Can Technology Increase Wellbeing at Work? Here’s What We Learned Can Technology Increase Wellbeing at Work? Here’s What We Learned

By Olli Auvinen

24.05.2017

Wearable technology is everywhere now. You see an increasing number of activity trackers and smartwatches on people’s wrists. With just couple hundred euros, you can buy a device that counts your steps, measures heartbeat throughout the day, and gives you instructions on how to become more fit. When you wake up in the morning, you can even check how much REM sleep you got last night.

This is all great news, but how does wearable technology actually turn into wellbeing? Could it even be used as a tool to increase happiness and performance at work?

We were eager to find out, so sixteen of us took part in a four-month health program conducted by Digiterveys, a Finnish company specialized on holistic wellbeing based on science. The program included personal health coaching, use of activity trackers, smart scales, and sleep monitoring devices.

We kicked-off with a survey to reveal our current state of wellbeing. We were happy to learn that in general, we were already doing quite well. Results showed that people were motivated in their work and had healthy social relationships. On the other hand, there were improvements to be made in areas like recovering from stress, nutrition, and exercise.

The Most Exciting Part: Wearable Tech

After completing a wellbeing survey and an introduction to the program, everyone received their devices. Us being a tech company, this, of course, was exciting. We would start measuring our overall activity and heart rate with a Polar A360 and Emfit QS sleep tracker. For our body composition, cardiovascular health, and weight, we received state of the art Withings Body Cardio smart scales.

When wearing a tracker for the first time, you usually see a significant increase in activity. Then it slowly starts to decline back towards the starting point. We saw the same phenomenon take place as well. In our case, the decline stabilized 11% above the starting point on average. Significant improvement like this will surely provide health benefits in the long run. The coaching was clearly working.

Most of us also learned that we didn’t get enough sleep. Getting more quality sleep would increase mental and physical performance at work and on free time. During the program, we experienced better sleep quality when following the advice of not using mobile devices and avoided exercising too late at night. Also soothing evening rituals were recommended.

What Can We Learn from the Genome?

A thing which raised the most intense conversation about the program was the genome test. The test would show if your body is better suited for aerobic or anaerobic exercise, the tendency in certain health risks, and even if you are likely to experience stress.

The way the results were interpreted was very much based upon people’s preconception about their own body. If the test showed something you ‘liked’, people would say “I knew it”. If the test revealed something people would disagree with, they would go “Nah, I’ve read horoscopes that are more accurate”.

How Did We Do?

During the four month program, we actually did pay much more attention in health promoting activities. Gladly, it started to show in the surveys as well. People’s perceived wellbeing and performance went up noticeably. The greatest improvement happened to our ability to recover from stress, which is essential in today’s fast paced work life.

To answer the initial question, can technology increase wellbeing at work, the answer is: not by itself. Trackers and smartwatches are a great way to reveal some things about your health, activity level and sleep quality, but you need to know how to interpret the data and how to act accordingly, to make use of it.