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One of the largest life insurance providers in North America, John Hancock, announced in September it would no longer offer policies that did not include digital fitness tracking. Opponents of this approach are calling it a step too far, amounting to undue employee surveillance, a sign of a dystopian future.

But could fitness tracking be the key to a healthier, happier workplace?

Employers certainly have the power to influence workers’ behaviors. Introducing fitness tracking to the workplace would provide employers with clearer pictures of employee health, enabling them to develop more targeted initiatives and communications to encourage healthier activity levels.

First, however, employers must address the concerns many employees have about fitness tracking. Generally, employees worry it could lead to increased insurance premiums for certain demographics, effectively discriminating against their lifestyle choices. People also worry their lifestyles could impact their boss’s perception of them and their ability to do their job. In addition, privacy advocates have warned that insurers could use tracking data to penalize customers who fail to meet targets.

The so-called “perception problem” is significant. However, there is an argument that positively encouraging employees to introduce more activity into their lives, could actually decrease premiums for many. With benefits being a significant outgoing expense, second only to salary, the impact of proactive prevention cannot be downplayed. How can companies work to overcome the perception problem and positively influence their employees?

Set Out Privacy Guidelines up Front

To reassure employees their data will never be used against them, spell out your company’s privacy policies with respect to fitness tracking. If your privacy policy doesn’t already address this kind of data collection, amend it before you introduce fitness trackers and circulate the updated policy within the company.

Turn Tracked Data Into Actionable Insights

The data generated by fitness tracking should empower participants, giving them insight into their health that they can use to adjust their behaviors and improve their lives. Employers can also use this data to personalize their benefits programs to make sure they are supporting employees’ individual life goals. Having an individualized approach to benefits can have a massive impact on both attracting new talent and keeping current employees happy.

Gamify It

At the heart of any benefits program should be the employer’s desire to improve employee happiness and productivity. Making fitness tracking fun is an exciting way to get people on board and motivated. Consider setting up friendly team or individual competitions within the company, such as who can get the most steps in a week.

Measure ROI Publicly

Measuring and demonstrating ROI is crucial for the success of new fitness tracking programs. Produce an end-of-year report on the benefits fitness tracking has had for the company and make it public. This should help inspire participants to keep going while reassuring executives the investment has been worthwhile.

When employees feel their employer-provided benefits positively impact their lives, they are 40 percent more likely to classify themselves as loyal to their organization. Employers should focus their benefits programs on positively impacting their employees’ lives and supporting their health and happiness. Fitness tracking can be a key tool in this endeavor, and it has the potential to deliver huge returns on investment for both employee health and the business’s bottom line.

Chris Bruce is cofounder and managing director at Thomsons Online Benefits.



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