wearables is that their common use promotes engagement through camaraderie and social interaction. But that only works if everyone is using a compatible device. Also data has to be measured and collected in the same way, or it’s not possible to evaluate and compare population outcomes. Yet employers who have simply handed out these devices quickly realize that--absent any employee accountability—they have no way to determine the return on this investment or its impact on their employees’ wellbeing.

Capitalizing on wearables

On the other hand, forward thinking advisers like be a little ahead of the curve, and there are ways today to capitalize on the wearables trend. Here are 10 recommendations for creating an affordable population strategy around wearables right now that will help clients actively promote healthy employee behaviors:

  1. Let employees who already own a device, or who use a smartphone app, to continue using them as part of the program.
  2. Provide an affordable and user-friendly device to those that don’t already have their own.
  3. To keep employer costs down and get employees to put some skin in the game, consider asking them to pay a portion of the device’s cost.
  4. Collect all the data from all the devices into a central repository that all employees can access. This allows them to interact socially through challenges, leaderboards and communities.
  5. Make sure that the wearables the employer distributes collect data that is easily managed, as well as accurate, consistent and relevant to employees.
  6. Establish an incentive program to keep employees accountable and motivated.
  7. Tie the incentives to an established metric that correlates to population health risk: for instance, the CDC physical activity guideline of 150 minutes of light to moderate exercise per week.
  8. To keep the program budget neutral, evaluate benefit designs that can absorb the cost of the incentives.
  9. To promote desired behaviors and a health-oriented culture, plan an annual calendar of events and challenges. These should all make use of the wearable device.
  10. Ensure that group data is accessible in real-time on the community site. This encourages interest and makes the program easier to oversee and evaluate.
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"Incorporating these tips into a population management strategy allows clients to take advantage of the interest in wearables, using them to manage employee population risk and promote a health-centric culture."

Incorporating these tips into a population management strategy allows clients to take advantage of the interest in wearables, using them to manage employee population risk and promote a health-centric culture.

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