How gamification is getting us moving in the workplace

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Slowly but surely the science of behavioural economics and its most potent offspring - ‘gamification’ is establishing itself in the workplace, making fitness fun, driving lasting behavioural change and re-energising the workforce.

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How gamification is getting us moving in the workplace
Our sedentary lifestyle and a lack of physical activity are losing employers up to 27 days of productive time each year. Luckily, employers are beginning to realise this – and doing something about it. By using game thinking and game mechanics, more companies are beginning to boost movement, build fitness, and bring a sense of vitality to their workplaces.

Game on
Gamification takes the essence of games – attributes such as fun, play, competition, and addiction— and applies these to improve a range of real-world processes inside a company. Many companies – including the likes of Microsoft, Samsung and eBay – are embracing gamification to engage and motivate staff to achieve their goals. But now more companies also see it as a great way to get employees healthy and active.

Making movement fun
Normally computer gaming is associated with the worst sort of sedentary behaviour, accompanied with poor lighting and junk food. But games can get people moving – sometimes even without intending to. Fitness tracking businesses such as Jawbone, MyFitnessPal, and Apple all reported sharp spikes in activity when the app Pokémon Go was released, with Jawbone estimating walking increased by 62.5 percent. Fun is without doubt one of the best fitness motivators – as discovered by Volkswagen in an experiment which converted an underground staircase into a giant piano, tempting 66 percent more people than usual to use the stairs.

Climb Mount Everest – using your stairs
StepJockey, a company self-described as ‘labelling the world for calorie burn – starting with its stairs’, provides Smart Signs and free apps enabling office workers to set fitness goals and track their stair use and calorie burn. They also run corporate challenges, such as the one taken up by JLL staff to collectively burn the amount of calories equivalent to a team climbing Everest. Due to their competitive and game-like nature, StepJockey’s challenges have been shown to increase stair use by up to 800 percent.

Rewarding physical activity
Fun is one reason why businesses are increasingly attracted to gamification. But the other, perhaps more significant reason is that they are powerful performance motivators. With access to huge amounts of data on user behaviour, game designers can use that data to meaningfully reward players, motivating them to perform even better. But the problem with rewards is that they can get boring fast. Forrester Research, an advisory and research company, knows this too well. It was highly commended in the 2016 awards for Britain’s Healthiest Employees, partly for offering its staff an insurance plan that gives novel rewards for healthy behaviour – being active will earn you perks such as cinema tickets, Starbucks coffees, and even discounted BA flights.

The future looks fun
Once you know about gamification, you will start noticing its current and potential applications everywhere. The analyst firm Gartner predicts that by 2015, 40 percent of Global 1000 organisations will use gamification as the primary mechanism to transform business operations – it may well be a game changer. And if carefully implemented, gamification can add fun and entertainment to a sluggish workplace, while improving people’s health along the way.

This article was first published on JLL Real Views, JLL’s global site providing expert insights on the trends and developments shaping real estate.

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