Even the most seasoned and well-adjusted remote workers know the risk: If you’re not careful, working from home can bring your physical activity to a standstill.
Employers know this too. Increasingly, they are looking for ways to bolster their wellness programs by offering fitness trackers, such as those made by Fitbit, Garmin, and Amazon, to help employees log more movement during the day. Another popular option called Oura makes smart rings that can track sleep, fitness, temperature, and even signs of illness. An Oura dashboard even lets employers view the likelihood of illness across their entire workforce.
Employees who log a certain amount of physical activity can then receive insurance discounts through many major health insurance companies, such as UnitedHealth Group, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and Aetna. Beneficiaries can get reimbursed for prescription co-pays and other health care costs under their deductibles.
But fitness trackers in the workplace, and health surveillance in general, also carry considerable privacy risks. More than 60 million records from Fitbit, Apple, and other companies were compromised in June after a data breach on GetHealth, a third-party group that provides employee fitness incentives. Data breaches of fitness trackers like Strava have revealed personal details such as the name and location of participants, even in anonymized data. Security risks aside, you may not even want to have so many personal details about your employees at your fingertips. After all, constant surveillance won’t exactly put your team at ease.
Before offering fitness trackers to your employees, here are a few things you should keep in mind:
1. Fitness trackers will save you money on premiums, for now.
Workplace fitness-tracker programs often offer discounts on insurance premiums if employees meet certain fitness goals. Some employees can earn as much as $1,500 a year they can apply toward their health insurance premiums. Workers can get free or discounted wearables, workout clothing, and even gym equipment. On the employer side, a few studies have shown that fitness trackers can help you save money on premiums. But some companies have reported that their insurance costs have remained the same.
At present, there are no laws or regulations in place to stop insurers from using fitness-tracker data to raise premiums. In an article published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from the AMA raised concerns that such data could increase insurance premiums for some groups.
“Wearables can collect