Technology and employee wellbeing – what does the future hold?
By Thomsons Online Benefits on 30 Aug 2019 in PROMOTED CONTENT, HR software, Benefits, Latest News, Wellbeing, HR Technology
Employee wellbeing is not a new phenomenon – in fact, it has been a hot topic for some time. But, employers are only now truly focusing on tangible actions to support their employees’ wellbeing.
Our new research reveals that the most important priorities for HR teams in 2019 are to support employee health and wellbeing (52%) and attract and retain key talent (56%). So it is no surprise that employers are implementing new technology to keep their employees healthy and happy. Employers today recognise that technology to support employee wellbeing, such as apps and wearables, not only improves the employee experience but also helps to achieve business objectives. Examples range from implementing virtual GP services to offering onsite health checks, wearables with pedometers, and even allowing employees to work remotely. Healthier, happier employees are more likely to stay at the company longer, take advantage of the benefits on offer and take less sick leave.
When it comes to wearables, there has been a significant rise in the use of everyday devices such as Fitbits and Apple Watches – and these are set to grow exponentially to 1.1 billion worldwide by 2022. Wearables enable individuals to track their fitness progress instantly and work towards wellbeing goals. Putting on company-wide step challenges, team sports days and exercise classes all help employees improve their physical wellbeing. Some employers are even collecting data from their employees’ wearables to positively impact their working environment.
However, with workplace tech currently lagging behind the on-demand, intuitive technology experience employees are used to outside of work, this can sometimes have a negative impact on an employee’s perception of their job role or employer. Furthermore, the ethics surrounding the collection of employee wellbeing data from wearables can be a barrier. Our research – Innovation generation – the big HR tech disconnect 2019/20, a global survey of over 380 HR and reward professionals working in multinational organisations – found only 33% of employers are currently collecting data from employee wearables, and only 46% are using this data to inform benefits decisions.
So what does the future hold for employee wellbeing? We will see a continued focus on technology and data collection to create an engaging and healthy working environment. Our research predicts that by 2020 80% of employers will collect data from building sensors to measure footfall and desk time, and that by 2022 a staggering 81% of employers will collect data from employee wearables.
There will also be an increased emphasis on other areas of wellbeing. Employers are turning to a wide range of tools to support mental wellbeing such as EAPs, mental health first aiders and mindfulness apps. They will also need to prioritise social wellbeing to ensure employees feel a sense of belonging at work. Examples include putting on breakfast talks, quiz nights and community environmental projects. For these initiatives to work effectively, employers need to marry them up with technology to deliver flexibility, choice and ultimately an engaging employee experience. For example, employers can use technology to let employees know the different ways they can get in touch with their mental health first aiders.
Employers who are best supporting their employees’ wellbeing are looking at the bigger picture. They know that wellbeing technology cannot be operated as a standalone entity – for example, a virtual GP service for employees needs to be connected to a provider, GPs, the NHS and individual employees. Many have implemented a best-of-breed ecosystem, comprising of integrated technology and leading software apps, with the ability to ‘plug-and-play’ different tools. As well as enabling third party supplier connectivity to automate processes and save time, an ecosystem gives employers the ability to trial new wellbeing technology more quickly. In turn, it empowers HR teams to track their impact on both wellbeing and engagement scores, providing a good return on investment and ensuring they are able to continuously improve their benefits offering.
It is important that employers who are looking to adopt wellbeing technology (or make use of existing technology for employee wellbeing) connect this to their wider business goals and consider the end-result. Whether that be tackling employee engagement during a time of growing digital disruption, attracting and retaining key talent or simply supporting their employees’ health and wellbeing. With this in mind, wellbeing technology needs to be easy to use and personalised, making it easier for employees to access support that is more relevant for them. There is no point offering workout classes onsite if most employees are field-based or work remotely. Instead, why not provide easy access to online workouts for employees on the move?
Finally, connectivity is key. To successfully implement wellbeing technology, employers need a best-of-breed ecosystem that encourages open and simple connectivity and enables HR teams to successfully trial new technology. After all, a better employer experience delivers a better employee experience, with multiple opportunities to engage employees with their benefits and improve their overall wellbeing.