To boost wellness efforts among employees, employers have to think a little outside the box.

“Employees are moved to change through a usually slow process,” says Rose Stanley, a senior practice leader at WorldatWork. “Employers need to be aware of the behavioral change model that most people go through during their stages of change — to really understand that pre-contemplation stage and contemplation stage and how you might use your incentives and rewards to help move them along those stages of change.”

To do this, employers can harness the power of technology to get an employee from thinking about action to charging forward to healthier practices. And while there are always fitness trackers and smart watches to consider, employers may want to take a look at three new things in the tech space.

1. Smart fabrics

Smart garments — which make the technology invisible by shrinking it and embedding into the garment itself — are expected to become the fastest growing segment in wearable technology. Sports bras and wickable t-shirts, for example, have readable bands that monitor distance, speed and heart rate and the number of calories burned.

While smartwatches and bands like Fitbit are the most popular segment of wearable technology, smart garments are expected to grow from 100,000 units shipped in 2014 to 26 million units shipped in 2016, according to technology research firm Gartner.

Both tech companies like Google and high fashion designers like Iris van Herpen are getting into the field. Google and Levi are joining forces to create a fabric with yarns that interact and communicate with smartphones and other devices.

2. Mood rings

Not exactly what you wore in the 1970s, these rings accurately monitor mood, as well as temperature, pulse, heart rate and sleeping patterns.

For example, ŌURA ring, a wellness ring and app made by a company operating in Helsinki and San Francisco, analyzes sleep quality by measuring the body’s pulse waveform and heart rate dynamics, body temperature and movement.

3. Insider technology

Technology even has begun to enter our bodies to help us live healthier lifestyles. Special contact lenses can monitor glucose levels in tear ducts and determine if a pre-diabetic or diabetic individual is having an episode.

Nano robots can be injected to attack cancerous cells. And people can now swallow cameras that monitor interior health.

“There’s technology that’s advancing in the medical field that will help with that physical wellness as well,” Stanley says.

“It takes two or three years to see a change, especially in the physical sense,” Stanley says. And even once people are motivated to lose weight, for example, it will take a while to actually lose that weight.

Slideshow
5 wellness program pitfalls
Wellness programs have been hotly debated in recent months. Jennifer Patel, director of wellness engagement at Hallmark Business Connections, offers five common wellness program pitfalls and suggests ways employers can avoid them.

And remember, she warns, that “the last stage is reverting back to old behavior, so you’re always trying to reinvent the program and having your executives support the programs and hopefully emulating them.”

Stanley advises employers to be patient and continually refresh their wellness space. A great way to do that, she says, is by keeping an eye on tech trends, which change every day.

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