Category: Facts and Research

During the holiday season last year, Santa gave millions of individuals wearable device fitness trackers and smartwatches.  For wellness program administrators, at least those with the analytics and technology to assess their program in detail and in real-time, these gifts result in increased participation in January wellness challenges.  However, too many coordinators know first-hand that participation often dissipates as individuals lose interest in their device and the program.

The precise percentage of fitness tracker abandonment has never really been known.  When Fitbit filed the paperwork to go public, analysis of its filings and financials suggested that 70% of Fitbit users churn in less than 12 months.  These estimates are from 2015 and device technology has substantially improved since then in meaningful ways, such as in battery life, non-fitness related features like text notifications and payments, and more.  In 2016, Fitbit released reactivation statistics that suggested 20% of those were buyers who were coming back to the Fitbit community after they had been inactive for 90 days or more.

So what percentage of individuals can wellness coordinators expect to give up on their technology?  According to a Gartner survey of 9,600 online consumers in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, 30% and 29% of the fitness trackers and smartwatches, respectively, are ultimately abandoned.  The study also suggests that top reasons for abandonment include lack of usefulness, boredom, or the device breaking.

The study also found that consumers think wearables are priced too high relative to their perceived usefulness.  This is partly being driven by numerous free app alternatives that track everything wearable devices can and more.  The survey found that people younger than 45 tend to think a smartphone can do everything they need.  This continues to make the argument that employers implement a bring your own device (BYOD) strategy for wellness.  A BYOD strategy for wellness allows organizations to embrace all forms of wellness technologies, including devices and apps from all brands.  It will enable consumer choice and result in lower costs for your program.  If employees want to use devices they can, but employers do not need to buy devices for the 30% that will ultimately abandon their devices (this number may be conservative since one would think that devices purchased by an individual on their own are less likely to be abandoned).

BYOD For Wellness
The study also reported on market adoption rates.  For fitness trackers, U.S. consumers lead usage at 23% followed by Australia at 19% and the U.K. at 15%.  The leading smartwatch country is the U.S. at 12%, while the U.K is at 9% and Australia at 7%.  The overall adoption was 19% and 10% for fitness trackers and smartwatches, respectively.


Category: Mobile Wellness

Last week was CES 2017, the largest global consumer electronics and consumer technology tradeshow.  For wearable device enthusiast, this is the opportunity to see all the major brands (and some new ones) launch their latest products and technologies.  There were several product releases that deserve attention and numerous online outlets that covered them, but one in particular caught our attention – the Motive Ring.

Per the company’s video, “the biggest thing in fitness is really small,” and it happens to be a ring that promises to offer full wrist-worn fitness tracking functionality into that sort of form factor.  The Motive ring, which is currently in pre-sale for $199, tracks everything customary wearable devices track, including fitness, sleep, and even heart rate, but in a much smaller package.  The ring boasts a battery life or three to five days, which is quite impressive given the size.  Also, the device is waterproof up to 50 meters for those avid swimmers looking for a device to match their lifestyle.  The one feature it is missing that most wrist-worn devices have is a display or the ability to support notifications.  The benefits of the form factor may trump the lack of display but only time will tell.

The device will begin shipping to U.S.-based iOS (Apple) users in Spring 2017.  There are seven different sizing options, and rings will be available in either gray or rose gold as well as feature an LED band for charging and syncing notifications.  If you’re interested in reserving a device, you do so risk free.  Motiv will not charge individuals who pre-order devices until the devices are shipped.  Orders can also be canceled at anytime.


Category: Facts and Research

The second annual survey from Rock Health on consumer health adoption revealed numerous interesting statistics on the current state of digital health in America.  Most notably, the number of Americans who own wearable devices increased to nearly one out of every four individuals, which is up significantly from 12% in 2015.  With a sampling of more than 4,000 representative U.S. adults, the survey also found that 75% of wearable owners purchased the wearable for themselves, 22% received the wearable as a gift, and fewer than 2% received the device from their employer.  Of those who bought their wearable, a third did so in the last three months and two-thirds made the purchase in the last six months.

The survey also measured market share from major wearable device manufacturers.  It found that the most popular manufacturers for all ages are Samsung (30%), Fitbit (26%), and Apple (22%).  This breakdown in market share is in contrast with reports from IDC that suggest Samsung is not as well off and Garmin and Apple are neck-and-neck.  Regardless, it is clear that more and more Americans are choosing to adopt wearable devices and no single brand owns the majority of the market.


As such, the results of the survey continue to make the case for employers and health plans to implement a bring your own device (BYOD) strategy for wellness.  A BYOD strategy for wellness allows organizations to embrace all forms of wellness technologies, including devices and apps from all brands.  It will enable consumer choice and result in lower costs for your program.  With corporate wellness programs having engagement comparable to wearable device ownership, it only makes the case even stronger.  Organizations should embrace the consumer market trends for wellness program success.

BYOD For Wellness
The survey went beyond wearable devices to study all digital health tools and found that 46% of consumers are now considered active digital health adopters, up from 19% in 2015.  An active adopter is defined as an individual having used three or more categories of digital health tools.  The number of Americans who are non-adopters dropped from 20 percent in 2015 to just 12% in 2016.


Category: Corporate Wellness

Few would question that 2016 meant changes in lots of areas, and workplaces were not spared.  Let’s ring in the new year with the top five ways work changed in 2016.  The list below is in no particular order.

Sharing Economy = Side Jobs
Stagnating wages and the need for additional income are leading more workers to freelance part-time in 2016.  According to a new analysis by LinkedIn, younger professionals in particular are gravitating toward part-time freelancing.  With apps and digital marketplaces making it easier than ever to connect buyers of services with sellers of services, employees are using their free time to earn extra dollars and in some cases, pursue their passion.  Lack of stability, predictable income, and benefits prevent these employees from freelancing full-time.  However, as their reputation and personal brands grow with part-time work, it is more likely that employees will freelance full-time and quit their jobs.

Paid Leave Benefits On The Rise
Currently, only an estimated 10% to 12% of U.S. workers get paid leave of any kind from their employers.  This percentage is growing, especially in highly competitive sectors like technology. Also, there is a shift in creating more gender equal benefits for paid leave with companies now including men and women in the benefits programs.  Politics may have an influence on the trend with Hillary Clinton making paid parental leave a key part of her platform and Ivanka Trump also advocating for the benefit.  The vast majority of voters (82% or Republicans and Democrats) support some form of paid parental leave.

5 Real And Unique Wellness Rewards
Employees Paying More For Healthcare, Get New Benefits
The average family paid more than $18,000 in health care premiums in 2016, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  The growth is slower than it has been in past years but still ahead of incomes.  The silver lining is that employers are at least providing more health-related benefits to employees.  For example, Instacart, Visa, Slack, and others have rolled out genetic testing benefits so employees can get their genome sequenced for a lower price through subsidies.  Employers are also expanding wellness initiatives to help employees improve their well-being.  These initiatives includes wearable device and incentive programs.

Increased Compensation, For Some
Bernie Sanders brought raising the minimum wage to the forefront of the political stage.  Despite losing the primary, his supporters won with major legislation passed in New York and California, which both agreed to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next few years.  This is a huge win for many of the Americans who dealt with stagnating wages during the aftermath of the Great Recession.  However, the Trump presidency makes it unlikely to see increases in the minimum wage from the Federal government anytime soon, as his pick for Labor Secretary is a critic on raising the minimum wage.

Gender Issues At Work Joins National Conversation
This year included Hillary Clinton’s historic nomination, Donald Trump’s unsavory remarks about women, and Roger Ailes’s resignation for sexual harassment.  These events received significant news coverage because they were part of the 2016 presidential election.  As a result, gender issues in the workplace, despite always being a hot topic internally, have risen to the national conversation.  This means employers will need to be more proactive in managing gender issues more publicly.


Category: Engagement

It seems like yesterday when Pokémon Go took the world by storm, captivating the minds of millions across the globe.  The unintended consequences of its success was an increase in activity of its users.  Some even dubbed the game the next best health app since it got individuals moving while being unaware of the amount of steps they were taking.

As a reminder for those of us who have forgotten about the game, players have to walk one kilometer, as measured by the phone’s sensors, to hatch a new Pokémon from an egg.  Driving is out of the question, as users must stay below the 10 or 15-mile-per-hour speed limit.  This required users to travel the old school way: with their two feet, which resulted in increased activity.

According research published in the British Medical Journal, “Pokémon Go was associated with an increase in the daily number of steps after installation of the game.  The association was, however, moderate and no longer observed after six weeks.”  Specifically, the analysis found that the daily average steps for Pokémon Go players during the first week of installation increased by 955 additional steps.  However, this increase gradually attenuated over the subsequent five weeks, and by the sixth week after installation, the number of daily steps had gone back to pre-installation levels.  The study found no significant differences for users by sex, age, race group, bodyweight status, urbanity, or walkability of the area of residence.  It is important to note the study surveyed 1,182 Americans, all of whom had an iPhone 6, and a little under half of whom were Pokémon Go players.  The participants were found on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, which at this point seems like something of a niche population.

 
What can employers and health plans learn from this study?  It seems on the surface that the novelty of Pokémon Go wore off, and as a result, users were walking less because chasing Pokémons were no longer appealing.  This is not meant to be a slight on the game, but an observation on the reality of keeping the attention and interest of individuals.  Even the creator of Pokémon Go, Ninantic Labs, recognizes the importance of novelty, which is why they are constantly launching new games based on augmented reality.  The takeaway for employers and health plans is that if gamification is a major driver of engagement in their programs, it is important for them to design wellness challenges that regularly change to keep things fresh.  Otherwise, the novelty of a challenge wears off and users disengage.  To keep things fresh and tailored to a specific population, organizations need to leverage a wellness challenges platform like Wellable that allows groups to customize and configure challenges to their specific needs.


Category: Facts and Research

Contrary to the popular belief that healthcare expenses are becoming a larger part of total employee compensation, new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that employers paid the lowest amount for health insurance as a percentage of total compensation since 2011.  Specifically, health insurance costs equaled 7.6% of total compensation for private employers in September.  This is equivalent to $2.44 per hour worked.  This is the lowest percentage of total compensation since March 2011.  The cost for health insurance as a percentage of total compensation peaked at 7.9% in March 2014.

bls-chart

 
It is important to note that using the percentage of total compensation does not mean total health insurance costs per employee did not go up during this period.  The percentage could be impacted by a number of factors, such as wage increases and shifts in costs to employees.  The rise in high-deductible healthcare plans is certainly contributing to the latter.

Also contrary to popular belief is that smaller employers are being disproportionately impacted by rising healthcare costs by having to pay more per employee than their larger counterparts.  Companies with 50 to 99 employees spend $1.94 per hour worked, which amounts to 7.0% of total compensation.  This is lower than the spend for companies with 100 to 499 employees and companies with more than 500 employees, which spend $2.77 (8.5%) and $4.28 (9.0%) per hour worked, respectively.

Regardless of how health insurance expenses as a percentage of total compensation is trending, employers remain deeply concerned about budgeting for health insurance.  Outside of wages and salaries, health insurance still comprises the largest portion of total compensation spending.  In the highly competitive global economy, human capital management continues to be critical to success and getting the most productivity from total compensation dollars is key.  This is why total compensation and benefit plans need to be optimized to recruit and retain talent as well as assist employees in being productive at work.


Category: Engagement

Employers and health plans have long sought after a clear understanding of the benefits derived from engagement.  It is widely understood that engagement results in positive business outcomes for both types of entities; however, some would argue that too much engagement is a bad thing.  Regardless, few studies have been published that quantify the financial impact of engaging employees and members…until now.  A new report shows the value of consumer engagement in health plans.

Through an analysis of 14 years of consumer health insights, more than a billion interactions with consumers, and an extensive amount of academic and industry research, the study revealed that health plans can generate significant short- and long-term value by engaging members in their health.  In fact, the report suggests that engaging healthcare consumers can be one of the highest value activities a health plan can undertake.

According to the analysis, health plans could potentially double their net income by engaging an additional 10% of consumers with their health.  “For example, a one million-member commercial health plan in the individual marketplace could produce over $130 million in new value by engaging just 10% more members.  This value is comprised of key medical and administrative cost reductions and revenue increases, resulting from an array of specific actions that consumers take in response to being more engaged.  The report also revealed an even higher value of engagement among Medicare Advantage ($302 per member per year) and Managed Medicaid ($157 per member per year) populations.”

The key takeaway is that small increases in engagement can have big impacts on financial outcomes.  The silver lining is that most employees and health plan members are woefully disengaged, which means the opportunity to achieve small increases in engagement are certainly attainable.  With 60% of human resource leaders viewing wellness as an engagement tool and health plans focusing on engaging members in wellness, technologies and solutions that can engage users effectively and affordably will be highly valuable to these entities.

It is also important to note that this analysis considers a broad range of benefits that result from engagement.  Traditionally, employers and health plans tried to constrict the gains from engagement through an analysis of hard savings, or return on investment (ROI), rather than considering all the benefits, often referred to as value on investment (VOI).  Employers are beginning to shift their perspective to VOI as noted by a survey suggesting the majority of employers now consider VOI.


Category: Corporate Wellness

According to the Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, 2015 marked the year that millennials surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. workforce.  At that time, millennials represented 34% of the workforce.  By 2020, it is estimated that millennials will comprise nearly half (46%) of the workforce.  The prominence of this generation makes it critical for employers to consider the specific needs and dynamics of millennials when creating and communicating benefit packages.  The Millennials Come of Age report from Colonial Life uses industry and internal company research to illustrate the best strategies, communication tools, and technology human resource professionals can use to ensure their companies find and keep the best and brightest among the largest generation in U.S. history.  Below is the biggest highlight from the report.

capturePositioning Matters
Insurance, whether it be health, dental, life, or other, has long been a staple of benefit plans.  These benefits have also been seen by other generations as tools to protect employees and their families from bad events that impact everyone.  Millennials view insurance benefits in a different light.  They see these benefits as an important piece of overall physical, emotional, and financial health.  As such, millennials want benefits designed to keep them healthy rather than protect from adverse events.  For example, rather than considering dental insurance as a way to protect themselves against tooth decay and high-priced dentist bills, millennials may be more willing to consider dental insurance as a way to stay healthy.  Stephen Bygott from Colonial Life says of millennials, “being healthy doesn’t just mean not feeling sick.  It’s commitment to an ongoing healthy approach to life, including eating habits, exercise and avoiding activities that can be viewed as damaging.”  Employers should embrace this viewpoint when communicating benefits to millennials.

Expansion Of Benefits
It is clear that the definition of healthy differs for millennials.  It includes proactive behavior to do more than just avoid being sick.  This is why employers looking to hire and retain this generation need to expand benefits beyond insurance products.  Millennials want access to wellness solutions and technologies that allow them to address this need and want to work for employers that understand their perspective.


Category: Facts and Research

According to a new report from IDC, market share in wearable device shipments for Q3 2016 saw fairly little shifts relative to previous quarters but growth dropped significantly, reaching the single digits for the first time.  Most notably, the Apple Watch saw its number of shipments drop 71% year-over-year.  Fitbit and Garmin were the only two leading brands to reach double digit growth.  Total shipment volume for the quarter came to 23.0 million units, up just 3.1% from the 22.3 million units shipped in Q3 2015.  The table below breaks down the details of the shipments and ranks the leaders by market share.

q3-2016-wearable-market-share
It is important to note that these numbers reflect both basic wearables, which account for 85% of the market, and smartwatches.  Basic wearables still grew in the double digits despite a significant slowdown and the number of smartwatch units dropped.  The data provides a number of insights into the wearable market so we thought we would talk about some of them below. 

Fitbit Remains At The Top
Fitbit ended the quarter the same way it began it: as the undisputed worldwide leader of wearable devices, although their lead continues to shrink.  In Q3 2016, the global leader was able to hold their top ranking with market share in line with Q3 2015 (23.0% vs. 21.4%).  Growth was driven by the long-awaited refresh for the Charge HR with the Charge 2.  Rumors continue to surface that Fitbit will be acquiring smartwatch manufacturer Pebble, which reflects their desire to move beyond just basic wearables into the smartwatch market in a big way. 

Xiaomi Struggles
Xiaomi’s continues to carve out a market for affordable wearable device with lots of functionality.  The new “Mi Band includes heart rate tracking and is priced well below any competition, making it more suitable for impulse buying than any other fitness band.”  Despite its price advantage, Xiaomi delivered approximately the same number of units year-over-year (3.8 million vs. 3.7 million), resulting in similar market share from 16.4% in Q3 2015 to 16.5% in Q3 2016.  Despite the basic wearable market growing in the double digits, Xiaomi growth was only 4.0%.  Xiaomi continues to struggle to gain any significant traction outside its home country of China.

Garmin Expands Product Portfolio
Coming in third, Garmin offers one of the broadest product portfolios in the market, from the low-cost, corporate-only Vivoki to higher end smartwatches with GPS.  Garmin experienced modest growth of 12.2%, growing the number of units shipped from 1.2 million in Q3 2015 to 1.3 million in Q3 2016.  The brand continues to be a favorite of fitness fanatics. 

Apple Tanks
Apple saw a steep drop in it units shipped.  Apple shipped only 1.1 million units in Q3 2015 compared to the 3.9 million units in shipped in Q3 2016.  It is important to note that Apple launched its second-generation watches in mid-September so those numbers have little impact on Q3 2016.  With the holiday season coming up and a full quarter of results from its new device, Apple may be able to recover from this decline.

This challenge is why Wellable encourages the implementation of a bring your own device (BYOD) strategy for wellness.  A BYOD strategy for wellness allows employers to embrace all forms of wellness technologies, including devices and apps that are not Fitbit, Apple Watch, or Xiaomi.  It will enable consumer choice and result in lower costs for your program.  Download our free white paper for more information on BYOD for wellness.


Category: Facts and Research

Despite the long economic recovery in the United States and the strong performance of the stock market, financial wellness is not improving for many individuals and it is resulting in stress.  According to the Employee Financial Wellness Survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which tracks the financial well-being of full-time employed U.S. adults across the country, “many employees never fully regained stable footing” after the Great Recession.  Below are five statistics from the study that should make all employers concerned about the financial health of their employees and take action by incorporating financial wellness programs at work.

Increased Financial Responsibilities
According to the survey, the percentage of employees providing financial support for parents or in-laws increased 6% from 2016 (22%) to 2015 (16%).  Longer lifespans and lack of adequate long-term health care protection are increasing the financial responsibility onto the next generation.

Inadequate Emergency Savings
Employees are not satisfied with the amount of their emergency savings with 55% saying so compared with 51% in 2015.  Women have it worse with 60% saying they don’t have enough emergency savings set aside for unexpected expenses while 50% of men feeling the same way.

Rising Credit Card Balances
Employees are increasingly turning to credit cards to fill their funding shortfall.  Forty-three percent of employees earning $100,000 or more consistently carried credit card balances in 2016.  In 2015, only 32% did.  Baby boomers have it worst.  In 2015, 37% of boomers carried balances on their credit cards while 46% did so in 2016.

Underwater Mortgages
Eighteen percent of employees who own homes and carry a mortgage said that the outstanding balance of their mortgage is greater than the current value of their home.  Of the 18%, 59% have attempted to modify the terms of their mortgage with their lenders (consistent with 60% last year) and 33% have received a foreclosure notice within the last 24 months (also 33% last year).

Financial Stress
Financial stress is the biggest source of stress for employees with 45% saying that it was their biggest stressor in their lives.  Health concerns (15%), their jobs (20%), and relationships (15%) also topped the list.

 
Financial wellness programs are just beginning to become staples of employee health programs.  For organizations looking to incorporate financial wellness into their benefits offering for the first time, there are a number of budget friendly options to choose from.  For those employers with a 401 (k) plan, the plan administrator should have free financial wellness resources for their clients to use.  There are also a number of advocacy groups and wellness vendors, including Wellable, that offer a free financial wellness seminar/webinar.