I used to be an avid cyclist, riding about 150 miles a week. But with three kids and one on the way, it's tough to keep that up. Back then, I'd ride by myself at times. But it was when I rode with other bikers did I push myself to go faster and farther. It's natural. We're born to compete, or at the least, keep up.
The same dynamic happens online. If you want to get healthy, often a site that informs you of the do's and don'ts is OK. But just because it says, "Eating a lot of donuts isn't good for you," who's really going to stop you from chowing down?
But a site that pits you against others probably provides the added incentive that nudges you further toward your healthy goals.
One start-up founded in 2008 helps you do this.
San Francisco-based Keas, a start-up that promotes wellness in the workplace through games among co-workers, announced Tuesday that it's raised $6.5 million in Series B financing, led by Atlas Ventures and Ignition Partners.
Keas, which was co-founded by former Google Health executive Adam Bosworth and George Kassagbi, characterizes itself as part Facebook and part Farmville. Employees can compete for points and badges as they pursue certain healthy goals, like losing weight, dropping a nicotine habit, eating more vegetables or being more consistent on that treadmill.
While many companies have long promoted wellness in the workplace - after all a healthy worker is more likely to be a more productive, and less expensive (from a benefits standpoint) worker - the best way to promote it is by getting employees to compete against one another or motivate one another to stay healthier.
"The key to Keas is that it's team based," said Keith Messick, Chief Marketing Officer at Keas, in an interview. "We take two social constructs - support and peer pressure - and use that to a company's advantage." The result is that people who are on teams are six times more engaged over time. And, hence, more likely to meet their goals.
When Keas is incorporated at companies, employees can sign up for 12-week challenges. Within each week, co-workers work together to achieve three personal health goals and players can motivate one another to develop healthy habits, like eating half the food on their plate, or forgoing the half-n-half in their coffee. Each team member can win points that go toward the overall team.
In one case study, Keas was installed at Chilton Hospital, which has 1300 employees, of which 40% were eligible for the Keas challenge. During a 12-week period, some 1,230 pounds were shed among the participants and three out of four said they felt more positive toward their employer and two-thirds said they felt more productive at work.
Keas charges $12 per year per employee. It sounds like a reasonable cost for a benefit that's worthwhile. To date, the company has signed up Pfizer and Bechtel, and Quest Diagnostics, to name a few. When organizations bring Keas into their workplace, they don't sign all their employees up. Rather it's an opt-in offer. At the moment, registration rates are more than 50%, said Messick.
It wasn't all games
While Keas has been around for almost four years, it's not always approached its service with game mechanics in mind. In fact, when Keas started, it was supposed to be a Mint for health. People would upload their health information and then Keas would provide recommendations about how to live a healhier life, Messick explained.
The challenge with this model, however, was that the more information a person put into the system, the more unmotivated they'd become. "What we found was when you give unhealthy people all of their data, int's only one big negative feedback for them." This was hardly motivating.
Earlier this year, Keas introduced a game element on their site and noticed that more people responded. The first game was a quiz to win points and badges. The rest is history.
(Image source: kingcrossfit.com)