5 apps to boost employee health and engagement

A recent Workscore survey of 12,500 Australian employees across multiple industries revealed the following:
  • When a workplace cares about their wellbeing, 78% of people feel engaged at work, and 54% reported higher energy levels.
  • By contrast, when an employee doesn’t prioritise wellness, only 38% feel engaged and 26% experience high energy.
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. As illustrated by these reports, the wellness benefits, cost savings and productivity improvements that arise due to employee engagement and wellness programs are hard to deny.

How do you engage employees in a wellness program?

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 supporting individual health and fitness. With most people carrying smartphones around, mobile apps are 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.
  • Ease A simple, intuitive app is likely to be used regularly and encourage new, healthy behaviors.
  • Biometric technology Smartphones and smartwatches now include functional, easy-to-use features for monitoring the user’s health vitals; such as step count, 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 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 widely 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.
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. Obtain formal agreement from employees before using their wellness data, and ensure that any data sharing complies with relevant workplace privacy laws.

The best wellness apps for employees

When reviewing wellness apps, 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:

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 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.

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. Organisations can set up company-wide wellness goals and incentives, while employees are encouraged to set and monitor individual goals too.

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.

Be an employer that supports employee wellness

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, employee engagement and loyalty.

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