It’s Game On in the World of Workplace Wellness

Have you heard of Virgin HealthMiles? Shape Up the Nation? Limeade?

How about Redbrick Health? Keas or MeYou Health?

It’s likely a few of these are familiar, if not more. They’re all companies providing workplace wellness solutions with some level of game mechanics. Game mechanics use different responses to reinforce and guide choices. They’re meant to engage an audience and to keep that audience hooked.

With Foursquare, as an example, it’s badges and status. You check into a place (choice) and earn badges (response). You elevate your badge level from newbie to mayor (response) the more times you check in (choice). The desire to earn badges and the related social status drive you to check in more frequently.

Using games to help push healthier habits

With workplace wellness, game mechanics strive to make the hard fun, the undesirable desirable. That’s why more workplace wellness companies are latching on to the concept. They’re seeing the promise in motivating employees with rewards, status and other responses to do everything from exercise a bit more, eat a little better or sleep a tad longer to find control at work and develop a hobby. With the launch of Keas’ enterprise solution this month and the impending announcement that MeYou health is targeting employers, too, I think we’ve just witnessed workplace wellness shift tack. It’s “game on.”

Each of these solutions works slightly differently. Virgin HealthMiles uses wearable devices and a guided process to increase a person’s physical movement. employees earn rewards as they reach new levels of activity. Virgin also relies on social accountability and communication to keep people’s feet to the pavement.

Shape Up the Nation follows a similar approach, though they’re expanding their 10-week team challenge to a full-year calendar of activities and competitions. In this way, they’ll echo Limeade’s more customizable solution, which allows employers and employees to use Limeade’s existing programs and to add activities that better reflect their goals and priorities.

Like the other workplace solutions, employees are rewarded with social support and incentives for a job well done. not having demoed and not having a client that uses Redbrick Health, I’m least familiar with it. From publicly available information, it appears to follow the same format of personalized solutions, team interaction and individual rewards. Keas also lets users drive their experience, selecting personal health goals that are then team-supported and rewarded based on achievement.

It’s MeYou health that falls outside the fold. As of this writing, MeYou health, a Healthways Inc. subsidiary, is still a consumer product. They’re planning to announce their enterprise solution soon. Until then, we won’t know which of their available products will be available to employers. It’s a safe bet that their “Daily Challenge” will be. It delivers daily micro-challenges to all users, allowing them to self-select which they want to make. These, along with community exchange and, again, badges are meant to grab people’s interest and spur them on from small lifestyle changes to larger ones.

Some evidence of sustained behavior change

This is the ever-present hurdle with workplace wellness. What will keep people on track?

Each of these solutions shares strong results. Shape Up the Nation and Virgin HealthMiles, two of the more mature companies, have evidence of sustained behavior change. But here, even with the rewards, recognition, and social accountability, today’s workplace wellness solutions have an albatross—wholesomeness. Don’t be fooled into thinking health games are by nature wholesome.

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Hopelab’s Re-Mission is a first-person shooter game à la Call of Duty: Black Ops. With these workplace wellness solutions, the wholesome factor may be because of the audience they’re geared to, on many levels.

First, there’s the employer. When employers shy away from social channels, it’s hard to imagine them embracing games that feel too, well, game-like. Creators of workplace wellness solutions have to be considering this when they’re designing their approach. Second, there’s the mass audience these solutions are targeting. They’re built for everyone in a company, and that can span Millennials to Baby Boomers.

It’s challenging to create an approach that’ll appeal to this broad spectrum of individuals and the health challenges they face. Still, workplace wellness solutions need to figure out how to shed the good-for-you image. We may want the gains associated with healthier choices, but choosing to “avoid high-fat dairy” and “eat only healthy snacks” has a granola-crunching Pollyanna-ishness to it that’s undesirable. Health in general needs a makeover — but that’s a post for another day.

For now, let’s close by noting that the prevalence of workplace wellness companies offering solutions with game mechanics should make other workplace wellness providers, including insurers, quake in their boots. It’s no longer sufficient to provide health libraries and attention-must-not-be-paid webinars on how to get your five fruits a day.

Today’s consumer — and we want employees to be health care consumers, right? — are more sophisticated, more easily distracted, and more apt to move on to the next best thing. We need to bring it. Game on.

This was originally published on Fran Melmed’s Free-Range Communication blog.

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4 Comments on “It’s Game On in the World of Workplace Wellness

  1. There is no doubt that engaging employees with games provides motivation to encourage physical activity. Walkingspree, similar to Shape Up the Nation and Virgin Healthmiles, also offers a game/challenge concept for corporations. Employees can participate in either competitive concept games or collaborative style games all within a social networking environment. One of Walkingspree’s clients, American Financial Group, used this model well and experienced a $9.23 ROI savings for every $1.00 invested. They had biometric data, validated activity data providing evidence based results. What’s interesting is that game/challenges and incentives often bring people in the door, but it’s not what continues to motivate them in the long term, rather instead survey results show their motivations often switch to primarily health reasons.

    1. Thanks for sharing about Walkingspree. There’s no doubt we’ll be seeing many more social wellness companies using social influence, game mechanics and other innovations to “trip” people into health. 

      Regards, 
      fran  

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