5 apps that can boost employee health and engagement

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It’s a fact: investing in a happy, healthy workplace is good for business. We look at five wellness apps that can help to boost staff health and engagement.

As an employer, it’s reasonable to ask whether you should be responsible for improving the wellbeing of your employees. According to a recent Workscore survey of 12,500 Australian employees across multiple industries, it’s not just something employees want – it makes good business sense, too.

As per the results, 78% of people said that when their workplace cares about their wellbeing, they feel engaged at work, and 54% report having higher energy levels. By contrast, only 38% feel engaged and 26% have high energy when their employee doesn’t prioritise wellness.

Another report, commissioned by Pathology Awareness Australia (PAA), found that presenteeism – that is, people coming into work when they’re sick – costs the economy $34 billion a year in lost productivity. The cost savings and productivity benefits that spring from employee wellness programs are therefore hard to deny.

Why should you use wellness apps?

The growing interest in employee wellness, and its myriad associated benefits has resulted in more workplaces investing time and money in formal wellness programs.

Wellness apps are playing an increasing role in helping people get fit and healthy, with their ability to monitor and improve physical fitness, diet, sleep, mental health and more. With most people carrying smartphones around all day, mobile apps can be a great way to encourage employees to become more engaged in their own wellness for better health and job performance.

For employers, they offer:

  • Lower cost: As most wellness apps are free or low-cost, they won’t blow your budget.
  • Easiness: A simple, intuitive app is more likely to be used regularly and encourage new, healthy behaviours.
  • Biometric technology: Smartphones and wearables such as smartwatches now include lots of functional, easy-to-use features for monitoring the user’s health vitals; such as number of steps, heart rate, and even their stress levels.

Maximising wellness app adoption

Half the challenge can be getting your employees to embrace wellness apps, and use them consistently enough to make a difference to their lives. Ways to do this can include:

  • Purchasing a company-wide app license or access code, so that employees can download and use the app free of charge.
  • Promoting the app as widely as possible across the business, for example, via company-wide emails, flyers, posters, intranet, and staff communication forums and groups.
  • Scheduling regular wellness events, such as lunchtime walking or jogging groups.
  • Using leader boards, scorecards and special prizes to share and reward people’s progress, and incentivise them to build on their efforts.
  • Integrating employee surveys to gather feedback and find ways to further improve your use of such apps.

Always keep in mind that consent is crucial. Fitness trackers, in particular, have stirred concerns that they could be misused by employers to keep tabs on employees. Make sure you get formal agreement from employees before using their wellness data, and that any such data sharing complies with relevant workplace privacy laws.

The 5 best workplace wellness apps

When recommending wellness apps to your employees, it’s important to choose ones backed by scientific research and positive reviews by real users. Here are five of the best wellness apps for the modern workplace, designed to address some of the most common work-related health issues including stress, work-life balance, diet and exercise, and excess hours spent gazing at a glowing screen.

1. Headspace

Platforms: iOS, Android

Price: US$12.99/month (approx. AU$18.80 and NZ$20.25) or US$96/year (approx. AU$139 and NZ$150)

“Happier people, healthier business” is the motto of this popular mental health app, which was developed by a former Buddhist monk. It offers a wide range of meditation and mindfulness programs aimed at lowering stress, increasing focus, and cultivating positive workplace behaviours.

2. Nike Training Club

Platforms: iOS, Android

Price: Free with in-app purchases

Designed to be a personal trainer inside your phone, this health and fitness app from the popular sneakers maker is endorsed by sport scientists. Its personalised exercise programs cater to all levels of fitness, and are designed to fit around even the busiest of work schedules. Watch your employees transform from couch potatoes into high-performing, hyper-productive athletes.

3. Sprout at Work

Platforms: iOS, Android

Price: Request from vendor, free demo.

Sprout is a holistic corporate health and wellness online platform and mobile app, designed to reward positive health behaviours with a plethora of employee engagement and recognition tools. Its gamification and social networking features can make healthy activities more fun through goals, challenges, competitions, and rewards. Organisations can set up company-wide wellness goals and incentives plus, employees are also encouraged to set and monitor individual goals too. Better still users can track their fitness by synching their tracking devices – including Garmin, Fitbit, and Nike + among others – to the platform.

4. Streaks

Platforms: iOS

Cost: US$4.99 (approx. AU$7.22 and NZ$7.78)

Repetition is essential to forming healthier habits, and that’s where the Streaks app can help. Users can choose up to 12 tasks they want to turn into a daily routine (or ‘streak’) – whether it’s running five kilometres, quitting smoking, or avoiding junk food. If a routine is broken, the streak resets to zero. It’s great for helping employees find the best version of themselves. A similar app by a different developer, also called Streaks, is available for Android.

5. Eye Care 20 20 20

Platforms: iOS, Android

Price: Free with in-app purchases

If ample screen time is a daily reality for your employees, this app helps fight eye-strain and soreness by reminding the user to take a 20-second break every 20 minutes, while focusing on an object 20 feet away – a.k.a. the 20-20-20 rule. 

Wellness apps make it easier than ever to encourage healthy habits and activities both in and outside the workplace. Beyond reducing absenteeism and presenteeism, they can be powerful tools for boosting productivity, engagement and loyalty.

To learn more about how to support and provide your employees with a better work-life balance while improving the productivity of your workforce, sign up to our blog today.

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