Gamifying Workplace Wellness Programs

Posted by Laura Silverman, KERA News

March 7, 2014; 11:30 AM

ESI morning walkers working their way around the building

Courtesy of Laura Silverman, KERA News

Workplace wellness is already a six-billion-dollar-a-year industry, and it’s growing. Employers are searching for programs that are both good for the beltline and the bottom line. The result? They’re gamifying corporate wellness programs. 

Traditionally, the role of HR has been to prevent people from playing games at work, but the gamification of health and wellness programs – adding rules, rewards, games and social networking, has changed that. Companies like ESI, a global communications service provider based in Plano, are embracing new health wellness programs that feature points systems and competition.

“The people you least expect to participate do,” says ESI Human Resources Director Becki Veal.

Points For Play

At the end of 2011, ESI joined a corporate wellness program called Sonic Boom. The main feature is an activity tracker, like a pedometer, you attach to your sneaker. 

The more active you are the more points you get. And points aren’t just good for virtual trophies.

“If they’ve hit 2,000 points within a five-month period,” Veal says, “You go into a drawing for two days off. And that motivates people because who doesn’t love a day off.”

Becki Veal has been Director of Human Resources at ESI for nearly two decades. She say’s the new health wellness program, Sonic Boom, has motivated people to get fit.

There are also competitions among companies that use Sonic Boom in other states, and a feature called “Caught Ya Bein’ Healthy” — where you go online to send a message to a coworker who you saw doing something healthy, like grabbing an apple instead of a candy bar.

Tracking Who’s On Top

On the Sonic Boom website, people’s steps and activities are tracked and uploaded to an interactive site that features a list of top performers.

The man in spot number one, who goes by the code name ‘so close, so far’ averages around 25,000 steps a day.

Veal says even though most people use code names – everyone pretty much knows who’s who.

Every day, employees at ESI have the chance to take a walk with coworkers in the morning and afternoon. The walk takes twenty minutes, about 2,200 steps.

Since “so close but so far” started walking, he’s lost about sixty pounds.

- See more at breakthroughs.kera.org

Topics: corporate wellness