EveryMove White Paper
To Get Your Wellness Program Moving,
You'll Have to Start Doing a Lot Less
6 problems you may not be seeing,
6 solutions that may surprise you,
and 1 change you can make
that will get your people moving,
save your sanity, and
help you crush your business goals.
By Russell Benaroya
Let's Postpone the Surgery Talk
In early 2015, the FDA approved an implantable device that blocks communication between the brain and the stomach to curb signals of hunger.
Is this what the country has come to?
Have we really reached the point where we are so unhealthy that the only thing that will save us is a surgically inserted device that sends an electrical pulse to the vagus nerve so it can blind your brain from your gastrointestinal tract?
Maybe we have reached that point.
Productivity loss through presenteeism (coming to work sick with colds, headaches, back pain, and the like) and absenteeism (not coming to work at all) is costing employers an estimated $344 billion a year.
Something is deeply wrong with American wellness. What we're doing isn't working.
But can we let go of the surgery talk, at least for a bit?
Instead, let's take a fresh look at the problem and see if there's a healthier way forward.
6 Problems, 6 Solutions
Problem 1. We're not sure what "wellness" means
The word "wellness" has come to signify "screening" and "static accumulation of information."
Most companies can deliver these things. The problem is that "screening" and "static accumulation of information" are meaningless.
Solution 1: Redefine it
Think of wellness as "activation" and "engagement," because these words actually correspond to the health of the employee.
(Even "engagement" needs clarifying. More on that below.)
Problem 2: Wellness programs are too top-heavy
In an era where technology is giving more control directly to consumers, wellness is locked in the dungeon of employer control.
Which is why it's failing.
We don’t really need to hear from employers, insurance companies, or doctors that we ought to be more physically active. We all know that.
We don’t need to read more content about the benefits of being active. We all know that, too.
What we need are peer groups with whom we can share successes and challenges, and to whom can be accountable.
Solution 2: Lighten up
The good news is that technology enables businesses to meet employees on their terms in a way that works for their life -- both inside and outside the workplace.
Here are four changes employers need to make.
1. Get out of the wellness-implementation business
Implementations should be rapid, oversight minimal, costs reasonable, and results transparent. Move quickly to learn and iterate.
2. Meet your employees where they are
Consumers (aka "your employees") are fickle. So give them the independence to do the activities they like, on their apps, with their friends. Let them do it when they want, and where they want.
3. Do less
Show me a popular consumer service that tried to be all things to all people and I’ll show you a service that failed.
Stop trying to solve for stress, nutrition, physical activity, sleep, etc. Instead, pick one and commit.
Nothing beats a simple message and a clear focus.
4. Separate your HRA/biometric compulsion from engagement
Let’s be honest -- health risk assessments and biometric testing are trying to solve an employer problem, not an employee one.
If you need to run these static evaluations then do. But don't bundle them with engagement.
Problem 3: The usual incentives don't work
According to a Report to Congress on Workplace Wellness ...
... over 50% of companies with 50 or more employees offer some kind of wellness program with incentives.
According to a Rand study ...
.... participation in wellness programs is 21%.
Paying to induce engagement is short-sighted and doesn't work.
Solution 3: Some incentives DO work
Applying monetary rewards to tasks that have no intrinsic value (like filling out forms) is simply cash out the door. People remember the “experience” of a reward or prize much more if it isn’t tied to just cash. So consider incentives that are “priceless,” like donations to a charity or lunch with the CEO.
Problem 4: Data, meh
Data is boring.
Knowing that you walked 10,000 steps today or burned 3,000 calories might be interesting for a day, but long-term, who cares? Besides, most fitness trackers still silo data, so it not inherently social.
Solution 4: Data needs to serve a story
Data reporting alone won't improve the health of millions of people. Stories will. So data needs to help tell the story of a person's (or a team's) fitness journey.
There is no stronger influence in a person’s life than the power of a story from someone they admire, trust, cheer for, or aspire to be.
Problem 5: Social alone won't get you there
Does social mean likes and comments? The ability to invite friends? Share a photo? Cheer on others? See a leaderboard? Share to Facebook and Twitter? All of the above?
"Check the box" social is futile. Creating a bunch of features that seemingly encourage interaction is pandering to the perception of what an employer or health plan wants but absolutely does not address the interest or need of the employee or the member.
The problem is that most wellness companies build for the employer experience, not for the employee.
Did you know that there are over 100 million photos that have been tagged with #fitness or #workout on Instagram (compared to 49 million for #cats and 23 million for #beer)?
People want to share their active lifestyles, but social alone lacks purpose and context.
Solution 5: Remember the why
Social as a term is wildly overplayed in health and wellness because it is embraced at the feature level, not at the “why” level. Social is very complicated to execute, since you are trying to mimic real-world social engagement in a digital-world way.
It's important that health plans and employers think harder about why they believe social is important, what they are trying to achieve, and how the solution they are evaluating will help them reach their goal(s).
Here are some of the key considerations when evaluating social in digital health and wellness:
What does social help employees discover? Can they find a fitness plan? Can they figure out which device/app to purchase? Can they find the best place to hike on a Sunday afternoon? Can they find workout buddies?
2. The viral loop
What steps does an employee engage in before inviting others to come and participate? There has to be a compelling hook so that inviting others is in the employee's best interest, as well as the person they invite.
3. Embrace voyeurism
90% of us are voyeurs on social. 9% of us interact with content. 1% of us actively share content. The point is that social is as much passive as it is active engagement. It is important that social embraces the voyeur, since they may be looking for inspiration, not interaction.
4. Create a sense of belonging
Social works when people build community -- when they find their tribe. With wellness, this type of engagement happens offline all the time. Online, the key is to look for ways in which smaller groups can form and connect more intimately. It may also be that these groups include people that aren’t employees. Look at solutions that can accommodate friends/family as well.
5. Build abundant feedback loops
Building social features on an app is not nearly as hard as building the feedback loops that trigger responses from people. Email is still an incredibly powerful client. So is text messaging. Wellness programs can improve dramatically by taking advantage of communication platforms that keep the program visible and personalized.
Problem 6: We're not sure what "engagement" means
Not all engagement is created equal. Over 90 percent of wellness companies say they are above-average on engagement. Ask them what they mean.
Is it signing up for a program? Is it sticking with a program? For how long? Do you count engagement if someone is paid to fill out a form? Exercise is a lot different from filling out a health risk assessment. Yet we call both activities "engagement."
Engagement is the wrong metric. It masks what you should really care about
Solution 6: Focus
So how do you wade through the concept of engagement and find a metric you can hang your hat on, report on, and build on?
1. Do one thing and do it well
Offering more programs (diet, fitness, stress, sleep, smoking, etc.) is not the answer. Do one thing well.
2. Get good data
Engagement is not someone manually entering their steps on the last day of a quarter so they can claim their $50. With technology being pushed to the consumer in the form of tracking wearables and apps, look for programs that help you analyze data as a better proxy that action is actually occurring.
3. Measure action
Engagement implies something happening over time but filling out forms or getting a diagnostic test does not constitute engagement. That’s participation.
If you offer programs then yes, you want maximum participation. But the really important metric is action -- is this employee doing things aligned with your goals (a healthier workforce, lower costs, competitive advantage, recruiting advantage, camaraderie and culture, etc. ...)?
Decide what action means to you. Then evaluate your program on that.
1 Change to Make Right Now
Your wellness program needs to harness the power of wearables
When fitness tracking and social converge, you have the makings for sustainable change.
On one hand you, have data that can chart a journey toward a purpose.
On the other hand you have a community driven to support you, motivate you, and hold you accountable.
Employers and health plans need to stop being communicators and start being facilitators. Let employees create the content. Let them communicate.
It’s a shift in thinking, but it works. The power of peer-to-peer engagement is the holy grail. And used appropriately, wearable devices can help lead you there -- if they help people build relationships.
Here are four ways wearables can do just that.
1. Wearables drive purpose
People don’t pursue an active lifestyle without purpose. It may be to train for an event, to be happy, to keep up with their kids, to be around for their grandchildren, to test their limits, or to reach a goal. Purpose attracts people to other people, and wearable data helps tell a the story of that purpose.
2. Wearables help attract support
People want to cheers others toward a meaningful goal. Nobody is going to cheer someone else's 10,000th step, but they will cheer the completion of a 5K, or a long hike, or losing 20 pounds.
3. Wearables help people find their tribe
Wearable tech acts like a beacon, projecting a person's interests, actions, and attributes out to the people that they want to connect to. People can find their tribes just by being themselves.
4. Wearables help people become their best selves
The influencers of wearable tech are the doers, the people that are demonstrating a commitment to health and fitness. You might think that these are the people that will be the show-offs and looking for recognition, but the opposite is true. Wearable tech will spotlight the motivators, the inspirers, the mentors -- the people that will help the rest of us be at our best.
Wearable fitness tech is the beginning of a new type of digital conversation that has the potential to transform the role of health in America.
Make sure your wellness program takes advantage of the power of wearable devices: they serve the employee first, they can unlock the story of a fitness journey, and they can bring people together around exercise.
Then turn your people loose. You'll be amazed at what they accomplish.
Appendix: 2 Checklists
You don't need another health insurance company, employer, or doctor telling you to move more or eat better. And you don’t need manufactured "tribes" in the workplace.
What you need is a network of people you trust who will help you reach your goals.
Here's how to activate yours:
1. Know you are good enough.
Most people don’t feel worthy and are afraid of being rejected. Fine. Acknowledge the fear and then take action anyway. You ARE good enough.
2. Ask your tribe to support you.
That’s right. Ask them. Say: “I’m trying to lose 20 pounds and I could really use your support.” or “I’m going to run a 5K. Will you join me?”
3. Be transparent.
Make it easy for them to see your progress. Wearable tech and fitness tracking applications help.
4. Share a goal.
Ask people to join you. Let their goal became your goal.
When you reach your goal, the tribe wins. Celebrate together.
The question is: How do you make employer-sponsored fitness programs appealing so people participate and benefit?
Here are five ways.
1. Don’t call it fitness.
Call it "movement."
The word "fitness" implies that someone is intentionally undertaking a workout regimen. It implies scheduling. It implies extra work. But the main problem is just getting people moving.
Movement is approachable. Movement can happen everywhere. Movement allows for creativity and fun.
2. Use the tech people are already using.
The statistics around the adoption of activity tracking devices and apps is astounding.
It is estimated that 20% of consumers have a tracker today and that will grow to 40% by 2017. Figure out what they use (or want to use) and find programs that will accommodate different device.
3. Embrace the power of the tribe.
Active lifestyles are benefiting from social in new and exciting ways. Technology is making it easier to coordinate, communicate, and collaborate around movement.
Digitizing the water cooler talk is powerful. Most people don’t need to be paid to connect with people they are interested in.
4. Make it inclusive.
Most wellness programs tend to target the people that need it most. That makes sense on one level but if you can’t get the people that would naturally be engaged (those already moving) then it’s hard to imagine that the least engaged would adopt.
A program needs to be cool enough for the existing movers and welcoming enough for the less-inclined.
5. Be available anywhere.
Most people are equipped with a smartphone today to access apps on their Android or iOS phone(s). This is the technology medium for which people want to engage. Any sustainable program around activity must be available on mobile devices.
6. Create meaningful incentives.
Incentive programs that just offer gift cards are useless.
Consider incentives that are “priceless” like donations to a charity or lunch with the CEO.
About the Author
Russell Benaroya is the CEO of EveryMove, a fitness tracking program and application that connects people to their active lifestyles in a way that is transforming how personal health and healthcare are perceived, delivered, and accessed.
Learn more at everymove.org.