Henry Albrecht, CEO of Limeade, Inc., suggests that incorporating gaming techniques into company wellness programs exponentially ups engagement, a key ingredient to wellness program success. Limeade is an enterprise wellness platform that builds happy, healthy, high-performance workforces. “Beyond their ability to entertain, games are now recognized for their potential to produce benefits outside the game itself. Steven Berlin Johnson, author of Everything Bad is Good For You, notes, for example, that immersion in video games can enhance cognitive and spatial skills. Game designer Jane McGonigal, author of Reality is Broken, suggests that much of what people do in their daily lives could be enhanced by turning it into a game. The result is a rise in the ‘gamification’—addition of a light overlay of gaming concepts like points, badges, and levels—of ever more areas of our lives,” stated Henry. “Games have the power to engage people at a deep level and shift their priorities toward the behaviors rewarded by the game. As such, businesses are increasingly using games to train employees. When used in the context of a company-sponsored wellness program, games have the power to enable players to achieve lasting effects,” Henry continued. Henry identifies three ways company-sponsored wellness programs can use and benefit from using gaming techniques. Allow for autonomy and voluntary participation According to Jane McGonigal (Everything Bad is Good For You) four core elements define a game:
- a goal
- voluntary participation
- a system of feedback
The first two may seem in conflict with a company-sponsored wellness program, given that companies have their own objectives and are accustomed to being able to tell employees what to do. But traditional wellness programs often fail to achieve lasting change using a heavy-handed reliance on high incentives to drive goals passed down by the company from on high. The most successful wellness programs incorporate games that present themselves as in the service of the player. These are activities supported by technologies that enable individuals to engage in things they’ve personally wanted to do, but were never able to adequately prioritize in the short term. Make it contextual, relevant, and social Games don’t exist in a vacuum; they succeed or fail within the physical, cultural, technological, and social context of their players. A game that works for active employees of high-performance, dispersed companies like REI may be very different from one that works for healthcare employees within a single setting, such as Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, or a diverse group of businesses, each with their particular mix of employees, such as those reached by Independent Health, a leading health plan. Incorporating game techniques into a company wellness program requires a flexible system that enables leaders within the company—those who know the context of each workplace and each office—to become ‘associate game designers’ and create games that are easily accessed, participated in, and tracked by all. Relevant also means social—designed to put each player in contact with people they already know and interact with regularly. Start with a light touch; build in depth The games must be easy to play and entertaining. Not everyone in the workplace is looking to interact with their company wellness program every day; demand too much early on, and you’ll overwhelm participants with too much change. As behavior change expert BJ Fogg instructs, “Reward the simplest behavior that matters.” At the same time, it’s important to build in the thoughtfully-designed triggers and feedback loops that progressively draw players in, and ultimately assist in real habit formation. “While debate continues about social gaming’s ability to drive lasting behavior change, a growing number of companies can attest to the power of games—when included in a comprehensive customized wellness program— to drive engagement that yields results for their employees and their bottom line,” concluded Henry. About Limeade Limeade is an enterprise wellness platform that builds happy, healthy, high-performance workforces. Limeade provides a refreshing alternative to traditional, antagonistic wellness approaches, and connects all wellness programs in an integrated, cohesive user experience. Limeade clients include Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For, healthcare providers, and large, high-performance employers. Additional information about Limeade may be found at www.limeade.com.