Case Studies

Employee Health and Wellness

Research question: How can we get employees to make healthier choices? Specifically, what can be done to increase employee participation rates in health and wellness programs?

Hypothesis: We predicted that designing a promotional campaign in line with principles such as framing, timing, and social proof would greatly increase the number of employees enrolled in a health and wellness program. We also predicted that emphasizing the positive effect of exercise on longevity would be less effective than emphasizing the positive effects of exercise on reducing a person’s real age, but that both would be more effective than the emails only focusing on timing and social proof.

Experiment: We randomly assigned all employees of a town government into one of three conditions: standard email, longevity, and real age. All participants received an email promoting the benefits of the program, incorporating social proof, and emphasizing the urgency of signing up for the program now. Those in the longevity condition received an additional sentence stating that “you could add a few years to your life expectancy by being physically more active.” Those in the real age condition received an additional sentence stating that “you could reduce your ‘real age’ by a few years by being physically more active.” All participants received 3 emails promoting the employee health and wellness program.

Results: We found that there were no statistically significant differences between the three email conditions. However, there was a significant increase in participation from the year before. Specifically, participation in previous years was between 13% and 21%, while the average participation during the experiment was 45%. While we cannot conclude that this increase was caused exclusively by the promotional campaign, this suggests that campaign was a factor in the high levels of employee enrollment that year.

Application:  Because there was no significant difference between the conditions, we cannot conclude that one method of influence was more or less effective than the others. However, due to the large increase in participation from prior years, it is likely that the campaign as a whole played a significant role in increasing employee enrollment. Thus, for those who wish to increase employee enrollment in similar programs, it is worth exploring the possibility of emphasizing factors such as social proof or urgency, as these elements were common to all of the promotional emails.