Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Make One Simple Switch to Boost Wellness Participation Rates

“How can I get more employees actively participating in my wellness program?”

This is a top question most organizations ask about their wellness program. Though there are many complex strategies out there about boosting engagement and participation, there is a simple psychological switch that can have a positive impact. Have employees opt-out vs. opt-in.

A recent study sheds more light on this concept. In the study, researchers found that making 401(k) accounts opt-out instead of opt-in, meaning employees were automatically enrolled, but could stop at any time, raised contribution rates from less than 40% to nearly 100%.

The study further highlighted this phenomenon by stating: “Employees often follow the path of least resistance. Employees generally do whatever takes the least effort -- generally doing nothing -- a phenomenon these investigators call passive decision-making."

Why do employees indulge in passive decision-making? It often boils down to option-overload. Individuals are faced with thousands of choices on a daily basis. By making the healthy choice, the default choice, it’s easier for individuals to simply say yes and move onto their other daily decisions.

Or, as Richard H. Thaler, and Cass R. Sunstein, authors of “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness”, put it, “Offering a default option of opting in, rather than opting out, doesn’t take away choice, but guides us [employees] to make better ones.”

So what does this mean for your wellness program initiatives?

It means employees are looking for the path of least resistance. If you can make your wellness initiatives the default option - make it so easy it’s almost effortless - employees will be more likely to engage.

Here’s some ways you can put this thought process to work:
  1. For the lunch and learn, make it “regrets only”. Automatically sign everyone up for the lunch and learn and ask only if they CAN’T attend to let you know. 
  2.  Automatically enroll employees in activity challenges, just remember to communicate when the challenge is starting and the physical activity goal associated. 
  3. One of our automotive clients schedules their employees’ biometric screenings for them, allowing them to complete the task while at work. Employees can opt-out if they do not wish to have the testing completed, or re-schedule if the time doesn’t work. Over the past 3 years they’ve had nearly 100% of their employee population participate in this annual screening. 

Although we understand this may not work for every wellness initiative you offer, the principle remains: opt-out vs. opt-in can increase participation rates.