by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

  • Participating on a team of 4-5 members means you’re twice as likely to be successful than if you go it alone for almost any health behavior. Every few years we check the numbers and it’s always the same — voluntary participation with teams and buddies trumps the loners.
  • Out-front management support doesn’t seem to matter much. Organizations with quietly supportive management appear to have just as much success recruiting and retaining participants in quality wellness campaigns as those with the top people leading the charge… and sometimes more (view our SlideShare: Self-Fulfilling Fallacies of the Wellness Industry). Depending on management’s reputation among employees, visible wellness program participation can be a turn-on or turn-off. 
  • Social features — teams, buddies, messaging — matter a great deal even if the majority aren’t using it. Although not everyone actively engages, many say they benefit from others’ positive remarks and support.
  • The higher the financial reward/punishment stakes, the more tepid the end-of-program evaluations. If we set 100 comments from an organization without financial rewards next to 100 with rewards, it’s easy for our college interns to spot which is which. Those without rewards have higher praise for the program and their experience than those where money is on the line. And while the reward-rich companies get marginally higher completion rates, you certainly can’t feel the satisfaction, even joy, some share from accomplishing something significant because they wanted to.
  • Physical activity programs still rule the day. With or without wireless tracking devices, programs emphasizing exercise still get higher participation and completion rates than other health behaviors. But we’ve also seen a boost in success when specific healthy eating habits are paired with physical activity — a twofer if you will.
  • Seasonal campaigns are breaking all kinds of records, both in number of clients and percentage of participation. Hundreds of organizations are lining up for Spring Into Motion and Walktober (and soon, Health for the Holidays). And although our customers come from all over North America and other parts of the world, we’re seeing participants referencing their friends and neighbors (from different workplaces) in the campaign at the same time.
  • Site visits are averaging 3-5 minutes depending on the program and organization — right where we want it. It’s long enough for people to log activity, experience their progress, check on friends, and get a dose of healthy inspiration.
  • People love having fun at work. We review hundreds of thousands of participant evaluations and a recurring theme is fun: Participating as a team was so much fun… Seeing my progress along Route 66 was a blast… Our department had such a good time putting on Fresh Fruit Fridays… For the first time I had fun with exercise and felt like I was getting somewhere… So much of the workplace can be unfun that wellness managers really should take fun more seriously.

Take time to consider these lessons as you plan upcoming offerings.

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