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Should a health intervention fit routines or disrupt them?

By Carmen E Lefevre, on 24 November 2016

By: Andrea Maltman, Virgin Pulse


At last count, Gallup reported that unhealthy and absent workers cost the UK economy £2.1billion in lost productivity.

Employers have proof that the health of their employees cannot be separated from the health of their organisations.

But as the modern workplace becomes the logical place to improve health and behaviours, important questions loom. Questions like: should a health intervention fit existing routines, or disrupt them?

There is a temptation to opt for the latter; to shower employees with gym memberships, boot camps and high-tech fitness devices.

These may be beneficial additions to any health strategy. But in reality, they rarely become true habits because they are too ambitious and removed from an employee’s routine to be sustainable.

What employees actually need is something small and in-sync with their current lifestyle, according to Dr BJ Fogg. He is a member of the Virgin Pulse Science Advisory Board and a leading expert on behavioural change.

In his Ted Talk, he says that for a behaviour to occur, three elements must be present: motivationability, and a trigger.

However he warns that, in order to do something difficult – like improve health and lifestyle habits – high levels of motivation are needed. And often, these alone aren’t enough.
“Relying primarily on motivation to change behaviour in the long-term is a losing strategy,” Dr Fogg says.

“But you can take motivation off the table if you make the behaviour change small enough. Then, it’s very easy to repeat, and it can become a habit.
“As we create these habits, little by little, we approach desired outcomes in a very reliable way; one that doesn’t regress, make us give up, or go back to the way things were.”

Examples illustrate the point: if a sedentary employee – dealing with stress, career pressure, deadlines and family demands – gets out of bed faced with a gruelling workout or boot camp session, then there’s little motivation and the odds are stacked against them.

But if that same employee wakes up and decides their new behaviour will be getting off the train one stop early, or listening to a meditation podcast during the commute instead of music, it’s not that huge or different.

Soon, they’ve managed to create a new behaviour, maintain it, and establish the foundations of a long-term habit – probably without even noticing.

The Virgin Pulse Global Challenge is designed to work this way. It’s based on the behavioral science outlined above, yet it also provides members with a simple and engaging journey that improves their physical and psychological health in the long term.

Statistics from the 2016 Global Challenge prove that small changes can get big results[1]:

70% of members now meet the recommendation of 10,000 steps per day

68% who tracked their weight have lost weight

69% now meet the recommended amount of sleep

69% report a decrease in their stress levels at home or at work

58% report an increase in either productivity or concentration


The results are clear: positive changes don’t need to disrupt an employee’s life. But what they do need to be is small, rewarding and introduced slowly until the desired outcome is achieved.

[1] Global Challenge. Final Global Report. 2016. Pre-event (257,984 respondents); post-event (120,402 respondents).


BIO: Over the past 13 years, the Virgin Pulse Global Challenge has helped transform the cultures of the world’s leading organisations and improve the health and performance of over two million employees. In 2016, Global Corporate Challenge (GCC) proudly joined Virgin Pulse to become the leading provider of technology solutions that promote employee engagement and wellbeing. The GCC program is now known as Virgin Pulse Global Challenge. Part of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, Virgin Pulse offers a breadth of best-in-class solutions to maximize employee engagement and performance initiatives and drive measurable and positive outcomes for your employees and business.

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