Technology / How Fitbit encourages firms to take a greater interest in their employees’ wellbeing

How Fitbit encourages firms to take a greater interest in their employees’ wellbeing

The Fitbit business has been built on data. The company, which was valued at $4.1billion following its IPO last year, connects millions of people around the world with devices that can monitor their heart rate and sleeping patterns, not to mention count calories, steps and stairs climbed.

And the technology is having a knock-on effect in businesses too, with some using the devices to foster greater employee engagement and wellbeing. “When you look at the data on the app it is the most engaging part of the whole process. There are a whole host of people now who are extremely interested in the data on how it positions them within a community of users,” Gareth Jones, VP and general manager of EMEA at Fitbit, tells me at the launch of the company’s smart watch Fitbit Blaze and activity tracker Fitbit Alta. A big growth area for Fitbit has been in the business-to-business offerings, and companies such as Barclays and GoDaddy have all signed up to their wellness platform.

Jones says: “What we are seeing is companies want to be seen improving the health and wellness of their employees, improving their work-life balance, making their time at work not just a sedentary experience. They are also seeing the chance to build cameraderie and a degree of company loyalty, and  to develop inclusion across geographies.”

Companies can undertake Fitbit Corporate Challenges as part of the wellness programme designed to help drive employee engagement. According to Jones, the programme helps spur a degree of gamification and competitiveness, helping to make people feel part of a group and position them within a community of users.

Jones says: “The most important thing about our products, whether it is about heart rates, steps, walking or floors climbed, is that it’s trying to encourage people towards a positive trend, so you will walk more than you did last week or climb more stairs. If you’re improving and can see you are walking more, stepping more and your resting heart rate is getting less, then that is the correct trend to follow – it is encouraging you to do so.”

Although the amount of data generated by a Fitbit is vast, wearers of the device have the ultimate choice of how they want their data used, whether it be part of an aggregate or individually.

And employee data will not be compromised – Fitbit takes protecting private information seriously, and has numerous safeguards in place to guard against the misuse of data. “We do not sell our data to anybody,” says Jones. “If you have your data with us, you can be entirely certain that it is not going to be used in any third-party feature.

“You have to be consistently vigilant, and we never take it for granted that our systems are 100 per cent secure. We are constantly monitoring what is out there with respect to threats, but also what is out there with respect to ways of protecting the data. There is a whole separate department in place which is designed entirely to make that as foolproof as possible.”