FSB Event: Using Fit-Tech to Build a Healthy Lifestyle for You and Your Workforce

FSB hosted a webinar on how fit-tech is helping companies to better support their employees in their health and wellbeing. YuLife CEO Sammy Rubin joined the discussion.

Yugi the Giraffe - 9 September 2020

Using Tech to enable healthy living in and outside of the workplace

Sammy Rubin, YuLife CEO and Founder, joined an expert panel to discuss the impact of tech on workplace wellbeing and healthy lifestyles. On the panel was host Christian Doherty; Anna Davison, Head of workplace wellbeing at UKactive; and Alex Zurita, London Sport's Specialist Advisor.

Christian began by saying that the event “takes place across the backdrop of a genuine stress and concern around our physical and mental health. Even before the pandemic, it was already becoming widely accepted that wellbeing plays an increasingly important part of the UK's economic life.

“Since a happy and contented workforce is more productive, the onus has fallen on the employer to take the lead on this. However, many business owners may feel stretched beyond that growth of what we now call fit-tech to re-engage with their employees and make a genuine difference to the underlying performance of the business.”

Changing attitudes around Fit-Tech

Christian began by asking the panel if there has been a shift in attitudes around the issue - Is there an increase in the amount of businesses offering fit-tech (tech-enabled solutions for physical wellbeing) a component of their wellbeing strategy.

Anna shared that UK active “works closely with the business sector to find out how we can create this idea that the workplace should be a fun, engaging place that makes you healthier which sadly, for some people at the moment, this isn't the case.

“Towards the early part of this year, workplace wellbeing was starting to become something that people were really talking about: More businesses were starting to investigate it, they were starting to think about what it might look like for them. A lot of the conversation then was around what workplace wellbeing really means and what is a holistic approach to this?

“How do companies ensure that they look after people's mental health? What are those different elements of workplace well being, how does technology fit into that?

“In the current circumstance, businesses are examining how they can support a workforce who is displaced and maybe working from home. The conversation is slightly shifted in terms of what that wellbeing looks like and I think it's accelerating. We know that we need to build a healthier society and the workplace has got to be a great place to start. There's definitely more of an emphasis now from businesses who are more actively looking for different ways that they can get involved in this.”

The Evolving Needs of Individuals

Christian asked how providers are developing new products to meet the new needs of the end-user. Sammy found that, “even ‘Post-COVID,’ companies are now looking to bring wellbeing to their staff. We provide life insurance for hundreds of companies with thousands of employees, but in addition we provide an app which gives rewards for doing healthy activities.

“We listen to employees on the ground, and we did a survey in partnership with YouGov recently. We found that two thirds of all employees would like to be incentivised to do physical activities. We're not talking about running marathons - what we're trying to do at YuLife is encourage people to do small amounts of exercise throughout their day.

“Employees are looking for support from their employers in terms of giving them the right tools or framework. How are they going to be healthy, especially in this new remote environment. There's also a real issue of social wellbeing, because there's much more loneliness while people are working from home.

“Probably the biggest priority is mental well being with high stress levels in the workplace. If an employer can use technology to encourage or support employees in looking after their own mental health, then it’s really really valuable for employees.”

Catering to small businesses

Sammy touched on how technology is enabling SMEs to offer the same employee benefits as big corporations: “There was always a sense that wellness programmes were reserved mainly for larger businesses. Big corporations can roll out these initiatives with big HR departments, but technology allows this to roll down towards smaller companies.

“Now this technology is readily available for all sizes of employers, the same data insights that a company could get just a very large corporate forget maybe five years ago and to look on an anonymised basis to see how the nature of well being and how their employees are engaging in their health and well being.”

Anna added that “small businesses are wanting to get more involved in this just as anyone else. Small businesses who are working remotely are probably able to better bring together teams digitally. It really resonates that this doesn't need to be complicated, and I think what's happened a lot in the world of wellbeing are that big corporations offer great programmes and they can measure a lot which is fantastic, but actually this is simply about people moving more and sitting down less.

“It almost doesn't matter how you do it and technology obviously is one fantastic way of doing that because you can nudge people or reward them - anything you can do to give people permission to model this kind of behaviour and to support those teams has been really effective in small businesses.

“I think those that are getting started are those who actually can offer more flexibility, offer genuine permission to take a slightly longer lunch break if you do want to go for a run. Are you actually educating your team in terms of the dangers of sitting down for too long? Are you structuring your workflow in a way that allows them to take breaks?”

Alex added that “around 47% of employees don't have access to any form of physical activity or that permission. For small businesses, ensuring facilities are in place such as showers that empower them to take physical journeys to the workplace will make a difference. A report published also found that 22% or so of employees are leading a more sedentary life than they did before, so now is the time to make the change.”

Utilising data and incentivisation

When asked about recent innovations in the fit-tech market, Anna thinks “there is some really interesting tech coming on the market. Incentives are certainly something we've seen in other products and there’s a lot of evidence to show that people are motivated more by doing things for other people than they are for themselves, which is an interesting model.

Anna continued by saying that “wrapping other things around incentivisation that make really good use of technology, so you provide an incentive and inspiration through technology or through other things, opportunity so some people will want to go to a gym and work out.

“There's definitely a lot of similarities around this idea of incentivising people but it needs to be wrapped around this idea of opportunity. If you're encouraging people to work out but you don't offer spaces that they can get changed, then that sort of puts a barrier in the way of them being able to do that. It's where incentivisation meets inspiration meets opportunity.”

Coming from a place of empathy

Alex found, from his experience with tech startups in the fit-tech space, “a large percentage of these tech founders come with an element of empathy to the market and their desired user.

“They have had previous roles where they've been working in a business that has catered for their wellbeing including financial, mental, physical, and social wellbeing and that has triggered an interest to develop a proposition that can be given back to employees. Ultimately for employers you have less people being absent from work and therefore that should have a healthy return on investment in terms of feeding the bottom line.

“The element of personalisation is also important. Gone are the days of a blanket gym membership benefit because there are certain individuals within a workplace that are completely disengaged from that. It’s important to ensure that there are products that can reward or encourage people to access that physical facility if they want to.

“At the same time, though, offer an on-demand pick and choose service that enables the user to pick activities that are much more interesting to them. Ultimately, personalization is about ensuring that you know your audience and support them with the things that are most likely to resonate with their needs.”

Fit-Tech in a new working culture

Sammy’s final thoughts on fit-tech revolved around adaptability brought about by rapid change to the workplace: “YuLife is finding that companies in the past often look to provide perks to their employees, such as pizza Friday, nights out, or bringing a pool table into the office. There's been a real shift in the last few months due to COVID realising that those perks that they're nice when everybody's together in the office.

“But ultimately, the best perk is when people look after their welfare. Businesses could use the same budget that is used for those perks to provide an integrated system where employees have access to mental health support and are rewarded for doing simple activities.

“We've seen a real surge in companies who are coming to us saying that they want this type of technology, because the beauty of it is now is that it works in a remote environment for people who are working at home. Through the use of technology, one can get the support - physically, mentally and financially - easily. And I think this is a real opportunity to take that budget for perks to create a welfare culture.”

Click here to watch the virtual event.

Yugi the Giraffe

Yugi is our YuLife mascot. Like all giraffes they've got a big heart – in fact the biggest heart of all land animals.