Companies need to intervene and take the work-life balance issue seriously

We are living in a time of imbalance, especially when it comes to work and personal life. Many companies have adopted “modern” offices which end up feeling more like home than our real home because we spend so much time in them.

A very brief history of work wellness

Work wellness programmes started in offices decades ago, mostly as an employee benefit. However, research has shown that employee wellness has a health influence on a company’s bottom line. The American Heart Association estimates that for every $1 invested in worksite wellness, companies can make up to $3.

But the past few decades have also seen a radical shift in the way we work. Employee work hours have risen. The workplace has become an even more competitive space where a healthy work-life balance can be seen as weakness.
And there’s been a corresponding rise in burn-out rates, sick days and, ultimately, the loss of employees. The cost to companies is significant. Employee turnover also adds up to a massive drain on corporate knowledge.

“Companies need to engage with the question of the work-life balance among their employees as if it were a financially valuable proposition — because it is. “

— Elizabeth Nelson, Digital Health Researcher and PhD Candidate

Wearable technology and work wellness

More and more organisations are considering work wellness programmes that use wearable technology. Why? Because wearable devices offer constant monitoring in a way which is affordable, motivational and educational. Smart watches, activity trackers, or mobile apps could be easily worn in work environments.

The downside

But companies thinking about incorporating wearable technology into work wellness need to bear in mind the potential negatives.

The biggest barrier to entry is health data use and privacy protection. For a start, recent security breaches in tech companies like Samsung or Ashley Madison have left the public weary of data security. Also, unhealthy data could easily be used against individuals in their profession. For example, someone who sleeps three hours per night and doesn’t stay active might be passed over for a promotion based on lack of “personal discipline”.

A future for wearables in the corporate world?

There’s a need for outside agencies, researchers and Universities to develop and keep information secure to prove both that work wellness programmes are a good investment and that privacy protection is possible. If this is done, the future for wearable technology within organisations has infinite possibilities, including growth and integration within work systems, aligning with doctors and proactive healthcare.

The American Heart Association estimates at least 25% of a company’s healthcare costs are a result of poor diet, lack of exercise, and other major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. These are all conditions that wearing a device to monitor health could help prevent. Which begs the questions: Can workplaces afford not to invest in wellness initiatives? What can be accomplished when work life balance is not only a personal goal, but actually a measureable target within an organisation? What could this do for the health of our workforce and how could organisations profit?

It’s an exciting thought.


If you’d like to talk to Elizabeth Nelson about how your organisation could benefit from putting a work-wellness programme in place using wearable devices, please get in touch.




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