GPS tracking. Sleep monitoring. Step counting. With all their bells and whistles packaged in sleek, fashionable designs, it’s no surprise that fitness trackers such as Fitbit, Garmin and Jawbone have established such a strong presence in the world of wellness.
Yet, while these products can effectively track various aspects of someone’s day — such as exercise, food consumption and activity — they don’t fully capture the many complex factors that influence overall wellness. Think of it this way: A Fitbit can let you know if you haven’t reached your 10,000 steps for the day, but it can’t tell you why you were unable to do so or provide tips for helping you accumulate more steps.
New research shows that fitness trackers alone can’t make people healthier. While they track certain health activities, they don’t provide strategies or motivation for people to actually change their habits. What’s missing is emotional intellect and human interaction, which can help individuals determine why something did or did not happen and what can be done to change that.
Why does this matter to employers? Increasingly, organizations are prioritizing wellness, and it’s not hard to see why:
- Nationwide, 20 percent of Americans are obese.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control, tobacco-related healthcare costs total $133 billion in the U.S. alone.
- According to the National Health Council, 40 percent of Americans suffer from a chronic disease.
- According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, 20 percent of Americans experience mental illness each year.
A workplace culture of wellness can help your employees combat these health issues — which can also lead to increased productivity and a reduction in absenteeism.
However, to help your employees make real, lasting changes, handing out fitness trackers and relying on technology alone won’t work. True wellness changes only happen when employees create healthy, long-term habits — and the key to that is human interaction through coaching. Here’s why.
Wellness isn’t a group sport
Wellness looks different for every employee. Some individuals may want to lose weight, some may want to become more active and some may want to target specific health metrics, such as lowering their blood pressure or cholesterol.
Coaching, by nature, is individualistic. A good coach works with employees to develop distinct goals specific to the employee’s temperament, willingness to change, lifestyle and belief system. That’s huge. No technology on the planet could come close to that kind of personalization.
It’s also crucial to realize that enduring change only happens when an employee is ready to commit to it. Coaches — those humans capable of forming a trust-based relationship with your very human employees — are uniquely qualified to determine that individual readiness.
Wellness isn’t just about physical health
A fitness tracker may be able to tell an individual that he or she isn’t getting enough sleep — but it doesn’t have the insight to explain why. That’s where coaching comes in. That human interaction has the power to uncover underlying issues that influence an individual’s total well-being.
For example, a coach may discover that an employee isn’t getting enough sleep because he or she is anxious about financial issues — and once that issue is addressed, it’ll be much easier for that individual to form better sleep habits. A coach can help identify those issues and provide resources to tackle them.
Wellness doesn’t have to be a lonely journey
When employees decide to get healthy, it’s up to them to do the work. But if their only aid is an inanimate object they wear on their wrist, that journey can feel pretty lonely.
That’s what makes coaching so important. Coaches offer one-on-one support, encouragement, accountability, advocacy and insight. A fitness tracker may be able to tell employees that they aren’t being active enough each day, but a coach can speak with each person individually, discuss his or her unique needs and provide ideas and motivation to incorporate more activity in his or her everyday life.
Coaches make the challenging road to wellness — and make no mistake, growth is always challenging — less difficult.
Technology can only go so far. It can’t provide ongoing motivation or spur someone to change his or her behavior. That’s a job for a coach. To learn more about how you can bring individualized coaching into your organization and promote a culture of well-being, get in touch.