Are Wellness Apps Becoming the Workplace New Normal?
Wellness has become synonymous with productivity and self-optimization. The last one year has seen a steady rise of wellness apps in the corporate circle, as the covid-19 outbreak has made health and employee wellness the number one priority.
Health tracking schemes are not entirely new. In the last one decade several organizations have attempted to integrate wearable devices into employee wellness programs. The global pandemic since March 2020 however made both physical and mental health a vital matter. In fact, in the remote setup, work and personal lives have converged together, with reports highlighting more than four in 10 employees are more burned out on the job than a year ago.
Needless to say, with face-to-face interactions, conversations over coffee, team outings, etc. are almost becoming a thing of the past, people often get bored and isolated . And while changes in technologies like Artificial Intelligence, predictive analytics, automation are aiding in improving operational efficiencies, the need to reskill and work with new technologies are often stressful for many.
All these have prompted organizations to turn to wellness apps to boost their employees’ fitness, sleep quality, as well as monitor fatigue levels and other health related problems.
The rise and rise of wellness apps
Mobile wellness apps are expected to cross 1 billion worldwide installs by end of 2021, according to a report by Sensor Tower. According to the report, worldwide installs for top mobile wellness apps are likely to increase by 42% this year as compared to about 730 million installs in 2019 in the pre-pandemic times.
“In times when health and wellness at the workplace are most vital, the sole objective of a wellness app is to increase fitness that subsequently results in reduced absenteeism, better productivity, and optimum operational efficiency,” said Anjan Pathak, CTO and Co-Founder of Vantage Fit, an AI empowered employee wellness solution that can track physical activities such as step count, outdoor workouts using GPS data and map other physical activities.
“Building wellness programs that actually meet employee needs can be difficult in the most reliable of times, but following what could only be described as the most volatile year in recent history, this task has become exponentially more complicated,” added Brighid Courtney, Director of Wellable Labs, Wellable’s research and thought leadership group. The employee wellbeing app lets employees learn and follow their organization’s wellness program, earn points for health events, track daily progress and participate in the challenges.
“Organizations need to reevaluate their definition of wellness and how they can make a difference in employee lives,” Courtney said.
There are many more wellness apps designed to help companies monitor their employee’s health and wellbeing. Take for example Sprout, a corporate health and wellness platform that gives employees quick access to health information, personalized recommendations, social networks, challenges, health risk surveys and also rewards employees for healthy behavior.
Then there is HealthifyMe, an Indian fitness app that provides calorie tracking, water tracking, and on-the-cloud fitness coaching. The app takes the gamified approach to keep users motivated and generates reports portraying the employee progress and actionable insights.
Not without its risks
However, like every other connected devices and applications, wellness apps are not without its risks. A recent report by Intertrust has revealed serious cryptographic vulnerabilities, data leakage, and other security breaches in wellness apps, with 91% having weak encryption that puts them at risk for data exposure and IP theft.
The majority of wellness apps contain multiple security issues with data storage. For instance, 60% of tested Android apps stored information in Shared Preferences, leaving unencrypted data readily readable and editable by attackers and malicious apps, the study explained.
In another instance, researchers from Macquarie University in Australia examined more than 15,000 health and fitness-related apps on the Google Play Store and found serious problems with privacy and inconsistent privacy practices in these apps.
Also apps cannot address the real problems, such as the alienation of 21st-century work. And wellness isn’t something that can be downloaded and consumed, says Mumbai-based fitness coach Ritu Ramani.
“At the most it can be an important part of the employee wellness program, which companies must look at from a more holistic perspective, as employee health – mental, physical, and emotional – will continue to play a pivotal role in ensuring the successful implementation of business sustainability and expansion plans,” she says.
In addition, research show that improving employee wellness decreases employer healthcare costs and overall employee satisfaction, as per MetLife’s 9th Annual Study of Employee Benefit Trends that shows employees who are satisfied are nearly three times as likely to express a strong sense of loyalty to their employers, which ultimately improves bottomline.
And with smartphones becoming the lifeline of every individual, experts believe health and wellness apps will inevitably become more ‘mainstream’ in the corporate world, with the introduction of more sophisticated apps and wearable devices in the coming days.