Can the Apple Watch Aid Employee Wellness?

The new Apple watch is highly anticipated, but does it and other wearable technologies have a place in the work world? A recent post by Ryan Faas on CITEworld notes the possible uses of this technology by corporate employees in wellness programs. Rather than just becoming another tool to keep employees organized and efficient, Faas points out the possibility of using wearable technology to improve employee health. “One of the most significant health metrics that will be tracked by the Apple Watch when it launches next year is something incredibly simple—standing,” Faas writes. “The Apple Watch is one mass market device that will focus attention on standing and regular physical movement. More specialized devices focused on highlighting and correcting poor posture are also in development.”

My guess is this kind of freebie or fringe benefit would only be available to executives, similar to how many companies offer executives an iPad or a well-outfitted smart phone. However, the thought behind encouraging employees to track how long they sit during the workday can extend to the whole workforce.

It’s not a common phenomenon, but I remember reading in The New York Times earlier this year about professionals with little time to exercise having meetings on the go. For instance, a high-powered executive (or even a middling “executive”) might choose to meet a business associate at a gym to work out while talking. While I don’t think I’d like to worry about being coherent during an intense workout, meeting business contacts or co-workers to take a long walk while chatting sounds refreshing. If you give me a choice between fighting to stay awake in a conference room full of stale hot air or the chance to go with co-workers to a nearby park, and do laps around the parameter of the park while we talk, I’ll choose the park every time.

If you have co-workers who are out of shape and loathe to walk far, you could compromise and walk to the park together and then sit at a picnic table or on the grass for your meeting before walking back together. A little added mobility is better than none.

Wellness programs often are portrayed as a perk for well-off companies and senior employees due to what some think is the required expense. But, in fact, the things that lead to better health don’t cost much, if anything. It costs a company nothing to encourage work groups to have their meetings while taking a walk, and it also costs very little to encourage a smoke-free workplace. Between 10 and 20 years ago, I remember a big push for “drug-free” workplaces, but that push always seemed silly to me because while the “drug-free” workplace became a mantra for many organizations, those same companies were led by employees who took multiple smoking breaks during the day. Many more die from tobacco use than die from illegal drug use, so that always seemed inconsistent to me.

It’s funny and sad that many great impromptu meetings probably still take place during smoking breaks. There’s a Friends episode I recently saw again in which the Rachel character feels she needs to start smoking to not miss out on key bonding time with her boss. It’s hard to believe, but where I reside, in “hip” downtown New York City, I wonder if that’s still the case. A company-wide “get moving” initiative could encourage smokers to form their own support groups to take a walk to together a few times a day in lieu of a smoking break.

Do you think about how the wellness of your workforce contributes to productivity and employee on-the-job happiness and comfort? Could wearable technology, along with walking and smoke-free initiatives, be a helpful tool?