Tech to Manage Employee Health Issues

Not every illness going around the office is contagious.

Contrary to popular belief, office work is not all ping pong games and views of the city. There are a slew of health problems linked to working a sedentary desk job 40 hours a week. Business owners seeking to help their staff counteract these issues are in luck! Today’s market offers health monitoring technology to help manage virtually every work-related ailment with more on the horizon. Business owners who introduce wellness technology into corporate culture will be rewarded with a happier, healthier, more productive staff (not to mention reduced health coverage costs!)

Working Conditions

Here are five common employee health issues, their corporate culprits, and the technological remedies business owners should look into (or invent):

  • Back Issues
    • Corporate Culprit: Sitting is bad for the spine. As Dr. Christine Keating of Ochsner Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation explains, "Sitting is one of the hardest things on our back because it puts more pressure on our discs.” So is slouching, which is bad news considering the average office worker spends approximately eight hours seated, hunched over a computer each day. Over time, this lifestyle can lead to serious back problems like degenerative disc disease, cervical osteoarthristis, or a cervical herniated disk.
    • High-Tech Help: Business owners tired of their office being mistaken for a bell tower can install posture monitoring software, Nekoze, into each employees’ computer. Nekoze spots self-made hunchbacks through a Mac computer’s iSight camera or an external webcam and reminds them to sit upright.
  • Stress/Mental/Emotional Issues
    • Corporate Culprit: Looming project deadlines. Conflicts with colleagues. It is no surprise that the majority of Americans cite their job as the primary source of their stress. Long term stress can manifest physically, in the form of a suppressed immune system, hypertension, and other life-threatening conditions.
    • High-Tech Help:  Fortunately, there are an abundance of apps that business owners can request employees use to record their moods. Not only does this policy benefit employees by making them more aware of their emotions, it can remind business owners how easily one’s overall perspective can be influenced by happenings at the office and prompt them to adjust company culture accordingly. A glaring downside to the use of mood apps at the office is that moods are of course, self-reported. An employee looking for a raise may log that they feel enthusiastic about projects that they truthfully feel overwhelmed by, etc… However, the future of mood tracking technology seems promising. Just as the aforementioned Nekoze can detect an end user’s poor posture, future computer software may be capable of reading the microexpressions that cross an employee’s face and determining their true feelings. This information would make the employee’s honest opinion of an assignment or other work-related situation transparent to their boss, providing insight into which leadership tactics elicit the best response and perhaps prompting some much-needed conversation.
  • Obesity
    • Corporate Culprit: As discussed earlier, office work consists mainly of sitting. This sitting is interrupted by a lunch break at the local fast food restaurant and maybe the occasional trip to the conference room for a cupcake in honor of a coworker’s birthday. Upon arriving home at 6 pm or 7 pm, it is too late to start washing lettuce and chopping a cucumber for a salad so it looks like Chinese takeout again. With a routine like this, it is easy to see how two out of five people report having gained weight since starting their present job. If the pattern of weight gain continues, one may become overweight or obese, greatly increasing their risk of diabetes, stroke, and a host of other serious diseases.
    • High-Tech Help:  Companies that care about the health of their staff have always encouraged employees to burn calories by exercising in their leisure time. Recent advancements in wearable technology have afforded directors of corporate wellness programs more creativity. For example, thousands of companies provide employees with FitBit tracking devices and award prizes like gift cards to the most active.
  • Dehydration
    • Corporate Culprit: The office water cooler has been looking fuller lately. In the not so distant past, people would use filling their cup at the water cooler as an excuse to chat with coworkers about current events, but the advent of social media means one can read their coworkers’ opinions on the weekend’s newsworthy happenings as they unfold. Combine the shift from the water cooler with the corporate world’s longstanding tradition of endless coffee and company happy hours (both coffee and alcohol are diuretics) and the office becomes a hotbed of chronic dehydration. An estimated 75% of Americans suffer from chronic dehydration, a condition thought to cause headaches, loss of focus, fatigue, and low mood. Imagine how much more American industry could accomplish if its workers drank the Institute of Medicine’s recommended daily minimum of ten cups of water!
    •  High-Tech Help: There are smart phones, smart cars, even smart homes, so a near future in which companies supply employees with smart cups that count the number of times they are filled with water with does not seem too far-fetched to envision.
  • Sleep Deprivation:
    • Corporate Culprit: Everyone functions better after a good night’s sleep, but a good night’s sleep is hard to come by for employees expected to rise early five days a week and occasionally work overtime. Indeed, one out of three United States workers suffers from sleep deprivation. This is not only bad for employees, who at best, think that they are Brad Pitt, and at worst, die. Tired workers hurt businesses. The average sleep-deprived employee spends 8.4 minutes of every hour staring off into space instead of being productive. Time is money and this behavior costs American companies a whopping $63.2 billion each year!
    • High-Tech Help: An increasing number of offices are eschewing the US glorification of exhaustion by installing rooms designed for employees to take naps in. It is easy to imagine the nap room becoming the most popular room in the office. Business owners looking to practice crowd control can ask employees to log their slumber style with a sleep tracking gadget or app to determine who needs a nap on which days.

Though the technological community remains light years away from developing a cure for a case of the Mondays, there is or there is soon to be a technological solution to most work-related health problems. Come to SLICE for updates on the ways in which technology is evolving to create healthier work environments!


By: Alannah Dragonetti

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