Health tech can improve the wellbeing of employees in the workplace

18 Dec 2017

One of the fundamental issues across today’s workforce is attributed to sleep deprivation. A recent One RAND study estimates sleep deprivation costs employers roughly $411 billion a year, in the US alone. As a result, employers are looking for creative ways to support their employees.

The introduction of open space offices, kitchens stocked with healthy snacks and drinks, standing desks and a decor that aims to negate the stereotypes of offices are some of the ways wellbeing is being implemented into the workplace. Because the way we, as a society, understand work has shifted to fit the autonomous, individualistic era, so why wouldn’t our workplace either?

Alongside a shifting social architecture of the workplace, companies are increasingly pushing the boundaries of what wellbeing entails. From platforms and apps to wearable devices that can create more personalised experiences for wellbeing – companies can use the data collected to directly fine tune the needs of employees – from the adjustment of light in the workplace to offering alternative work hours according to measured productivity times of the day.

Diffusing stress and low energy levels is crucial to the maintenance of a balanced mental wellbeing, and light inside the workplace is an important factor that is too often overlooked. As long as decorative plants are dying inside our office spaces from scarce sunlight, it means we’re not tackling the core of what it means to create a healthy environment. Lighting across the workspace is often dim and of bad quality, affecting the productivity, energy levels and alertness in employees. Static light negates the natural rhythm of colour and intensity variations that our body is biologically designed to follow. With the help of wearable technology, companies can ensure each of their employees is able to understand and improve their own habits and needs.

Using the information collected from non-invasive data, companies can begin to fathom the intricate necessities of employees who spend approximately 45 hours a week inside the workplace. Healthy snacks and an exercise consciousness is one step, but perhaps with the insightful aspect technology and data offer we can begin to tackle more structural issues in the ways workplaces are assembled.

Professor of Circadian Neuroscience and the Head of Department of Ophthalmology at Oxford University, Russell Foster says that ”we are a species that has evolved under bright light conditions – even on an overcast day in Europe, natural light is around 10,000 lux, and may be as high as 100,000 lux on bright sunny days. Yet we live in homes and work in offices, factories, schools and hospitals that are often isolated from natural light and where artificial light is often around 200 lux and seldom exceeds 400–500 lux. We live our lives in dim caves.”

Buying into a wellbeing aesthetic filled with consumer goods is easy, and luring all the same. The challenge employers are facing is how to tap into a resource as simple as light and with that, help to educate employees on the importance of its presence on a daily basis.