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Companies Now Tracking Employee Fitness: Healthy or Creepy?

Companies Now Tracking Employee Fitness: Healthy or Creepy?

As companies look to continue raising workers productivity levels (even though the US has the third-highest productivity in the world while wages have stagnated, sigh), they are turning to a surprising new potential ally. Fitness, diet, and sleep-tracking apps are using the ‘quantified self’ movement to spur workers help themselves to better health. Which should ideally result in happier, healthier, and more focused employees.

Clearly, healthy people are more productive at their jobs, and diet and exercise are a big part of how feeling well and therefore doing good work. But when companies get directly involved in their workers’ health—by tracking their private lives—is it going too far? Seems like the answer might be at least partially determined by whether divulging such information is voluntary or not. (And in some cases, it’s not; a London-based analytics firm featured by the Guardian is one that requires its workers to track their info and participate in a company-wide workout plan. As someone who loves to work out, eat healthfully and even track my own sleep and diet, I find the idea of it being compulsory to share offputting—and what if you aren’t into those things?)

But privacy issues aside (let’s assume your company only wants the best for you and the programs are totally voluntary), is tracking the minuae of your life—and comparing it with your coworkers—effective?

Leo Widrich, the co-founder of Buffer, a social-media management tool, gave all of his employees JawboneUp wristband monitors, and he noticed a significant change and subsequent difference in his team: “One of our key values at Buffer is to work smarter, not harder,” Widrich told Inc. Magazine. “Personal improvement is a big part of that, so giving employees a tool that can help improve their sleep patterns is a no-brainer. A few weeks in it’s already had an incredible effect. Browsing everyone’s sleep patterns and talking about how to get more deep sleep has an amazing effect on productivity.”

OK, if your company really cares about your getting enough sleep, maybe that’s a good thing, (although there is some natural variation in how much sleep we need, most don’t get enough)—but sleep is pretty innocuous. What about tracking other aspects of your life? I know I would feel very uncomfortable with the idea that someone I worked with could scrutinize what I eat, and if you had an eating disorder, it would be an anxiety-inducing nightmare. Since workplace bullying is a real issue that’s already not dealt with effectively, it seems that bringing private lives into one’s job even more would be a recipe for embarrassment and even harassment.

But if something is a good for your company and also genuinely good for employees’ lives, maybe it really can be a win-win for both parties: “Lots of companies talk about work goals. ‘What I am working on to improve myself,’ [the name for Buffer's program] takes that a personal step farther. Since improvements are shared company-wide, it’s a great way to get support and encouragement,” says Widrich.

And since accountability and encouragement are the keys to success, maybe we can all get healthier by working together on our goals—but I’d add only if it’s an opt-in situation, and not an expectation.

Would you divulge your personal info at your job to get healthier?

article by Starre Vartan

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94 comments

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12:59PM PDT on Jul 7, 2014

Don't believe companies telling you it is just for you! I started using my companies gym equipment and I was out the door after serving over 12 years! It's all for show!

10:37PM PDT on Jun 3, 2014

if your workplace says they "are doing it for you" don't believe them

9:57PM PDT on Apr 26, 2014

These employers and insurance companies have gone too far.

I am forced to have employer and insurance company that has this "benefit". They originally bribed us by saying if you fill out our paperwork and do our physical we will give you free "money" in an HCA account. They don't tell you that they control the account and where and how it is spent. They do this for two years to get your patterns and background information. Once they have the baseline they determine your health problems, adjust your premium accordingly and force goals upon you in order for you to keep receiving the "HCA Benefit".

Employers should not be in the personal lives of its employees and families. Is it really the companies business to know how anyone sleeps, eats or exercises if they are doing their job?

12:58PM PDT on Apr 18, 2014

I work for a very large health care organization. A couple of years ago they started determining our insurance premiums based on our health. Every year we have to have a physical and have our physician fill out a form stating our height, weight, cholesterol, BMI, smoker/non smoker. We also get discounts on provider services if we use the providers who are also employees of our health system. The yearly physical and paperwork are a pain but it does make you more aware of your level of health and fitness. What I don't like and refuse to do is use the physicians who are employees of our organization. Even though they say it is confidential and protected by HIPPA I don't trust it.

2:46PM PDT on Apr 15, 2014

creeeeeepy.

11:57AM PDT on Apr 15, 2014

It's creepy.

11:57AM PDT on Apr 15, 2014

This one is easy.

6:49PM PDT on Apr 14, 2014

None of their business! That's not the only reason, but one of them, that made me decided to become a sub-contractor and run my own life, thank you very much.

What is it about this country (world)? Everybody has their nose in someone's business and has the gall to tell them what to do and how to do it. Really!?! Who made them God? That's the height of arrogance, wouldn't you say?

12:31PM PDT on Apr 14, 2014

It is creepy and invasive. It's all about money.

3:11AM PDT on Apr 14, 2014

Sadly where I work they are already doing this, besides a yearly test about our personal health and fitness.(If we don't take this test we are subject to pay $10 Dollars. more each pay check which comes to $240.00 Dollars more a year)Call me crazy, but I can do so many things with $240 dollars in my packet, than giving my money away to the greedy, therefore, I take the test, besides I don't have anything to hide.
They say:"We want to help you to acheve your fitness goals"
When we didn't ask for help, and some of us know very well how to take good care of ourselves.
Key word?= Money behind the cost of insurance.
If I need advice, I go to my doctor.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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