Taking steps towards better health

SAP employees, some wearing fitness trackers, exercising at the company's UFit bootcamp, which is held on Mondays.
SAP employees, some wearing fitness trackers, exercising at the company's UFit bootcamp, which is held on Mondays. PHOTO: SAP

Ms Irene Chui is chauffeured to her office in Pasir Panjang. But she is thinking of asking her husband to stop doing this as it has caused her to "lose" walking 2,000 steps a day.

The 50-year-old employee engagement specialist at German software maker SAP aims to make an extra $100 every three months for walking at least 8,000 steps a day.

She estimated that she will walk 1,000 steps, one way, if she commutes by public transport from her home to her workplace.

She was one of more than 300 workers at SAP's Singapore office who signed up for a new wellness and welfare programme, which started on Oct 1.

SAP has developed an application that analyses data from employees' wearable fitness devices, tracking the cumulative steps, the average number of steps per day, the distance covered and the total number of participants.

"The idea came about when we thought about combining the mobile technology that we take to the market with the idea of helping to improve the health of the staff," said Mr Scott Russell, SAP chief operating officer for Asia Pacific Japan.

Within 10 days of its launch, the SAP office was abuzz with workers discussing how many steps they had taken, or whether rowing a dragon boat would be picked up by the fitness devices as "steps" taken.

"Many of us are pushing figures, in terms of the number of steps we take, not sales figures, though," quipped Ms Chui.

The dragon-boater, who is part of SAP's dragon-boating team, is happy to note that her wearable fitness device was clicking away during a recent practice session.

"Getting $400 more a year, by just being more active, is quite good," she said. And she is well on track to meet the daily target with her active lifestyle.

By the end of December - the three-month mark - all participating employees will each gain $100 in their flexible spending accounts if they meet the target.

As part of staff benefits, every SAP employee in Singapore has a flexible spending account, which has at least $700 to start with.

The money in the account can be used to pay for electronic products, such as the wearable fitness devices, overseas holidays, insurance premiums for family members and even childcare fees.

Another employee, Mr Rahul Mainkar, 31, said this is a programme that could help build friendships across departments.

"We can see who the top 10 people on the leaderboard are, and we can get to know more people through this," said the presales manager for Asia Pacific Japan.

SAP Singapore has budgeted for 30 per cent of the 1,300-man workforce here to take part, but Mr Russell noted that he could well end up with a "budget problem", given the high participation rate so far.

"Over the past few days, I noticed that there's much more traffic congestion on the stairs in our building," he said.

"Everyone is trying to clock more mileage by taking the stairs."

Singapore is SAP's pilot country to kick-start the programme.

The company plans to roll out similar programmes in Australia and New Zealand by early next year, followed by Japan, South Korea and the rest of South-east Asia within next year.

The programme in its current form is slated to last for two years.

Chong Koh Ping

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2015, with the headline Taking steps towards better health. Subscribe