FitTech Insider

Corporate health: How does tech help, dear experts?

More and more companies are focusing on the health of their employees. The key role is played by new technologies.

No more commuting, work in your pajamas: Did you also have that home office euphoria at the beginning of the first lockdown? Today we know: Working from home is less relaxed than we thought. It starts with the kitchen chair, which is no substitute for high-quality office equipment. And ends with the often missing chat in the coffee kitchen.

"In the Corona pandemic, back illnesses have become more significant," confirms Andreas Storm, CEO of DAK-Gesundheit. "Lockdown and home office have drastically changed the working world. People remain motionless in front of screens for even longer periods, and work density is increasing in many industries. We see a higher level of tension in general, which obviously leads to an increase in days of absence due to back pain [...]." Techniker Krankenkasse also sees an increase in sick leave due to psychological diagnoses such as depression and anxiety disorders in 2020. Thus, statistically, each TK-insured employed person was on sick leave for almost three days last year due to a psychological diagnosis. "[...] With a share of around 20 percent, mental diagnoses thus account for the highest proportion of sick leave for the third year in a row [...]", says TK boss Dr. Jens Baas.

Health promotion via technology

Physique and psyche are suffering, and the topic of occupational health management (OHM) is thus becoming increasingly important for companies. But how does fitness reach employees in corona times? Answers lie in new technologies. "In a service provider survey conducted by the Bundesverband in June 2020, 77% of survey participants said they had developed new, primarily digital solutions," reports Oliver Walle, chairman of the Bundesverband Betriebliches Gesundheitsmanagement (BBGM). Natalia Karbasova is also observing this trend. She is CEO of FitTech Company, Europe's largest health and fitness technology congress. "Technology will continue to help establish healthy habits in all areas of life. In the Corona era, we need more than ever simple fitness concepts that connect people to their bodies in a sustainable way." For example?

Oliver Walle, chairman of BBGM: "77% of survey participants said they had developed new, primarily digital solutions." (@BBGM)

Tech solution 1: one platform, thousand studios

Providers such as Urban Sport Club are setting a trend: they are digital platforms that offer access to thousands of fitness- to yoga studios collected from many countries. One of the companies using such a platform is Delivery Hero, which employs over 2,000 people in Germany. Mirna Bley, Delivery Hero's Compensation and Benefits Manager explains: "We recognise our employees’ wellbeing needs through a holistic vision of physical, career, community, social and financial support. By raising their awareness on the importance of wellbeing (conscious wellbeing), we are able to provide tailored programs fitting their wishes and allowing people to make choices  - and that's where a flexible sports program come into play, improving many aspects of our colleague's wellbeing.

"Employees feel a subsidized sports program is an act of appreciation."

CEO Ben Roth: "Activities that promote mental and physical health and can be done in a small space at home were the main trend in Europe 2020 (@Urban Sports Club)

Benjamin Roth is one of the founders of Urban Sports Club. Through the platform, sports enthusiasts have access to around 50 sports in many thousands of studios in nine countries in Europe. How does an offer like this benefit companies in terms of employee health?

The offer is one thing, using it is another. What do you know about whether and how a broad sports bouquet from the employer is accepted?
The more the employer subsidizes, the more employees take advantage of the offerings. And when companies spend money, they want sports opportunities to be used. So they invest in internal marketing. In some companies, that's why the rate of active employees is 50 percent.

Low hurdles motivate. Why don't more people get active?
At the core is the company culture. If companies take health and fitness promotion seriously, employees sometimes spend a lunch break doing sports. Or it's considered normal to show up half an hour late for the morning yoga session. The key question is: How do companies integrate sports and fitness into everyday work?

What are the main benefits to you of companies that make an offer like yours available to their employees?
First, employer attractiveness: Companies place us as a benefit in job postings. Employees perceive a subsidized sports program as a sign of appreciation. Secondly, cohesion and health: Shared sports promote team spirit and are known to have a positive effect on physical and mental health.

What sports habits did you observe during the pandemic?
Basically, we notice that people are becoming more aware of health and sports. 2020, activities that promote mental and physical health and can be done in a small space at home were the main trend in Europe: Yoga, fitness exercises, Pilates, pole dancing, and dance.

Tech solution 2: Digital Gyms

In addition, Corona has given the gyms themselves a technology boost. While the global market for traditional gyms has grown by four percent annually in recent years, technology-enabled home exercise has seen a 40 percent growth rate over the same period. In general, this benefits fitness studios that can be found exclusively online - like Gymondo, a kind of Netflix for sports classes. Under the motto "Get fit at home," it offers its members the opportunity to do exactly the sport they feel like doing at any time. In addition, there are more and more fitness studios via an app. For example, Freeletics, where it is possible to individualize the workout and be guided by a computer coach - who adapts exercises to the progress and goals of his protégé.

Ulrich Jerichow, CEO of Vitascale: "Smart devices can not only measure performance but also improve it through intelligent coaching functions." (@vitascale)

Tech solution 3: Small devices

New gadgets also help with the workout. The intelligent Straffr fitness band uses sensors to measure every movement during a workout. The Moonbird (How can your device help us to relax, we asked the CEO) tool is held comfortably in the hand: Through contraction, it provides the user with the right breathing rhythm, which helps to calm down and reduce stress. Those who wear the Vitascale headset while exercising receive information about their metabolic activity and can use it to optimize their diet and workouts - all based on individual breathing. "Healthy employees are the engine and performance factor of long-term thinking companies. Smart devices can not only measure performance but also improve it through intelligent coaching functions," says Ulrich Jerichow, CEO of Vitascale.

Tech solution 4: Motivation through interactions

The TicTrac platform has recognized that sports are the most fun when done together. It has fitness challenges on the agenda that are contested with colleagues, because "the key to successful health management is social interaction," says Martin Blinder, founder and CEO of TicTrac, on the FitTech Company's digital talk show. For example, there is a bike challenge in which a kilometer goal must be cycled together. Teams from different companies(parts) compete. Each team is connected via an app and can cheer each other on. This strengthens the sense of togetherness and supports the daily sports routine.

The future of digital corporate health: Healthy employees, healthy companies

Conclusion: How sensible is it for companies to invest in digital fitters? According to Ärzteblatt, employee health can be a decisive competitive factor. This is shown by an analysis of Asklepios Kliniken with the management consultancy Roland Berger. According to the study, company health management offers significant added value: fluctuation decreases by 40 percent, turnover per employee increases by 11 percent, and share value by as much as 76 percent. The study conducted by the Urban Sports Club together with the opinion research institute YouGov showed similar results: Every third manager surveyed (37%) - in whose companies benefits such as sports programs were introduced - stated that employees were more motivated and that a strengthening of the team cohesion was noticeable. One in four (25%) also reported an increased willingness to perform (1). Investing in the health of employees can therefore pay off - whether we work at home or in the office.

(1) As part of the study, 1,000 employers and HR employees of a company size of at least 10 employees were surveyed in Germany. The survey was conducted from April 15-22, 2021.