How To Use Social Gaming To Make Your Workplace Wellness Program Competitive

One of the biggest challenges organizations face when implementing a workplace wellness program is getting employees to actually participate. Recently, companies have turned to gaming to make the programs more of a social event.

This approach encourages participation, incentivizes employees and rewards them for making healthy choices. By creating a sense of healthy competition (pun intended), companies are using games to get employees to kick their bad habits and make better choices throughout their work day.

Anything you can do, I can do better

Everyone likes a good old-fashioned competition every now and then, and the same goes for wellness programs. Companies have created websites where their employees can go to sign up, organize and track program participation. Some companies encourage employees to form online teams of up to six players and then compete to earn points by eating better, working out more, or managing stress.

You will find that the competitive spirit catches on quickly. In a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article, the city of Charlotte, N.C. discussed the passion their employees had for their wellness program. The six-week challenge required employees to log their workouts online and departments competed for the highest score. Very quickly good-hearted “trash talk” between departments took over email and hallway conversation, motivating employees even more. The competition resulted in double the participation from years past and nearly 10,000 hours of exercise logged.

Some companies incentivize their employees by offering money or rewards in the form of office perks or extra vacation days to the best players or teams. However, experts say the results are the same when the only prize is bragging rights. By turning the program into a game or series of games, employees find it easy, social and fun to be healthy.

Drop you like a bad habit

Encouraging employees to take care of themselves is easier said than done. Studies show that companies cite workers’ bad habits as the biggest challenge to keeping health benefits affordable. Among these habits are smoking, drinking and not taking the proper preventative medication.

Remember when you were young and the only way your mom could get you to take your vitamins was if they were the fruitflavored Flintstones kind? Well, for some adults, the pill-taking habit never caught on. Beyond poor diet and lack of exercise, one of the biggest drivers of health costs is individuals who don’t take their medicine for chronic conditions like high blood pressure or cholesterol.

To help combat this, some companies are implementing incentives programs to get staffers to take their medication. As part of the program, employees are rewarded with points when they refill prescriptions and log on to record taking their daily dose. By working towards the goal of breaking these bad habits, employees find themselves encouraging one another to keep up the good work. 

Let’s get this program started

Have you considered social gaming to encourage participation in your company’s health and wellness program? To get you started, here are a few ideas for promoting healthy & social competition at your organization:

  1. Make it a team sport. The more social the program is the more likely employees will be willing to participate and to follow through. There’s no better driver than the support of teammates.
  2. Track employees’ progress. Whether it’s a whiteboard in the office break room or a website, tracking employee progress has proven to be a fun and motivational component to wellness programs. Tracking progress encourages competition without forcing workers to get too personal and helps build team spirit.
  3. Set goals and encourage one another. Nothing is more important in a workplace wellness program than encouragement. No matter how big or small the goal, when employees work together, the process of achieving that goal creates a better work environment that transcends the wellness program.
  4. Incentivize participation with rewards. Depending on the size of your workforce, you could offer a big incentive like a free trip or a modest reward like extra vacation days or $5 movie gift cards. Either way, goals are easier to achieve when there is something special waiting for you across the finish line.

Are you a business owner, human resources director, wellness program director or employee benefits coordinator? Check out our “Leading Michigan to a Healthier Future” discussion group on LinkedIn.

Cindy Bjorkquist is director of Wellness, Care Management and Health Promotion Program Development for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

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