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How Google Optimised Employee Wellbeing

Leaders worldwide are looking for easy, low-cost methods of assisting employees in making healthier decisions and improving their general wellbeing. Obesity in the country is a major issue that especially effects employees who are desk bound throughout the day, and are in stress and under pressure. Although employer-sponsored wellness programs have produced substantial returns (for example, Johnson & Johnson estimated a 170 percent return on wellness investment in the 2000s), this basic perk is still unheard of in most of the companies here in the country.  

Although many of the stakeholders are genuinely concerned about employee wellness and want to make a solid effort, it often fails as they depend antiquated approaches that end at providing information. The limitation with wellbeing seminars & talks, brochure distributions and classes are that information alone does not help in modifying behavior or establishing new healthy habits. Telling individuals why and how they should do something to improve their wellbeing just isn’t enough. This is especially true for food decisions since any sort of depletion, including hunger, tests our self-control. And because we must make food selections several times a day, we can't commit much cognitive capacity to each option, so our eating habits are habit- and instinct-driven.

Recently, the Google Food Team and the Yale Center for Customer Insights studied how small tweaks at work can improve employee health choice and nudge behavior toward desirable outcomes and yield outsized benefits.

Here are some of the notable findings from the study that you can implement at your workplace at minimal cost, to inculcate healthy choices at work:

1. Accessibility: People tend to eat food that is easy to see or easy to reach. A small difference in accessibility can have a major impact on eating behaviour. The observers recorded the number of people who took both a drink and a snack. It was found that people who used the beverage station near the snacks were 50% more likely to grab a snack with their drink.

2. Vividness: Vivid messaging and imagery grabs the attention of the intuitive, emotional mind. Vividness — triggering delight or disgust, for example — can help the gut instinct make the best choice.

3. Comparisons: The right message might frame relevant trade-offs or quantify the effects of behavior, e.g., “It takes hours to walk off the calories in a bag of fries.” Losses or pain can sometimes be more motivating than gains or pleasure.

4. Persuasion: The key is communicating the right message, the right way, at the right time — when the individual will be most receptive to it. - Placing posters of healthy snacking at work right at the coffee station helps pursue them better  — rather than, say, emailing an article about the benefits of snacking healthy at work.

5. Assortment: Variety is a powerful stimulant of consumption: more options at a time generally means more consumption, since people have a tendency to try what’s in front of them. One way to reduce over consumption without restricting choice altogether is by rotating variety over time, displaying, say, a different snack each day rather than five different snacks for the whole week.

6. Quantity: .Tweaking the quantity that is displayed can influence consumption. Instead of placing bulk bins of nuts, opt for portion controlled individually packed nuts and trail mixes for healthy consumption.

7. Get them what they like: Promoting widely disliked vegetables wouldn’t get people to eat more of them. If people are fond of eating cookies, chips and chocolates, simply pursue them to enjoy the healthy versions of it.  

8. Habits: The majority of our actions are automatic, which means that habitualizing healthy behaviors is the ideal way to sustain them. Google automated snack deliveries to make sure the office never runs out of snacks so that their team isn’t going back to greasy sugary treats for snacking on their own.

9. Precommitment:
 Willpower is a depletable mental resource: when people are tired, hungry, stressed, or focused on something else, they are less likely to perform actions requiring willpower. Making healthy options available at all time allows reasoned decision making and helps prevent impulsive choices that could be regrettable.

This study by the Google Food Team and the Yale Center for Customer Insights paved the way toward a comprehensive program to help employees make better food decisions at work and at home. The results so far present a compelling glimpse of how human resource and leadership teams can use behavioral economics to boost employee health and performance while reducing companies’ health-related costs. These are very simple yet effective takeaways that you can easily implement at your workplace to improve general health and wellbeing of your team.

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