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Companies Aim to Improve Wellness of Telecommuting, Traveling Employees, Too

Employers are tailoring wellness offerings to suit staffs that aren't in the office. Programs must be “highly timely, personalized and relevant,” an expert says.

October 30, 2012
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Related Topics: Top Stories - Frontpage, Health and Wellness, Health Care Benefits, Telecommuting
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Employers are using new technologies and simple tactics to get their traveling and telecommuting workers to embrace wellness programs.

The widespread adoption of mobile devices and surge in health applications are giving employers new avenues to reach far-flung employees who don't have regular access to an onsite fitness center or health clinic, experts say.

"When workplace wellness got off the ground about a decade ago, it was really about the workplace," says Renya Spak, principal at Mercer's total health management practice. "But as the workforce has changed and technology has matured, it has really become about worker wellness."

For instance, global management consulting firm Accenture has 257,000 employees in 54 countries. Many of these workers travel extensively and often to remote locations around the globe, and 60 percent of employees work from home at least a few days per week.

The New York-based firm in recent years has revamped and streamlined its workplace wellness programs to put its motto, "High performance. Delivered," into practice internally. The goal is to help employees achieve their personal wellness goals, says Julie Wilkes, wellness lead at Accenture.

Fundamental to making wellness programs successful for an on-the-go workforce is having programs be "highly timely, personalized and relevant with an immediate call to action," Spak says. "These employees may have only 30 seconds in their day to learn something new about their health."

Accenture, for one, scrapped myriad partnerships with wellness vendors and partnered with RedBrick Health, a Minneapolis-based company, to integrate all its offerings on one platform. This approach makes the experience "seamless and simple" for employees, Wilkes says.

RedBrick's health portal has online coaching, fitness tracking, virtual fitness and nutrition team challenges and monthly webinars on health and fitness topics, she says.

Accenture keeps its wellness offerings fresh and engaging by tracking programs' popularity and then creating new content and programs based on those that generate interest, Wilkes says. The company's fitness tracking program moved from a self-reported online program to one that is accessible on mobile phones and other devices, she says.

In May, RedBrick Health launched "RedBrick Journeys," which uses interactive scenarios to help users make small, simple changes to their lives and drive better health.

Accenture and other employers, such as Cargill Inc. and Alliance Data Systems Inc., are using RedBrick Journeys to get people on a path to achieving their goals, whether it be better sleep, weight loss or lower stress.

"If you are trying to get someone to do something new, get them to do it once and make it small," says Eric Zimmerman, chief marketing officer of RedBrick Health, who demonstrated RedBrick Journeys at the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco in October.

For instance, users can "undress" their lunch using RedBrick Journeys via their laptop computer or mobile phone to make sure the sandwich they eat is a healthy and nutritious option.

Participants who tried RedBrick Journeys this past summer logged on two to three times per week and 90 percent said the program was fun, and 80 percent changed a behavior, Zimmerman says.

For Accenture, the goal is to help its employees—whose average age is 37—to set and achieve their wellness goals, Wilkes says.

"Overall, we find that people want to be healthy but a lack of time can get in the way," Wilkes said in an email. "We aim to provide opportunities, solutions, information and resources that work for our people and their families as they work to take care of themselves, no matter what stage of their lives they are in. Because we can do it in several different ways—mobile, online, in-person, phone—we can reach people the way that's best for them."

Rebecca Vesely is a writer based in San Francisco. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.

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