Monday, January 19, 2015

How much should my employer get to know about my activity?

As is true with an increasing number of employers, my new organization provided me with a free fitness tracking device. I sync it daily, and I'm earning incentives (mostly cash) based on my level of activity. If I track what I eat and engage in online health challenges, I can earn even more.

I have to admit that I find this little device (more accurately, a Virgin Pulse Max) motivating. Every morning, my Max greets me with a "Good morning, Jennifer" and a heart symbol on its screen. It's neat to accumulate activity badges and see my Max smile at me when I achieve my goal steps for the day. It's not cumbersome to use, and the cash incentives are nice.

While the jury is still out on the cost savings related to these worker incentive programs, they are becoming increasingly popular. I like the idea of being rewarded for making healthy choices, and it makes sense on a lot of levels for companies to promote health and wellness among their employees.

And yet.

I admit to some hesitancy, at times, with my Max. Adding another item to my daily "to do" list gets annoying; I have to clip Max on my waistband every morning and unclip it at night. It's a small device and easy to misplace (or for a cat to bat off my bedside table). I have to remember to sync Max regularly to earn my incentives. And, I have concerns about who might be doing what with my data. Who, precisely, is getting to see the data I upload? How much should my employer get to know about my activity? What I eat? How much I'm sleeping?

I also wonder how fair it is for companies to be able to punish employees for not engaging in wellness programs. Although some companies only reward desirable behaviors, some also have financial penalties for employees who refuse to participate and/or have unhealthy behaviors (tobacco being the most common). I worry that some employees may feel financially coerced to participate; they may not feel that they can afford to leave incentive money on the table (or pay penalties).

So, these are the issues I wrestle with when I attach Max to my waistband every morning. I enjoy the motivation, I think companies should promote employee wellness, but I'm bothered by privacy and fairness concerns.

I already know, though, that tomorrow morning I'll clip Max on again.

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