Workplace Wellness: Helping Employees Make Healthy Choices

The Latest Innovations to Encourage Health & Wellness in the Workplace

High angle view of business people walking in office on tiled floor
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This year’s 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) brought some exciting developments in the area of workplace wellness. Progressive companies are increasingly recognizing the holistic nature of employee health and are realizing workplace wellness transcends simply keeping employees active. There is technology available today that can transform one’s workplace into an environment that contributes to improving employee well-being.

Changing Traditional Offices Into Active Workspaces

Research in the field of ergonomics is suggesting that posture-altering workstations can help reduce musculoskeletal disorders and decrease fatigue. Prolonged standing or sitting can potentially be problematic, but alternating between two positions has been shown to be beneficial for health and productivity. A study by Alicia Thorp, PhD, and her colleagues found that overweight workers who transitioned from sitting to standing every 30 minutes, experienced less back pain and were less tired compared to their more sedentary peers.

This growing body of knowledge on the health implications of sitting and standing is fueling innovations and development of high-performance ergonomic products that could support the modern office. Tome Software and Humanscale are two companies that have joined forces to find better workplace wellness solutions. Tome specializes in connecting hardware products to software applications, and Humanscale is known as a leading designer and manufacturer of ergonomic products ranging from chairs to foot rests. The two companies have been partnering to design the OfficeIQ technology platform that, through the use of "smart" furniture, encourages workers to be more active by supplying them with real-time feedback about their activity within their work environment.

At the 2016 CES, Tome and Humanscale announced they will be collaborating with Premera Blue Cross, the leading health plan in the Pacific Northwest states of Washington and Alaska, to pilot their OfficeIQ innovations. An increasing number of employees use sit-stand desks, and this will be an opportunity to collect more information on how to improve workers’ health and well-being through these devices. Soon, health-care insurers might start incentivizing the use of innovations such as OfficeIQ.

Making Better Food Choices

Many workplace wellness programs focus on weight loss. Research into appetite and eating behavior is emphasizing the interplay between different factors that contribute to overeating. Environmental factors and food cues present an important aspect and can trigger non-homeostatic eating. Work cafeterias and vending machines that provide healthy, affordable eating options are therefore one way of motivating healthy choices.

Technology is also playing an important part. Lose it!, another contributor at the 2016 CES, came up with an efficient strategy for weight loss. The company’s smartphone application helps people manage and track their food and exercise. Lose it! CEO Charles Teague states, “People spend upwards of 40 hours per week in their workplace, and many spend that time sitting at a desk. At Lose It!, we're working with Fortune 500 companies to deploy the Lose It!’s Challenge Platform in the workplace. What we see is combining healthy options with incentives drives off-the-chart engagement and success in improving health.” The Lose it! app is designed to encourage smarter food choices and provides the user with food information pertaining to the person’s weight goals.

From Activity to Sleep Patterns

A healthy sleep pattern is another important part of a healthy lifestyle. Many daytime efforts can be negatively affected by insufficient or interrupted sleep. If employees do not get enough sleep, their abilities are diminished and the risk of injuries increases. It has been suggested that many workers come to work tired, which jeopardizes their health and also their productivity.

Meaningful sleep tracking has been promoted and became an integral part of health monitoring. Some digital companies that were traditionally known solely for activity tracking are now making a leap into other areas of wellness as well. Fitbit, for example, is including a sleep function on its products. Fitbit developers are aware that it is not just the quantity of sleep that matters, but also the quality. Fitbit automatically detects sleep and tracks how many hours per night the user sleeps. Moreover, it gives information on the quality of the sleep and can calculate sleep efficiency, so the user can be aware of his or her sleep patterns in the hope of improving them.

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