These devices can measure the number of steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned, steps climbed and sleep levels.
Apparently more than 5 million Brits own such devices made by companies such as Fitbit, Nike, and Garmin.
An insurance company, Vitality, claims that monitoring your activity through the use of such bracelets or smartphones can help reduce sickness absence by 25%.
It’s becoming increasingly common in the USA and the UK for companies to offer staff such devices as employers recognise the benefits of a healthy workforce.
A spokesperson for Fitbit said “Fitbits help people to become more active, track their sleep and manage their weight. This makes people healthier and therefore more alert and active at work. Less sick days is a logical consequence of that“.
He said staff are allowed to choose whether or not their employer can see their individual data or have it aggregated. Some companies are said to offer incentives and encourage competition between departments.
Sickness absence is a major problem in the UK and any efforts to improve the health of employees is to be welcomed. Their is only so much employers can do however.
When I was HR Director of a large NHS Trust we introduced No Smoking policies, Healthy Eating options, Stress Management programmes, a staff counselling service, provided a gym, a physiotherapist and yoga classes. We also had an occupational health service and offered air miles to people who didn’t take time off work through sickness.
Results were mixed. The bottom line is employers can do little to influence staff behaviour and life-styles outside work.