We may all be increasingly connected to our smartphones, but delivering phone-based health and wellbeing benefits has to be about much more than just offering a few clever apps, as Katrina Philippou explains.
Technology is reshaping our world in innumerable ways, largely for the good. However, when we think about the effects of technology on our health and wellbeing we often dwell on the negatives, and not without reason.
Seventy per cent of all internet is now accessed via a mobile phone and as a result the average person now checks their mobile devices 85 times per day. This is cause for concern; there is growing evidence of a link between overuse of smartphones and social media and associated feelings of isolation, depression, stress and distraction.
About the author
Katrina Philippou is marketing manager at Personal Group
While this is a problem, it is not the whole story. There are many ways in which new technology is being used to improve our health and wellbeing. There are a host of free apps out there; from those providing fitness and nutrition advice to apps like MindShift and Sleepio, which help people cope with anxiety and insomnia.
Some forward-looking organisations are using technology to improve occupational health and wellbeing, harnessing cleverly designed apps to allow staff to use their mobile phones to improve their wellbeing and increase organisational productivity.
For example, at Personal Group we have developed an innovative employee engagement app called Hapi that puts employees’ benefits – including a whole suite of health and wellbeing benefits – in the palm of their hand, available to access whenever suits them best.
Evolution from ‘traditional’ benefits
The biggest consideration when developing a health and wellbeing programme in the digital age is the evolution of “traditional” benefits. It is crucial that we understand that these programmes are now so much more than just an EAP phoneline.
As much as the traditional helpline is very useful, employee assistance has now evolved to include a much broader range of services to help staff when they need it most. Financial, physical and mental wellbeing are now equally important, and a wellbeing programme and a benefits offering should incorporate them all.
As well as the traditional EAP helpline, there are so many other ways to engage staff in their wellbeing. Even access to cognitive-based therapies, articles or interaction with a counsellor can all be achieved through a smartphone.
One of our clients recently demonstrated this perfectly. ScotRail gave every member of staff a fitness tracker and encouraged them to monitor their steps. Alongside this, they ran competitions throughout the year where staff could win vouchers for fitness devices, equipment or activities, encouraging them to stay healthy.
As a result, one member of staff celebrated losing more than two stone. Other organisations have embraced the rise in popularity of fitness devices and used them as a way to increase awareness and participation in their wider wellbeing programme.
Combining these initiatives alongside video content, instant access to discounts and advice through a fitness blog, staff are able to see that health and wellbeing programmes have come a long way and they will most certainly want to get on board.
Tackling ‘stigma’ of asking for help
One other massive benefit of offering health and wellbeing benefits through mobile devices is that organisations are able to talk to their staff in the way that they actually want to be communicated with.
The stigma associated with asking for help, not knowing a programme exists and uncertainty over how confidential usage is, were all in the top four reasons for not using an EAP and wellbeing programme. Promoting your wellbeing resources via mobile, allowing access whenever and wherever suits your employees, can boost sign ups and drive greater usage.
Another bonus of using technology to deliver and communicate your wellbeing is that the business can dig into the data and understand not only what benefits are working, but which areas staff need help with in order to be healthier and happier at work.
Most benefit platforms should have a management information system with insights into usage, behaviour and adoption, and if you don’t have one, you are missing a trick.
Our Hapi hub, for example, allows you to access insight on what areas of the platform are being used most and from which devices. This can drive creation of bespoke content and promotions to shine a light on a certain benefit staff aren’t using and create content that will be received the best.
An example would be, say, all of your staff access wellbeing content after 7pm but aren’t staying on the site for very long. You can test if introducing a fitness video series that is optimised for mobile in bite-sized chunks would make staff more or less likely to stick around and explore a bit more.
Similarly, this information might reveal interesting insights that staff wouldn’t necessarily share in the staff survey. Say you see a spike in employees reaching out to the EAP in the middle of a massive project. If this is the case, you can react quickly and implement new benefits or promote existing benefits to ensure people get help when they need it most!
Convenience in a digital age
Lastly, the major benefit of embracing technology in your health and wellbeing programme is arguably the most important: convenience.
Some staff may be on their feet, on the road or might not have access to a computer for most of the day, if at all. Instead of sending out a barrage of emails that may or may not be read, why not reach staff where you know they will pay attention?
The average person is on their phone for five hours a day and it is likely that if you send a push notification to employees on a device they are using external to the workplace, they may be more likely to consume the content and engage with it.
This make benefits available to them at home, out of the office or on the road. If they are stressed at work, chances are they do not have the time to log on to the benefits platform and may worry about being caught seeking help.
Push notifications reminding staff to take the stairs (it burns so many more calories than taking the lift!), or sending out a reminder that you are having a “make your own smoothie” event will let staff know you are actively looking out for them and their wellbeing is at the heart of what you do.
These are only a snapshot of the benefits to embracing technology in your health and wellbeing programme, but it is important to realise that staff aren’t going to get off their mobile phones any time soon.
So why not make the most of the time they are spending online and on their apps by offering an employee app that contains all of your wellbeing information in one place, to show staff that you care and that you want them to be happy?
How mobile is overtaking desktop for global media consumption, in 5 charts, Digiday UK, June 14, 2016, https://digiday.com/media/mobile-overtaking-desktops-around-world-5-charts/
Using Many Social Media Platforms Linked With Depression, Anxiety Risk, Psychiatric News, 17 January 2017, https://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.pn.2017.1b16
10 Interesting Mobile App Usage Stats, Adobe Digital Experience blog, 06 June 2016, https://blogs.adobe.com/digitaleurope/mobile-marketing/10-interesting-mobile-app-usage-stats/