Gamification of office wellness might be an "HR miracle."

Turns out, shame-based models for exercise might not be the best way to motivate people to get off the couch. And even if someone really likes data, monitoring their own vital statistics might not be entirely appealing either. But after leading an ultimately unsuccessful project at Google that promised to do just that, Adam Bosworth, co-founder of the start-up Keas, had another idea: gamify exercise and personal well-being to give it a competitive edge and group environment. Mashable describes the game as being “like Farmville for corporate wellness”:

Keas is now a social game that operates a bit like FarmVille, and it has raised $16.5 million to date, $6.5 of which it announced Tuesday. Users set health-related goals for the week such “I will eat only healthy snacks for three days this week” or “I will get 8 hours of sleep two nights this week.” Each weekly goal is assigned a point value. Throughout the week, players can earn extra points by completing “healthy breaks” like jumping jacks, desk exercises and healthy snack choices.

What makes the game work, Bosworth says, is that users can only succeed if they don’t have slackers on their teams. One slacker makes it difficult to win the game. Two makes it almost impossible. Enter peer-pressure.

So far, the idea seems to be taking off. “Keas says that about 70% of the employees it signs up participate week after week,” the report continues. “It’s used by about 100,000 employees at 20 companies, including Pfizer, Bechtel and Progress Software. Bosworth says that there has never been a week at any of these companies in which fewer than 30% of employees participated.”

Several developers such as WellthyShape Up, and the start-up LiviFi offer similar modes of gameplay to incentivize office exercise. Perhaps sometime soon, social games will become the new sports for the less athletically-inclined among us.

Yannick LeJacq

[via Mashable]