Put the FitBit Down: Why You Shouldn’t Use Wearables to Monitor Employees’ Health

by Evil HR Lady on May 9, 2014

I wear a FitBit and compete with my friends for the most number of steps each week. But, it’s only a friendly competition and meant only to encourage us to be a bit healthier. But what it if it wasn’t friends encouraging friends, but your boss? And the reward wasn’t the satisfaction of knowing you walked 10,000 more steps than Karen and Eleanora, but that your health insurance premiums were lower?

No one wants to pay more for health insurance premiums, but is using wearable devices to monitor your employees’ health really a good option?

Some companies think so. Forbes reports that petroleum giant BP uses FitBit data to grant discounts on health insurance rates. And we’ve reported on companies like Global Corporate Challenge that will help you set up competitions among employees to encourage their overall “wellness.”

Some people love it. Especially those who get to shell out less cash for health insurance. But, there is a dark side to the collection and use of all this data. Here’s why you should reconsider (literally) tracking your employees every step:

To keep reading, click here: Put the FitBit Down: Why You Shouldn’t Use Wearables to Monitor Employees’ Health

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeanne May 9, 2014 at 7:53 pm

I didn’t know this was happening. There was a period of a few years that I was very sick with an illness. I came to work and did very well (desk job) but when I got home all I could do was rest. I would have gotten about 30 steps in. Who knows what they would have thought of me.

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Elizabeth West May 10, 2014 at 5:22 am

I don’t want one of these things anywhere near me. I don’t even weigh myself–it’s certain I don’t want my employer knowing all that. We do those bio-checks every year to lower our premiums, and I’ll do that, but I refuse to let them weigh me. That’s nobody’s business but mine.

FWIW, I’ve been working out like a mad thing (on the stairs at work!) to lose a little extra weight, and I’m actually quite healthy overall.

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Tana May 10, 2014 at 11:27 pm

This is a disaster for people with body image disorders and the disabled. The whole point of insurance is to spread risk around, and if you discount for everyone who is able bodied you’re discriminating. And that could possibly be a labour violation of some sort. You’re not supposed to treat your disabled employees differently to the able ones and if they’re incapable psychologically or physically to do that…I can see the lawsuits lining up.

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Kim May 11, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Exactly. It’s a back door to discrimmination. By rewarding people for their level of physical activity outside of work, you’re indirectly discrimminating against people who can’t be as physically active. This could be due to a disability, a busy schedule (caring for children or elders, other responsibilties) or any number of factors which are none of the employer’s business. The number of steps someone logs could be affected by where they live, norms within their culture, and many other things that wouldn’t come to mind at first.

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Anon May 12, 2014 at 11:28 am

Not to mention the fact that these things are notoriously inaccurate for larger folks. I know for me, personally, every step I take results in a pedometer recording approximately 6 or 7 steps. So, hey, I might win despite actually being physically disabled, but it’s not actually telling you anything useful about my health habits (nor do I think that’s any of my workplace’s business, anyway!).

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