Employee Wellness Company FIX Health Announces its Groundbreaking Employee Health Challenge, The Outbreak, has Increased User Retention to 93.9%

ATLANTA, GA. August 22, 2019  

FIX Health, makers of The Outbreak, the employee health challenge that is part game, part six-week fitness journey, announce that their continued attention to behavioral triggers, in-app affirmation moments, and application features have resulted in a 1.5% increase in user retention for their groundbreaking six-week program. The result is an increase in retention from 92.4% to 93.9%.

“You might not think of a 1.5% increase as a big number, but let me tell you, when you’re already in the 90th percentile, improvement is a game of inches,” said Mike Tinney, CEO and Founder of FIX Health. He goes on to add, “These are the goalposts. You don’t see a lot of companies talking about this key metric because most struggle to consistently engage and retain more than 60% of their users.”

FIX Health uses a core behavior method, where its programs focus on daily movement and an incremental increase in active minutes over time. Participants are chased by digital zombies in an app that features a storyline along with daily and weekly goals that require teamwork to complete.

“Our challenge participants use real world steps and activities,” adds Ali Thomason, FIX Health’s Chief Client Officer. “Their trackers (cell phones, or wearables) pick up their activities, our app validates the steps as having actually occurred, and then they spend those steps in the app to achieve milestones inside of the game.”

Global winemaker, Treasury Wine Estates, held a Spring Outbreak challenge as part of their wellness program. “We were blown away by the employee interest and participation,” said Jessica Lantieri, Senior Vice President, People & Capability. “It was fantastic to see our employees excited about working together to change their daily habits. Our completion rate ended up at 94%!”

The Outbreak has been steadily gaining ground in terms of user retention and engagement since its release in 2015. The program now has six different challenges, most of them with three difficulty levels. FIX Health delivers more content every quarter, as many of their customers use the program year-round.

FIX Health is a service mark of Fitness interactive Experience, Inc. A Georgia company. All Rights Reserved.

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by Mike Tinney

The first rule of cheating is simple: don’t get caught.

No one wants to play a game with a cheater. No one trusts a cheater. So if you’re going to cheat… better not get caught.

My name is Mike Tinney and my company FIX Health runs corporate walking challenges. Our flagship challenge, The Outbreak, is a simulated zombie apocalypse where participants must use their real-world steps to outrun the zombie horde, racing against other teams to reach each weekly safehouse. It inspires players to do a little better today than they did yesterday. In inspires teams to come together to face obstacles together and compete with their colleagues. And for a small minority of players, it inspires… cheating.

Preventing walking challenge cheatingWe deal with cheaters every day. Some cheaters are fairly clever, others mmmm… not so much. They open up their iPhone Health App and manually enter the number 50,000 as their step count for the day. Some do this at 10 AM. There’s roughly 2000 steps to a mile.

Sure, Roger, you walked 25 miles in the first 4 hours of your day.

Others are fairly clever. They “nudge” their counts up. 4,596 additional steps here, 1,102 more there, bringing their total above whatever they legitimately walked to something plausible, like 11,509. Much more believable, and until now, relatively difficult for a group health challenge like ours to detect.

Since most employers award prizes, benefits, perks, or recognition in association with one of these health programs, it’s important to minimize cheating as much as possible. Until now, that was easier said than done. And once one person starts cheating in one of these challenges, many follow. It’s like watching a dam break, and once it does it can really affect participants’ morale. But you don’t have to take my word for it. We send out a poll at the end of each challenge to get feedback. One of the questions is, “What could we do better?”

The answers usually fall into two categories: 1) “I don’t want this to end. Keep it going year ’round!” and 2)… well, I’ll paste some #2s below:

“I was on a very competitive team. We got up at 4 in the morning on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays to get in 5+ miles of steps. We encouraged each other throughout the day to keep moving and get the steps in. Some of us even engaged in 2-a-day run schedules plus boot camp workouts to make things happen, but when another team has multiple players with 63,000+ steps each, it gets very frustrating for those of us busting our tails to do it the right way! Those of us who know that 63K steps is approximately 31.5 miles at a 20 mile an hour pace and that if you are moving faster your strides are longer and you take fewer steps. Some of our team members wanted to cheat to keep up with the teams that were taking impossible numbers of steps. Other teammates wanted to give up!”

“There should be no option to manually enter steps. There was too much cheating (i.e. someone putting in 50k steps per day for 5 straight weeks), which was pretty demotivating to a lot of teams.”

“It seemed like a lot of the leading teams cheated – how on earth does an actual human person earn 70,000 steps by 7am in one day?!? I don’t know how you could do it, but the cheating needs to be stopped. I love a good competition if it’s fair. There is no way an honest group of people can beat a team that cheats constantly. It’s disheartening.”

While the vast majority of feedback we get is overwhelmingly positive, we’ve been getting notes like these for years, and it’s not just us. Every walking challenge struggles with this same issue. I can’t tell you how many times it’s come up in sales calls. “We’ve used challenge XYZ in the past, but there was so much cheating.” It’s a real pain point for everyone involved: the buyer, the participants, and us.

So we did something about it.

Last week we fixed this. We have a guy on staff who’s a genius. I’m not kidding. You ever read about one of those kids who was in college when his peers were in high school? We have one of those kids (now grown up, for the most part) leading our engineering. He’s gotten deep into the code of Apple Health and Google Fit (our two primary trackers) and he’s figured out how to differentiate the steps inputs in a way that is (so far) cheat proof.

Introducing TruStep™

TruStep™ Anti-Cheating for Walking Challenges

As a result, we are pleased to introduce a new component to The Outbreak and A Step Ahead programs called TruStep™.

TruStep™ intelligently separates step inputs into two categories: verified steps that are synced directly from a user’s fitness tracker, and manual user entries.

With TruStep™, we can now run 100% validated step challenges. We can verify when, and how rapidly the steps were taken, and limit (or rule out entirely) manually entered/typed-in steps. From now on, every Outbreak challenge can validate and count only steps that actually occurred, making the credibility of the program second to none.

Cheaters beware! The Outbreak has your number… and it’s not 50,000 before 10 a.m.

Until next time,

Mike

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by Mike Tinney

Over the past 6 months we’ve been tightening the screws on The Outbreak, ironing out the few remaining rough edges and tweaking user experience. We’ve had great feedback (employees always praise our program). We’ve had great retention (>90% for the past 5 months). We’ve had a couple of learning opportunities along the way as well (we’ve enabled new anti-cheating mechanisms, in particular).

Before any new feature or challenge goes live, we test it ourselves. Our standard challenge ran for 6 weeks, so every time we wanted to test a feature, we had a 6-week program ahead of us in order to fully vet the product and changes. Find a bug? 6 weeks of testing. New feature needs a revision? 6 weeks of testing.

We tried an accelerated program (one hour = a day, and so forth) but the timing was not a great simulation of the actual experience. So in some cases, we missed important player experience changes when we blew through the challenge on the 1-day-is-an-hour pace. And yet, we couldn’t always test quickly and frequently enough with the six week challenge. Something had to be done…

What we came up with was a half-length challenge. Three weeks. Three weeks let us test twice as fast, but still had the same day length; the chapters just changed on Thursday and Sunday, instead of Sundays only. So Chapter 1 was Monday – Wednesday, Chapter 2 was Thursday – Sunday, Chapter 3 Monday – Wednesday, etc… The pace worked. We got a simulation that was pretty close to what the customer was already experiencing, but we could test out new content and settings in less than 1 month – which was important.

It was my idea to truncate like this, so I edited the game down from 6 weeks to 3. But the chapters were still there and intact, meaning, where Chapter 1 is typically set to last for 7 days, here it was set to 3. I decided to surprise my coworkers with a little something “extra.” The system calculates steps based on a daily prescription, but it calculates exercise/power based on a weekly (per chapter) prescription. So while I edited down the steps to a 3 and 4 day chapter, respectively, I kept the exercise requirements to the original 7-day amount… meaning you had to get 100 active minutes into 4 days, not 7.

“The result? A wonderfully difficult challenge. Still achievable, but 3 pretty tough weeks. I lost 4 lbs during our first run through.”

 
The result? A wonderfully difficult challenge. Still achievable, but 3 pretty tough weeks. I lost 4 lbs during our first run through. We liked it so much, we did it again almost right away. We realized we might be onto something… a shorter, harder challenge. Something that served as a system shock for the users. Something to help a guy or gal “dial it in” for beach season. And so The Blitz was born. We suddenly had a 3-week Outbreak challenge, but we ended up with so much more.

We also ended up with our hardest challenge. We get asked to “bring the pain” from time to time, and The Blitz does just that. It’s probably the closest real simulation to 3 weeks of survival in a zombie apocalypse that we’ve made to date. Not being content with just a harder challenge, we wrote up a storyline (you’re rescuing a trapped family in a nearby town). It also gave us, or, in this case, our customers, an added benefit: a cheaper challenge. We priced The Blitz at ½ of our regular pricing. Groups can take a 3-week challenge for just $9.95 per person. Take that, Planet Fitness!

We unveiled The Blitz very quietly last month. Groups are only now just starting to discover it on our self serve portal (the only place you can buy it). We don’t have enough data yet to be able to tell what the average survival rating is yet for the challenge… but we’ll gather that over time and share it in a future blog when it’s ready.

Until next time,

Mike

TRY THE BLITZ

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Posted by FIX in FIX HEALTH Read More

by Mike Tinney

Here at FIX, we have created the most engaging activity challenge in the market. We didn’t stumble upon this, we’ve been working on it for years.

We had a pretty solid true North: make health habits part of an entertainment experience. The devil was in the details, though, and we had to work hard over years to refine the experience so that it was truly entertaining and compelling.

While we don’t think we’re done with that journey, we have a number of points of evidence that support our claim that The Outbreak is the best retaining Health Challenge in the market today.

EXHIBIT A: We continue see engagement north of 90%.

For every 100 employees who begin one of our challenges, 90+ complete them. It’s happened 5 out of 5 months so far this year (in April, we had an eye-popping 96.5% engagement rate), and for the prior two years, we’ve been above 80%. We’re so confident in our app and service process that we now guarantee this completion rate to our customers. We’re the only company in the space that gives a 100% cost guarantee for up to 80% completion.

 

EXHIBIT B: Brokers rave.

We work with a lot of brokers (all wellness companies do). Brokers are gatekeepers and reps for most clients. Their job is to help their client navigate the many benefits options out there and match make between trusted providers and their clients. Because of this nexus role brokers and consultants play, they are in a unique position to see many different programs in “live, client-facing environments.” We’re told, time and time again, that no other programs excite and engage employees as effectively as ours.

 

EXHIBIT C: Insider Strife.

This is going to sound funny, maybe. We offer free pilots to insurance companies, brokerage groups and channels that would represent us to their clients. We’ve very recently started experiencing a new phenomenon with these pilots: strife. On more than one occasion, competition got so heated between teams that it was difficult to debrief and discuss market strategies. We’ve had to suggest “cool down” periods before debriefing. We’ve also found ourselves altering our pilots from a full 6 weeks to 1 to 2 week trials to cut down on competitive friction. Just last week we spent 30 minutes explaining a design decision on a game balancing rule, because someone got outmaneuvered by a coworker in the game and was mad that they lost. As they say, actions speak 1,000 words.

 

We went ahead and doubled down on that one week pilot choice, and now offer free 1 week trials to everyone.

If you’re reading this, you’re part of everyone, so the offer includes you. You can get started HERE on our portal. Gather 20 of your closest friends. Or fiercest competitors. Or both… and find out for yourself what all the fuss is about.

Until next time,

Mike

TRY THE OUTBREAK FOR FREE

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by Mike Tinney

We get asked a lot… Why Zombies? Why did you guys make a zombie challenge instead of something else?

It’s a fair question. You can’t throw a stick without hitting some kind of online gamified walking challenge where your steps take you on a virtual tour of some real world place, and in exchange for your hard work you unlock… a picture. Our decision to make a zombie walking challenge stretches all the way back to 2014.

It was Summer of 2014 and the Affordable Care Act had been live for half of a year. All of the market channels we had negotiated for our then flagship product UtiliFIT (hourly gamified exercises) were on hold while employers figured out what Obamacare actually meant to their bottom line.

The net effect on us was $0 coming in the door when we thought we were going to market with an innovative product. UtiliFIT was a fine game, but it really needed to be a part of something bigger and more complete. So we did what any start up would do. We had a big argument about why we were in the place we were, and what we should be doing.

“That argument lead to a suggestion that we pivot to walking challenges, which some of us thought were dumb. “Who wants to log in steps and unlock a picture of the Eiffel Tower?” Then someone asked, “well, what kind of walking challenge would we be excited about doing?”

That argument lead to a suggestion that we pivot to walking challenges, which some of us thought were dumb. “Who wants to log in steps and unlock a picture of the Eiffel Tower?” Then someone asked, “well, what kind of walking challenge would we be excited about doing?” Just like that, we were brainstorming.

Early A Step Ahead Zombies character concepts

Early A Step Ahead Zombies character concepts

We came up with all kinds of ideas for interactive walking challenges: pirates, shopping sprees, aliens, Mad Max road battles, rocket ships, Oregon Trail/westward expansion, and… zombies. Collectively, we grokked zombies a little faster/easier than some of the others. The flywheel of the experience was pretty clear: walk to stay ahead of the zombies… or else!

Then we went to work validating that someone would pay us to chase them with zombies. We sent out an email to our mailing list advertising a challenge that didn’t exist yet… and sold 3 of them within a week. We looked at each other and realized we were going to be the zombie walking company.

We prototyped a basic challenge running on our UtiliFIT web platform. In fact, back in that day, you were playing the zombie challenge on utilifit.com. It worked, but it was strung together with bailing wire. It did it’s job, though. It validated the concept and we began to collect user data and refine the experience.

We were regularly asked for more content than just zombies. Being eager to please, we obliged. We made an Aliens challenge, we made a Champions (sports stars) challenge and we made a holiday-themed challenge. We had a chase mode: you were being chased by X (Zombies or Aliens) and we had a follow mode: you were following Y (Champions or Santa). We ran these challenges on our Version 1 platform (utilifit.com) for 2 ½ years. Jan 2015 – July 2017.

In July of 2017 we launched The Outbreak, our 2.0 Health Entertainment challenge. The Outbreak harvested a “metric crap ton” of usability and technical implementation lessons from the utilifit.com A Step Ahead challenges. One of the biggest lessons, however, was “stick with zombies.” Looking at the data, it was clear. All Y’all like being chased by Zombies. You like it way more than being chased by Aliens. You like it more than racing against the Champions, and… you like zombies more than Santa. Oh snap, I said it. You like zombies more than Santa, but I have the data to back it up!

ZOMBIES OTHER THEMES
SALES (%) 84 16
AVG. STEPS PER PARTICIPANT 17,496 12,772
RETENTION IN PROGRAM 88% 79%
USER SATISFACTION 90% 89%

So, it’s Zombies for the win and we’re doubling down and delivering Netflix-binge-worthy volumes of zombie challenge content. With 2 challenges live, 2 more launching in the next 8 weeks and 3 modes per challenge, there is plenty to experience in The Outbreak, with more to come.

Until next time,

Mike

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by Mike Tinney

As some of our long-time subscribers may already know, we hit the brakes on our weekly newsletter last fall. We did it for a variety of reasons, chief of which was to refocus the content we share. We decided to align around posting original content. After all, you can get general corporate wellness news and trends from any number of sources, but as a disruptive technology startup in the somewhat traditional wellness space, we have experience, insight and perspective that is unique to us as outsiders breaking into the industry with new tactics and methodologies.

“As a disruptive technology startup in the somewhat traditional wellness space, we have experience, insight and perspective that is unique to us as outsiders breaking into the industry with new tactics and methodologies.”

Anyone who’s been following along knows we’ve been posting about our challenges and progress in the corporate health world for the past 9 weeks. Wow, hard to believe it’s been that long. We’ve shared a mix of behind the scenes experiences and general best practices on wellness initiatives.

It’s been a bit of a self discovery journey along the way as well. Writing these articles has given us cause to question what we’ve been up to and ask ourselves some “whys” in addition to the obvious “hows” that usually go with this kind of disclosure.

We’ve tracked our posts and generally see a few thousand views on social media. Not huge yet, but not nothin’ either. That’s resulted in the attention of all kinds of service providers/resellers. We get offers to improve our organic search (we show up top 1-3 organically already, so if you’re offering your SEO services maybe do a little homework first). We get offers for new kinds of community development (we look into these, but have the usual time/budget constraints that smaller companies have). And… we get good feedback, which is what we were looking for in the first place.

“If you’re a broker or consultant, you can get access to the industry version of our newsletter that will include results, statistics and a schedule of upcoming promotions.”

This week, however, we’re going to level up. We’re dusting off our old weekly email newsletter initiative and adding more in-depth content. The editorial features will be a little more robust and we’ll include insider access to our product from time to time. We’re also running a weekly customer testimonial feature, where each week, a customer’s own experience with our product will get a spot light. (If you’d like to have your testimonial featured we’d love to hear from you.)

But wait, there’s more! If you’re a broker or consultant, you can get access to the industry version of our newsletter that will include results, statistics, a schedule of upcoming promotions, etc.

We have a mailing list that spans the last 5 years and many thousands of subscribers, but if you’re not on it and you’d like to add your name to it, here’s a handy form to do so!

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The first new edition launches this week. The Revolution will not be televised. It will not be blogged. It will be newslettered.

Until next time,

Mike

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by Mike Tinney

Here’s a strange thought: as Americans, we’re not selfish enough. Sounds strange, right? I know all my international colleagues reading this will be all, “Whaaat? You guys are winning at selfish.” But hear me out.

How do we spend our time? We sell it to our employer, and they give us money and affirmation. We give it to our family, and they give us love and affirmation. We invest it in our hobbies/entertainment, and that gives us satisfaction and joy.

“It’s no wonder, then, that we’re headed for a diabetes health epidemic in the next 20 years that will rival the black plague.”

A Diabetes Epidemic is Coming

A Diabetes Epidemic is Coming

So what falls to the very bottom of many Americans’ “to-do” lists? Our health. Most of us, as many as 95% of us (if you believe some of the statics), put ourselves so far at the bottom of our to-do list, that we never get to it. We’re a society that gives most of our time to work, family and entertainment, and very little time to exercise, nutrition and physical activity. It’s no wonder, then, that we’re headed for a diabetes health epidemic in the next 20 years that will rival the black plague.

I think most people believe in the concept of “tomorrow.” Meaning, if you can’t get to yourself today, you can commit to tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, most of us repeat the process: Work, Family, Entertainment. Then, when self-health comes up it gets kicked to tomorrow again.

“No one seems to disagree with the statement that, “a healthier person tends to be happier and more productive.”

While we pay a price for this, individually, in terms of longevity and quality of life. The entities that employ us pay collective price for their employee base that can be quite high. The specific cost of an unhealthy employee is not the subject of this little rant of mine. It’s also a pretty murky field with a lot of research and a lot of informed challenges to said research. Having said that, no one seems to disagree with the statement that, “a healthier person tends to be happier and more productive.” It’s an opinion based statement, and I get that feelings are subjective, but no one’s disagreed with that sentiment yet. Do you?

HR to the Rescue?
We have a sentiment at FIX that suggests that the employer is the financial beneficiary of good employee health. That is not an ROI argument for wellness, it’s a statement that your employer pays you for your time, and the value of the time you contribute towards your employer’s business agendas is influenced by your happiness and productivity, which, in turn, is affected by your health. As a nation we are VERY unhealthy. For example, for every 100 employees, on average, you have the following habits/health conditions present in an organization:

For every 100 employees you have, statistically…
For every 100 employees you have...
69 are overweight
36 of those are obese
12 have diabetes
3 have diabetes but don’t know it
33 have high blood pressure
17 have high cholesterol
33 have high triglycerides
19 smoke
95 fail to get enough exercise
62 have sleep issues
77 struggle with stress
9 suffer from depressive issues

“95% will opt toward something other than exercise as their hobby. They’ll opt for video games, netflix binging, board games, bowling, knitting, reading, carousing… the list goes on.”

How do we change behavior, though, when we already selflessly give most of our time to our employers and family. Can we really be blamed for giving our own hobbies and interests what’s left of our time? Maybe not. Some people have exercise as a hobby. By the report I referenced above, that’s maybe 5% of us. 95% will opt toward something other than exercise as their hobby. They’ll opt for video games, netflix binging, board games, bowling, knitting, reading, carousing… the list goes on.

Our Hack
Knowing that people prioritize their entertainment ahead of their health, we hacked the system a bit. We’ve been working on it going on 6 years now. We now have a game… that is enjoyable to play… that requires real world steps and exercise to play. That game triggers a dopamine release in the brain when you hit game milestones. Those milestones require steps and sweat equity to achieve. All of a sudden, people walk more to make progress in their game, and in doing so… get a little healthier.

Our Advice
Be a little more selfish when it comes to your own health. It’s good for you, and good for all the other people and groups you invest your time with.

Until next time,

Mike

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26 Mar / Treat Yo’Self

by Mike Tinney

Wellness is a funny industry. It’s full of big game hunters and connected veterans. People often make decisions based on prior relationships, and they go after the biggest sales and contracts. As total outsiders to this industry, FIX spent it’s first couple of years watching these “adults” from the proverbial kids table.

“As it turns out, the head of HR for the local Trader Joes cares just as much about the dollars they spend on their staff of 45 as Coca-Cola or Delta does, sometimes more.”

 

The thing is, though, when we entered the market we got a BUNCH of inquiries for challenges from small businesses (i.e. companies with less than 100 employees). We still do. It was difficult to accommodate those challenge requests, though, as there’s a certain market value associated with the budget for health, usually $12 – $30 per year per employee (which is shamefully low, but more on that in another post). If you have a company of 100 people or less with a budget of $1200, it’s hard to make that work from an ROI perspective. But as it turns out, the head of HR for the local Trader Joes cares just as much about the dollars they spend on their staff of 45 as Coca-Cola or Delta does, sometimes more.

These sales take just as long to close, and the service expected is very similar to what a mid, large or jumbo employer expects. As a result, most of our peers/competitors in the wellness space ignore these small employers. They can’t find a profit in them…

You can spend X amount of time and energy servicing a 45 employee company and making $900… or you can spend that same amount of time and energy on an 800 person company and make $10K-$15K… or you can spend 3x the time and energy on a jumbo and make a six figure sale. It’s a very real, and very frustrating reality of the math.

We tried to accommodate walking challenges for small companies for years in the form of shared challenges, where we’d run multi-employer challenges once per quarter. These challenges would allow a small employer to “group up” with other small companies. They could combine their buying power, and in doing so, get a challenge at the same cost as a mid sized company. There were trade offs, though. You had to start on a predetermined challenge start date, whereas bigger companies could choose their own date. You had to share the challenge and chat room with strangers from other companies, where bigger companies had their own private instance. The data mixed together with participants from multiple groups, whereas larger private groups could get detailed reporting with data just for their group. It was OK, but not great.

Small Business Health Challenges

“The wellness industry, to date, has been leaving 48% of the market ON THE TABLE because it hasn’t collectively figured out how to deliver services to them in a cost effective manner.”

Here’s the thing, though. The U.S. Small Business Association shows that Small Businesses make up 99.7% of all U.S. companies, and those companies comprise 48% of the U.S. workforce. WOW. The wellness industry, to date, has been leaving 48% of the market ON THE TABLE because it hasn’t collectively figured out how to deliver services to them in a cost effective manner. And while the industry chases the jumbo employers with their RFP’s and specialty contracts, it leaves approximately half of America’s workforce unsupported. Holy cow, that’s a lot of unsupported lives.

So we rattled around that a lot at FIX, and last fall our tech and ops teams said “!@#$ it, let’s just automate this whole process for them so that any group, of any size, can create challenges on their own.” So they did.

Now, any small employer, from an office of 1 up to a group of 300, can go onto our website and choose from any of our walking challenges and their respective difficulty levels. The HR person or company owner simply picks out all the settings they want for their private (only for their employees) challenge, including start date. They can copy and paste employee email addresses in (just like with Mailchimp) and swipe a credit card. Then our servers go to work with the automation: they email challenge invitations to the staff of the company and spin up the challenge automatically. Lastly, it’s our accounting department who rings the sales bell, because we’ve sold services to the secret part of the market no one else seems to care about.

And then, in as little as 1 week, the zombies attack Andy’s Goodyear Tire Center, and the employees are on the move! The beauty is, it happens automatically, at one of the lowest prices on the market. Want to try if for yourself? Head over to our Self Service Challenge Portal and enter the code APR_BLOG5 for 5 free challenge seats. Treat Yo’ Self!

Until next time,

Mike

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Employee engagement is a hot topic for HR departments across the U.S.

According to Gallup only 15% of employees are engaged in their jobs. That leaves a sobering 85% of the workforce who are functioning below their potential, which affects both their value to their employers and the sense of fulfillment they derive from their jobs.

Digging deeper, the cost of disengaged workers is approximately $1 trillion (yes, with a T) a year.

So what can employers and leaders do to counteract this situation? The first step is to work towards creating a strong company culture. The changing nature of modern work and employees’ evolving needs calls for leadership not to just be “the boss,” but to adopt the role of “coach.” Employees are looking for ongoing validation, a deep sense of purpose, and continuous personal and professional feedback, starting right now.

At the same time, HR professionals are charged with improving employee health (and limiting healthcare costs), stepping up employee engagement and improving productivity.

Research shows that highly inclusive companies are correlated to better business decisions. One of the major strategies to build a diverse and inclusion-oriented culture is to embed this kind of thinking into all activities, both in and out of the office. So mailroom to boardroom, tie on your shoes and get ready to rock the office walking challenge together.

Here are 8 reasons your company should do a walking challenge.

8 Reasons Your Company Should Do a Walking Challenge

Reason #1: Turn Groups of Individuals Into Teams
A healthy spirit of competition can bring out grit and determination. Individuals with these traits are valuable to a business, but an entire team with these traits can change the bottom line. In complex business environments, great teams don’t just materialize out of thin air by putting a group of individuals together; there has to be coalescence, where all members are working together toward the same goal as one.

Getting teams to this point is key, because once a group of contributors learn how to tackle problems as a team, it can be the “secret sauce” to meet goals. A team-based step challenge at work provides an ideal event that helps teams learn to work together toward a goal. “Today, we conquer the office step challenge, but tomorrow we’re going to crush the competition!”

Reason #2: Setting Goals in a Low Stakes Situation Prepares for Higher Stakes Later
People are more likely to follow through on objectives that they set for themselves. The office walking challenge isn’t your annual performance plan, but it’s a good exercise in setting SMART goals.

Employees Develop Healthy Habits During a Walking Challenge

Reason #3: They Help Employees Develop Healthy Habits
Using The Outbreak as an example, it’s a walking challenge designed using the psychological “tricks” that the video game industry uses to get people addicted (yes, gaming addiction is now classified as a disorder by the World Health Organization).

It’s also carefully timed, at 6 weeks, to be just long enough to engage people and develop habits, but not long enough for people to get burned out. Getting into the routine of walking and building new patterns takes a couple of weeks. At first you dread the interruption of your day, you flail through the motions, then a placeholder gets put in your schedule, then you find yourself regularly participating or even anticipating your next move.

Corporate gamification has been identified as a key developing area for engagement of millennials, who now make up the biggest portion of the workforce, making a game-based step challenge at work a “kill two birds with one stone” solution.

Reason #4: Support From Teammates Fosters Success
When you join the office walking challenge, you do so with other people, forming teams and competing against other teams. Research shows that people who have workout partners succeed in their fitness and weight-loss goals MUCH more often than those who go it alone. People don’t want to let down the team, right?

Positive Feedback Loops Help Engage Employees

Reason #5: Positive Feedback Loops Help Engage
Goal setting is an innate benefit of any company walking challenge because it gives milestones to celebrate along the way. Employee research indicates that meaningful and frequent feedback is necessary to employee engagement. So, celebrate the wins!

Reason #6: An Opportunity for Education
As we outlined above, a game-based challenge can be addictive and habit forming. This provides an ideal opportunity to “strike while the iron’s hot” with supplemental healthy education. Consider tips on eating healthy, new ideas for extending workouts, or challenges like hiking, in-line skating or cross country your employees haven’t looked at before. For many, the biggest obstacle to exercise and healthy diet is simply getting started, and a walking challenge provides a great way to get the ball rolling.

Reason #7: Fun!
Regardless of background, walking is a given for most people, and everybody enjoys having fun, so mixing the two in a team-based competition makes sense as a starting point for common ground.

You can ramp up the fun with a game-based solution like The Outbreak, where in addition to walking there are elements of being chased by a zombie horde, scoring points for zombie kills, and strategy for staying human (or trying to convert the rest of the humans if one is turned into a zombie).

There’s a certain sense of excitement as you and your fellow competitors escape a close call with a zombie obstacle. In addition to the obvious health benefits, it builds camaraderie with people and forms a new matrix of relationships. There’s something about infecting the boss that can bring out a sense of humor. Join in, infect a few people, and enjoy the company!

Reason #8: Save Money
Studies show that for every dollar you spend on health intervention, you’ll see $6 in healthcare savings. A healthier employee base reduces absenteeism and healthcare utilization, costing less.

It’s not just health, coming full circle, well engaged employees outperform disengaged employees, to the tune of 12% better, according to this study.

If you’d like to read more about the financial benefits of a walking challenge to your company, check out this wellness ROI case study.

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by Mike Tinney

Savvy buyers of our service often ask me, “what’s the thing people don’t like about your service?

It’s a great question, and I love answering it.

Had you asked me two years ago I’d have told you the biggest challenges our company faced were all related to our tech. It was young and had the kind of growing pains you’d expect of something forging new ground and using fitness trackers in ways they hadn’t been used before. It would sync steps with good, but not great consistency. It would crash unexpectedly. It would send queued notifications most of the time, but occasionally they’d disappear into the aether without a trace.

In spite of all of that, our engagement and completion results far outclassed the industry, and we had good user satisfaction and decent repeat business. Then we raised additional capital, rebuilt our tech from the ground up and hardened it to the point where it purrs along like a finely tuned engine. Tech problems? No more. But now we have a new problem…

You guys.

Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. The number one complaint we get now during our walking challenge is… other people in the challenge. Accusations of other participants cheating are common. There have been times we’ve had to evict players (with our client’s permission of course), but it’s more than that. Our game makes people competitive, and depending on your company culture that can “inspire” different kinds of behavioral escalations.

“Then we raised additional capital, rebuilt our tech from the ground up and hardened it to the point where it purrs along like a finely tuned engine. Tech problems? No more. But now we have a new problem… you guys.”

 

Players really get into our challenges.

There’s the good kind of escalations. We hear stories all the time of teams forming IRL walking clubs and organizing group workouts. We get videos of meetings where half the room is standing and moving. We’ve even had reports of employees buying mini treadmills for their desks so they can get steps while they work.

On the other hand, there are a ton of ways to cheat. Not just in our challenge, but in every walking/health challenge out there. The New York Times did an article on it a few years ago. I can open up my Fitbit app right now and tell it I walked for 2 hours. My Fitbit is on my wrist most of the time, but it’s also VERY trusting. It takes me at my word. “You’re telling me you walked 2 hours, Mike, and I missed it? OK, I trust you. I’ll count the steps.” And so it does. And then it sends those steps to The Outbreak and we count them in the game, because, at that point, they look just like any other steps.

Walking Challenge Cheating

As you’d imagine, the prevalence of actual cheaters is far less than the perception of them. We’re talking a fraction of a percent do anything shady enough to be noticed, and avid runners can (and do) easily create false positives. Nevertheless, we consider it a real problem because the appearance of cheating, whether real or imagined, discourages players from continuing in the game if they feel their coworkers are cheating. A discouraged player who quits doesn’t get the health benefits they signed up for, and we don’t want that. In fact, we pride ourselves on our completion rate, but we can’t reprogram the Apple Watch’s step tracker with a polygraph test, or Fitbit’s for that matter. So we have to cut at this in a different way. Well, 3 different ways, to be precise.

We address both real (and perceived) cheating actively.

“Avid runners can easily create false positives. Nevertheless, we consider it a real problem because the appearance of cheating, whether real or imagined, discourages players from continuing in the game if they feel their coworkers are cheating.”

One, we’re vigilant. All of our full service health challenges have a FIX Health Coach assigned to them. One of his or her responsibilities is to keep an eye out for very high step counts and just politely reach out to the user. Are they training for a marathon? If so, that may explain a daily step count of 30,000 (most people average closer to 3,000). But, often, just knowing someone is watching is enough to keep people honest.

Two, we counsel HR to award most prizes in raffle format, not 1st place format. By doing this, there’s less of a direct benefit/reward to being first. There are bragging rights, of course, but you’re not necessarily getting a prize for being first. You’re getting a reward for participating. SO… no need to cheat, right?

Three, we have built a step limiter into the software to prevent egregiously high step input. Now an HR director, with counsel from our coaching team, can decide to only allow a fixed amount of steps to be counted each day of the challenge. The Coach can still override that, but with this limiter we can put a cap on egregiously high step counts, limiting a cheater’s upside on fake steps.

To be completely honest though, I couldn’t be happier that this is the number one problem with our challenge. It means our software is running very reliably and that it’s making people inspired/excited about participating. Sometimes a little too excited, maybe, but we’ll coach and counsel and get better at that over time as well.

Mike

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