By: Tyler Amell, PhD, MSc, BSc

Worksite Well-being Doesn’t Work Without Data Analytics and Tech

Employee health-related data is a treasure trove that gives well-being managers and human resources professionals insight and answers to key employee health-related issues. This data includes health and productivity metrics related to absenteeism, presenteeism, healthcare spend, pharmacy spend, employee engagement, customer satisfaction and customer retention. When employee health data is leveraged to quantify health risk and identify supportive programming, the technology needed to collect and utilize it in a secure manner  is a very worthwhile investment. Given the drive to digital and remote workplace well-being during the COVID-19 disease pandemic in response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it has never more important for organizations to look at improving the health of their people with a critical eye. Data analytics, when paired with technology including pre-programmed algorithms, can be used to more intelligently plan effective health initiatives, interventions, and create sustainable change for a healthier, happier, more engaged, and productive workforce.

What Kind of Data Analytics Are We Talking About?

Information drawn from across an organization allows leadership to measure and compare risk and behavioral data, health data, pharmacy data, claims data, employee engagement, and absence data. Then, with the right technology, this data can be used by employers to identify problematic sectors and at-risk employees earlier, allowing corrective measures such as health programming take place more quickly and effectively, before employees get sick and have to take time off, file a work disability claim, apply for FMLA, or apply for workers’ compensation.

Integrated technology tools that offer in-program analytics can also help worksite well-being managers, and their teams, understand and react to various seemingly unrelated issues. Recruitment and retention, turnover, tenure, and performance ratings, paired with relationship data, annual surveys, pulse surveys, sentiment analysis, and anonymous feedback tools create a more holistic, accurate vision of the employee population. As long as privacy standards are adhered to, these feedback tools create valuable opportunities to understand employees more completely and communicate with them more effectively.

These valuable insights can power health improvement and disease prevention campaigns in the workplace by equipping employers to provide programming specific to employee population needs that may include: health campaigns on specific topics, exercise reminders, tips about diet, sleep, financial well-being and stress management, etc.

It all comes back to the bottom line. When worksite health promotion initiatives are focused specifically on what will help employees the most, programs can effectively reduce healthcare spending and work disability claims, shorten absences, improve productivity, and boost morale. Healthy employees make for better, happier, more satisfied, and productive employees, thereby making data-informed well-being truly a win-win.

Data analytics reveals what action needs to be taken. Since data is not an end-result by itself, it must be paired with effective steps toward health improvement. For example, if your workplace hosts a biometric screening for its employees, that screening will likely result in aggregate data showing a high-level view of employee population health. If the data shows that a high percentage of employees have elevated blood pressure, it could inform managers to start campaigns about improving diet and managing stress. This data empowers managers to take more effective action.

Data can provide clarity about what topics need to be addressed, and it can also be used to build employee motivation and positive workplace culture. A data-informed health promotion program sends the message that the employer cares for its people. A specifically focused health promotion program, such as a stress management initiative that begins as soon as signs and symptoms of anxiety and/or burnout are sensed in a population, can reduce absenteeism and/or limit a reduction in presenteeism at work before it becomes a large-scale issue. This employee care and disease prevention approach reaffirms to people that they are valued and reinforces their importance in the organization. Data such as performance metrics, job function, and prior absentee data should all be considered.

Using Data to Improve Mental Well-being Coping Skills and Resiliency

A specific health issue on the rise is mental illness, including stress, burnout, anxiety and depression. This was occurring before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and has gotten much worse, now. The impact of these conditions on employee populations is hard to overstate; it includes loss of productivity, time spent away from work, work disability, and increased healthcare and pharmacy spends. These issues, as well as physical conditions like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, can all be identified through validated algorithms using data including heart rate variability oxygen consumption, blood test results, etc. This technology-centric approach can determine personalized health risk as well as that of a population. It comes as a replacement for lengthy self-report assessments by using faster, more accurate, and, in some cases, passive means. While the number of those affected by mental and emotional health issues is predicted to continue to rise, boosting mental well-being in your workforce can do wonders to improve morale, job performance, and lower turnover as well as preventing potentially serious issues like anxiety, burnout and depression.

Using Data and Technology to Provide a Personalized Health Journey

Delivering workplace health promotion programming through technology (including an online portal, video, a smartphone app, etc.) is both more efficient, particularly during a global pandemic where employees must have access from a variety of locations, and expected by the millennial generation which accounts for over 50 percent of the workforce. Gone are the days of brown bag lunch-and-learns as a main part of programming, while employees increasingly utilize flex time and work-from-home options. More flexible, easily accessed, personalized, technology-driven, digital programming is the new standard.

Technology certainly plays an important role in collecting, storing and analyzing data but it’s also vital in creating effective health promotion programming. Technology can be used to create happier, healthier, motivated, and more productive employees. The technology might not come cheap, but considering the alternative, it will be money well spent.

Dr. Amell is Chief Relationship Officer at CoreHealth Technologies and a Board of Directors member for NWI. He is also an Adjunct Faculty at Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences and Faculty Lead for Work and the Workplace. He has given seminars and presentations at over 150 events and is a former instructor at Queen’s University, the Universities of Alberta, Calgary, and Ottawa. He also serves on the Executive Board of Directors of the Work Wellness and Disability Prevention Institute (WWDPI) and the College of Pedorthics of Canada.