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December 2018 – Edition 13

FITNESS TRACKERS: A HEALTH WARNING

In 2018 some 6 million workers worldwide will receive wearable fitness trackers as part of workplace wellness programs, according to ABI Research – a 200% increase over two years. In the US, a majority of these programs are offered on a voluntary basis: workers are incentivized to come on board by being given a free or discounted wearable tracker plus annual financial incentives that can range from $100 to more than $2000.

“Studies on how much fitness trackers actually contribute to better health and lower health care costs are for the moment inconclusive”

Wearable fitness devices track and record a wealth of personal information, ranging from movement (how many steps a day) and sleep patterns, to blood pressure and heartbeats per minute. Studies on how much fitness trackers actually contribute to better health and lower health care costs are for the moment inconclusive, and some even cast doubt on whether they are effective at all. Data privacy is an even more contentious issue. For example, if the US Congress ever repealed the Affordable Care Act, insurers could use the fitness data they’ve collected to deny an individual coverage based on a medical condition detected by a tracker.

In principle, getting more workers to monitor their own fitness sounds like a good idea – but one that needs to be treated with caution. The bottom line for the wellness industry: watch this space carefully and beware of the possible downside relating to privacy risks.

Thierry Malleret, Managing partner Well Intelligence

UAE: LESSONS IN HAPPINESS

The United Arab Emirates’ harsh treatment of a British PhD student accused of spying has highlighted the contradictions within a country that has been seeking to project a very different image.

Matthew Hedges was kept in solitary confinement for five months then sentenced to life imprisonment on the flimsiest of evidence after a five-minute trial. This, in a country that in February 2016 appointed a Minister of State for Happiness – subsequently upgraded to Happiness and Wellbeing – earning plaudits and positive PR from around the world. Hedges has since been pardoned and released, but the criticisms may not go away so easily.
Travel and tourism contributes 12.1% of UAE’s GDP, and for a country seeking to attract more and more international visitors, identifying happiness and wellbeing as a priority was seen as a progressive step.

“If ostensible commitment in the shop window is nothing more than lip service at the grass roots, it will harm the message”

But the seemingly unjustified punishment and treatment of Matthew Hedges has undermined the cultural picture carefully painted over recent years by the UAE government. The episode’s impact on the tourism market remains to be seen.
Why is this relevant to business generally?  Very simply, actions speak louder than words and if it appears that ostensible commitment in the shop window is nothing more than lip service at the grass roots, it will harm the message being communicated. Marketing is no longer so much a question of demographics, but of psychographics: what people dream of, what they like, what they trust and what they believe is right.

Peter Drucker famously said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. That’s a lesson neither business nor government should underestimate.

Anni Hood, Managing partner Well Intelligence

WAKING UP TO THE POWER OF SLEEP

The proof is irrefutable. In his book ‘Why we sleep’, Professor Matthew Walker from the University of California draws on evidence from 17,000 studies globally to show conclusively that the less you sleep, the shorter your life span. Walker used to believe, as many of us do, that getting good sleep is equally as important as the food we eat and the exercise we take; now he argues that sleep comes first.

All the other things we do in a bid for better health and wellbeing are a waste of time if we don’t sleep enough, he says. Lack of sleep means impaired body systems: at a cellular level, raised blood pressure, slowed cognitive function and depressed immunity. When half a million people from eight countries were tracked, those who slept less had a 45 per cent greater risk of dying from heart disease. Being able to perform optimally and be on top of your game means prioritising sleep.

“All the other things we do in a bid for better health and wellbeing are a waste of time if we don’t sleep enough”

In Japanese society, sleep has been traditionally deemed less worthy than wakefulness – it has been (and still is) seen as a commodity to be traded for something more valuable. But this is beginning to change. A Tokyo-based businessman who owns an upmarket wedding boutique called Crazy has decided to reward his team for sleeping longer. They need to prove (via technology) that they get at least six hours of sleep on all weekday nights in order to earn an additional $562 per year.

Whether you’re a hotelier, a travel specialist or managing people in the workplace, the quality of sleep of your guests, travellers or employees is a wellbeing premium that delivers commercially, productively and on many other levels. Do what you can to enhance it.

Anni Hood, Managing partner Well Intelligence

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