The essential elements of living a healthy, happy life have been consistent for years: move more, eat well, get some sleep and balance your life.
Meanwhile the world of technology is evolving at a pace faster than most of us can keep up with. One area of huge interest is the question of how to make use of the latest technology to help people reach their healthy living goals.
It’s something individuals have been exploring for a while and now many businesses are investigating whether new technologies can be used to motivate employees to live a healthier life and if this could in turn boost productivity and engagement at work.
No time to be healthy?
Because we’re all so busy these days, many people struggle with establishing a consistent approach to living a healthy life. It’s an issue that rises up the priority list when we have more time or we feel as though we’ve drifted too far away from where we’d like to be with our exercise, diet, sleep or sleep routine.
But when we’re busy, we often take our eye off the ball and make reactive lifestyle choices that result in us moving further away from what we’d really like to achieve.
This ebb and flow to how vigilant we are in relation to our health and wellbeing means that the results we experience, and how we feel and perform, can vary dramatically from month to month or even from day to day.
How can technology help?
Technology means that we all now have a fantastic range of resources to help us set healthy living objectives, track our progress and, crucially, keep this issue front of mind and remember to make good choices every day.
There are websites that help people assess the relative success of their current lifestyle choices and clarify what they might like to change and why.
Discover what technology staff already use and then devise ways to help them improve or speed up the results they get through using this technology.
Wearable technology and apps allow us all to gather a huge amount of data relating to our activity, food choices, sleep routine and stress levels.
Social media enables us to gain education, inspiration, advice, support and accountability from both experts and like-minded individuals around the world.
Clearly technology has great potential but it must be used appropriately, particularly when employers become involved.
Helping employees live a healthy life
Individuals use a variety of health-related technology and those who engage with it usually have a preference for what they use and how they use it. Employers can tap into this by conducting research to discover what technology staff already use and then devise ways to help them improve or speed up the results they get through using this technology.
1. Move more
For example, in a business where lots of people are active and track their walking, running or cycling, organisations can arrange challenges that unite people in a common purpose – both those who are already active as well as many who aren’t doing much at the moment but who like the idea of a team event.
Activity challenges that make use of technology can turn something that many people shy away from i.e. doing more exercise, into something that feels social, desirable and fun rather than an obligation.
Creating a type of gamification of healthy living behaviour seems to strike a chord with lots of people and can open up the possibility of launching related resources such as walking or running clubs, designing specific training plans and providing advice on injury prevention or rehab and fitting exercise into a busy schedule.
Organisations might even introduce walking meetings or standing desks to help increase general activity levels. In this way technology can be used to quickly change everyday habits.
2. Eat well
Healthy eating is a major preoccupation for many employees and can be a real challenge. Businesses can help by creating nutrition resources that can be easily accessed via an intranet or app.
Ideally these resources should include solutions tailored to specific staff requirements with comprehensive advice for how to eat well in a selection of job roles and working environments.
Organisations can also make use of social media, which makes it easy for people to share ideas, photos, recipes and success strategies.
3. Get some sleep
Sleep is a current hot topic and many people are using wearable technology to analyse their sleep patterns. But does being able to see charts and graphs of what happens during the night help improve sleep?
Employers can use technology both to showcase everything they’re currently doing to enhance the employee experience while at the same time personalising the employee experience .
What’s really needed is information on what to do with all the information that technology allows us to collect, so many businesses now offer the opportunity for individuals to attend workshops or coaching programmes to help them interpret their data and make some targeted changes to their routine.
Health, technology and engagement
Using technology to communicate with staff, particularly in larger organisations, allows for regular awareness raising and education.
If the aim of an organisation is to boost productivity and engagement, regular communications relating to healthy living topics and initiatives are great for grabbing people’s attention. These communications help set the tone and culture within a business.
Employers can use technology both to showcase everything they’re currently doing to enhance the employee experience while at the same time personalising the employee experience by ensuring that staff can easily access the information that interests them most.
Once people open an email or app, or visit a website, they tend to navigate around in many directions, not only in the wellbeing space but relating to many other areas of the business, which means that with the right technology and some targeted communications to ensure you grab people’s attention, you can regularly and easily strengthen the relationship between employer and employee.
And in the quest to maximise productivity and engagement, these positive relationships are vital.
Healthy living adds value to the employee experience
All of the above are examples of how a business can use technology to help individuals improve their healthy living results, which can, and hopefully will, lead to better energy levels and efficiency across the business. This alone is a great result.
What’s often overlooked though, partly because it’s hard to measure, is the added value created by an employer, which helps individuals improve elements of their life beyond their role as an employee.
People used to go to work to earn a living. These days they can work for a business that not only pays them but also provides a host of initiatives that helps them improve their fitness, sleep, mood, confidence and happiness.
The result of this is that they feel valued, engaged and loyal, and are far more likely to go the extra mile for the organisation.
About Jeff Archer
At The Tonic (www.the-tonic.com) we partner with organisations to design and deliver wellbeing initiatives that guarantee quick and lasting results. What's it like to work with us..?
'Thank you so much, as always, for all your hard work, support and great humour in the work you and your team do. It’s great to have such a brilliant team to work with who I can trust just to get on with it all and to deliver great results. The proof is in the pudding and in all the great changes people make on our programmes.' Programme Director, London Business School