Case Study

Messages to Increase Interest in Health & Wellness Programs

Problem

Many organizations offer programs to help their employees get healthy, but these programs are often underutilized. What can be done to increase employee participation in health and wellness programs?

Research

We predicted that designing a promotional campaign in line with behavioral science 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 perception of a person’s real age. We anticipated that both would be more effective than emails focusing only on timing and social proof.

We randomly assigned all employees of a town government into three different 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. Those in the longevity condition received an additional sentence stating “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 “you could reduce your ‘real age’ by a few years by being physically more active.” All participants received three emails promoting the employee health and wellness program.

Results

Statistically, there were no significant differences between the three emails. However, there was a significant increase in participation from the year before. Participation in previous years was between 13% and 21%, while the average participation during the experiment was 45%. The campaign was likely a factor in the high levels of employee enrollment.

Why it matters

For those who wish to increase employee enrollment in similar programs, emphasize factors such as social proof or urgency. These elements were common in all of the promotional emails.