Keas Turns Health and Wellness Programs into Fun and Games


It’s no secret that the workplace is not always the healthiest environment for people. There tends to be a lot of sitting around at desks or in meetings; there’s often a lot of stress; opportunities to exercise can be rare; and rushed, unhealthy snacks and meals are often the norm.

SF-based Keas is focused on mitigating all that. It offers employee wellness programs to large companies (and in the future, smaller companies as well) that draw on social media, gamification, motivation theory and psychology.

“Companies want better health for employees, partly because the average employee’s health care costs $15,000 a year,“ says CEO Josh Stevens. “It really hurts their bottom line, and much of it is avoidable. Meanwhile, we’re helping people do what they should do, and try to make it fun and social to engage in healthy activities.

“Our experience indicates that when people are involved with a small, engaged team, they will egg each other on, and give support to reach healthy goals. It works organically from the bottom up, not from top down.”

The Keas program is typically administered through the H.R. department behind the company’s firewall, and in many cases, serves as the authorized social network in enterprises that restrict acess to Facebook and Twitter, etc.

Employees sign in with their company email, and are asked a few questions about their health and wellness concerns, which allows Keas to personalize their experience.

They are then prompted to join or start a small team (up to six members), usually with others sharing similar health concerns, such as being overweight.

The program suggests weekly goals from a library of hundreds it has built up to deal with concerns like weight issues, lack of exercise, poor diet, and so on.

“You create a profile, with a photo, and your name,” explains Stevens. “You can set up to three goals a week. For instance, mine are to eat five veggies, drink 16 gasses of water, and walk 60 minutes a day.”

Team members then can encourage and/or challenge you in a social feed that contains elements of gaming, as you strive to hit your goals.

Employees have by default up to 25 points of “energy” to expend each day and they earn additional energy, and in many companies prizes or rewards, both virtual and real, in the process.

Some companies offer additional points as incentives for employees to get flu shots, for example.

“If they can get five more points for a flu shot, most people will choose that option,” says Stevens.

Other companies are experimenting with other types of incentives, such as offering $500 off the annual deductible on the corporate health plan to employees who get a blood test.

One company that tried this recently reported that 90 percent of its employees chose to take that incentive and get tested.

Such tests help doctors to identify people early who are at risk for developing diabetes and other debilitating (and expensive) medical conditions before it’s too late to prevent them.

Stevens says a subset of employees in most companies, usually men, respond better to competitions around reaching health and wellness goals, and they do things like check the daily leaderboards.

The points employees earn via the Keas program often lead to rewards like a monthly cash prize, or a free iPad, or company-wide recognition.

Although Keas presently works only with companies that have 1000 employees or more, Stevens says they are developing a program for smaller businesses as well, which we will try to highlight here when it becomes available.

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