Corporate wellness technology is software, and sometimes associated hardware, that human resources departments use to improve and manage workers' health and well-being.
Corporate wellness technology is also sometimes seen as a means to enhance organizations' work culture by fostering positive attitudes about work among employees and creating what human resources professionals and vendors refer to as "corporate well-being."
Uses and perceived benefits
Organizations -- including corporations, nonprofit groups, colleges and universities, and government agencies -- are increasingly using corporate wellness technology to try to increase employee productivity, reduce absenteeism and foster positive attitudes about work.
Employees' "financial well-being" is an increasingly popular term used in conjunction with wellness software. Financial well-being modules and apps help guide employees toward making sound financial decisions such as saving, minimizing debt and managing their retirement plan.
Employers also see corporate wellness technology as part of a strategy to control rising healthcare costs.
Wellness software often relies on anonymized insurance claims data to determine which and how many employees have chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension and congestive heart disease that are viewed as chief drivers of rising healthcare costs, and are expensive to treat.
Digital and human wellness coaching
Many wellness software systems develop recommendations for health and fitness plans for employees. Some systems work in conjunction with human wellness coaches who use software to track participating employees' progress toward health and fitness goals, such as lowering blood pressure and blood glucose levels, losing weight, or exercising a certain amount.
Before the wide adoption of HR technology systems, especially by large organizations, corporate wellness programs relied mainly on wellness coaches for regularly scheduled one-on-one coaching sessions, often by phone. Wellness coaches are still an important part of many such programs.
Promoting and measuring wellness
Another common approach of corporate wellness technology programs is to provide employees with financial incentives such as insurance discounts for using lower-cost healthcare providers or proving that they are physically active.
To track activity, compliance with healthcare regimens and adherence to medications, corporate wellness technology often uses wearable devices such as step counters like the Apple Watch and Fitbit and connected devices such as smart scales and wifi and Bluetooth connected blood glucose and blood pressure monitors.
Some employers also run organization-wide programs -- usually optimized for Mobile apps -- to encourage fun participation in activity and wellness competitions and social volunteer projects. These are sometimes part of employee engagement and employee experience efforts intended to promote corporate wellness and well-being.
Recently, many HR tech vendors have rolled out features and apps that use AI and machine learning to further automate activities such as workgroup collaboration and management feedback intended to improve employee experience.
Employers also use software that enables them to recognize or praise employees for reaching fitness goals or contributing toward corporate well-being by volunteering on social projects. Other software platforms provide perks such as discounts on fitness gear or memberships at gyms or yoga centers.
Wellness systems -- nearly all cloud-based -- usually are developed and sold by specialized vendors and have not, until recently, been included as basic components of the larger HCM (human capital management) enterprise applications that have dominated HR technology.
However, HCM suite providers have started to focus on wellness as part of benefits administration modules and as standalone tools for HR professionals and benefits providers working with employers.
Major wellness-focused software vendors include Limeade, Virgin Pulse, Vitality and Wellable. The top HCM vendors -- Oracle, SAP, Workday, Ultimate Software and Ceridian -- also include wellness modules in their HCM suites.
Meanwhile, HR benefits-oriented wellness vendors and emerging hybrid wellness-health software vendors -- such as Twine and Welltok -- have in recent years been deploying variations on the population health management strategy that is widely used by healthcare provider systems. Population health involves using data analytics and other health information technology to manage large groups of patients with chronic conditions and illnesses.
Population health software platforms have proliferated as health insurance costs have risen sharply in large part due to the expense of treating chronic conditions among tens of millions of patients across the country.
Other drivers of corporate wellness technology include the U.S. Affordable Care Act, which encouraged employee wellness programs, and aging populations with people working later in life.
While vendors and employers often tie employee wellness and health to higher productivity and job satisfaction, as well as lower absenteeism, there is little conclusive scientific evidence of the effectiveness of corporate wellness technology.
Employers usually cite "soft," or anecdotal, evidence to estimate ROI and justify investments in wellness software and hardware.
Even so, corporate wellness technology is a fast-growing sector of HR tech.