Back to leadership Contact Us

Playing Games at Work

Thought Leadership

We live in a world surrounded by gamification. Your step tracker measures exercise. An app tracks water consumption and meals for “badges.” LinkedIn provides an update on how many searches you’ve appeared in. Instagram reports how many people liked the photo you took of last night’s pasta dinner at a new restaurant. And if you are really lucky, maybe you get an alert that you have almost enough points to book that trip to Hawaii. That’s all before you get to work.

It’s only natural that these concepts have crept into the workplace. Early forms of gamifying performance reviews were only truly effective with good managers, regular check-ins, and honest face-to-face feedback – most didn’t support all three effectively.

But here are a few ideas for the HR team where gamification can lead to increased employee engagement and good health.

Every Step Counts
Most employees are already tracking their activity using a phone or some sort of wearable. Why not sync steps up to the company’s health savings account with real-time data? Employees are motivated to move more when accomplishing those goals leads to CASH. This is a cost-effective way to add money into an employee’s health savings account while promoting movement. Encourage employees to do walking meetings to achieve their step goals which can spur actual dialogue vs. emails and messaging. That’s a win- win.

Get on Track
The same step tracker that syncs up to the health savings account can be tied to a wellness app that promotes healthy habits and provide healthy competition. This works exceptionally well in cultures of high performance and core values emphasizing a winning spirit. Logging into the wellness app to see how an individual’s steps compare to a colleague’s is definitely a motivator and if a monthly goal is hit, employees can be eligible for more prizes. Health challenges can include everything from brushing and flossing to doing Zumba or calf raises. Having a month dedicated to “beat the chiefs” can really inspire motivation – challenge your employees to beat your C-level executives for a month-long step challenge.

Be the Cheerleader
These types of programs will only be successful if there is a champion (person or a team) to help keep the games alive. The best candidates are people who are passionate about their own health and can help inspire others. This responsibility may sit within HR or perhaps it’s a wellness committee that is responsible for coming up with fresh ideas. It’s also helpful to have executive support. The “beat the chiefs” game mentioned above is an excellent way to get the execs involved and keep them connected to the programs. Or have one of the chiefs do the monthly drawing for prizes.

Measure for Success
Having your wellness initiatives tied to your health savings account gives you a clear way to measure success. Work with your health plan reps and your insurance broker to obtain monthly or quarterly progress reports for contributions to the health savings accounts. Communicate the broad results out to the team to create goals for the next period. Consider publishing the names of everyone who met the monthly goal and do a drawing for a gift card or health-related swag. This continues the drive for competition and also gives the employee a direct line to seeing their own success. Bragging rights are always a good reward.

So, does gamification at work…work? For employee engagement and wellness initiatives, absolutely. Companies are seeing increased deposits into health savings accounts, more walking meetings, exercise sessions that inevitably spur collaboration, and a lot of celebrating when employees collect their prizes. More cash for employees, more healthful habits being built, and more open communication across the company – playing games at work is definitely working.

Next article


Thought Leadership


In Today’s Media Marketplace, Clout Is Overstated

Read It