Technology & Wearables

How Sustainable is Your Wellness Program? Why Not All Fitness Trackers are Created Equally

Ask any senior manager what are the key attributes they look for in an effective team member, and the chances are reliability and consistency will be up there. But, while most of us manage to be predictably excellent in the workplace, there are other parts of our lives where we are far less consistent. Health and fitness is, of course, one of these areas.

The road to fitness is littered with discarded gym memberships, deleted apps and unused trackers. The sad truth is that most companies operating in this area simply don't care if you fall off the wagon. Why else would your gym insist on a 12-month contract? You've bought the product, paid your money, and the rest is up to you. No wonder people give up.

Sadly, many existing corporate wellness programs suffer the same fate. Competitor programs tracking activity and sleep at a group level have shown high drop-off rates - as high as 50 percent after six months in some cases. That doesn't mean corporate wellness programs aren't a good idea. In fact, they have a hugely positive impact for the companies and employees using them.

Repeated studies have shown their value for people operations - including saving on healthcare costs, reduction in disability claims, better performance, fewer sick days and lower attrition rates. Integrating wearable activity trackers is the newest best- practice for building a robust and effective wellness program, and companies are snatching up trackers for employees. Activity trackers are logical tools to empower your workforce to eat, sleep, and live better.

HR execs are investing time and money into launching and promoting these programs. But the question remains: why are so many of these existing programs falling short? The answer is engagement. People simply lose interest when they are not told anything new. The solution? Drive engagement with a platform that delivers meaningful experiences. A system that lets you track, understand and then "act." This is the key element to sustained use and a successful program.


At Jawbone, we have learned that providing data on its own is not enough. The key is a holistic mix of meaningful and personal contextual intelligence, social motivation, and goal reinforcement. This is how you unlock real, long-term, quantifiable change. Our UP for Groups corporate wellness program integrates our UP activity bands into a lifestyle system to support employees every step of the way. We've developed an intelligent system that powers UP called Smartcoach.

Through rigorous testing and studies, we have seen Smartcoach work, helping people get to bed 23-minutes earlier on-average and move 27 percent more during the day. Through Smartcoach and the UP system, we have gained valuable insights that help us achieve higher retention rates and greater engagement with our application. Backed by science and proven by users, you can put this knowledge to use at your company to sustain positive habits.


Most trackers just serve up information. A lifeless number and a boring line chart aren't very motivating. There is no context, no celebration, no competition. Whether you were walking your dog or playing with your kids, that moment is entirely lost. Activity trackers certainly provide utility. To get  them to stick long-term, you must drive meaningful change in users' behaviors and habits.

Useful information is targeted, personal and relevant. At Jawbone, our UP system interprets data for you. We answer the big questions. So what? What now? Personalized insights help your employees understand the relationship between their activity and the context of their lives.

Great wearables use this context to nudge users toward healthier choices. Health suggestions based on personal habits are going to be a lot more meaningful than generic facts. Better is different for everyone.


Choose a program that encourages social interaction among employees and a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves. The more you can open interactions across social networks, the better.

The best system allows employees to engage in friendly smack talk, challenge each other and other departments to competition and share their accomplishments and insights with friends and family. Group psychology is intrinsically motivating, and having a support network amplifies positive outcomes.


Incentives are great. Who doesn't want to win? However, it's paramount to reinforce and recognize achievements for the whole and not just the top 1 percent. Many tracker programs offer challenges where winners are consistently the most athletic people at a company. That's no surprise, and not going to motivate your average employees who don't run marathons on the weekends.

I'm not going to compete if I know I can never win. Don't glorify and benchmark against the gym rat at the head of the pack, but uplift and motivate the entire group to move with competitions that are completion-based. Keep this positive and attainable focus, and all employees will be on the track to bettering themselves.


Once you've built a tracker program that employees continue to use over time, you can parlay the data provided by these programs into valuable organizational decision-making. Rich engagement metrics and intelligent analysis let HR make better, more timely decisions and build implicit credibility. More than 13 million wearable fitness tracking devices are expected to be incorporated into employee wellness programs within the next five years.

It's a natural progression for companies invested in the health of their workforce, and the benefits are overwhelmingly positive: clearer goals, proactive approaches to health, and employees who are thinking about improving their lifestyle on a regular basis. Make sure you establish the right program to ensure your investment pays off in dividends and not in dust.

About the Author

Andrew J. Rosenthal is the group manager, Wellness and Platform at Jawbone, where he focuses on the developer platform and the company's offerings in group settings. He was at Massive Health and a co-founder of ;

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