Skip to content
Admin November 29, 2016 1 min read

Use behavioral economics in wellness program design

While most employers understand the need to focus on their employees’ well-being, they also acknowledge that developing effective wellness programs for their workforce can be a daunting task. During the Irrationally Healthy conference that we hosted at our headquarters in San Francisco this past summer, behavioral economics leader Dan Ariely met with representatives from 17 large employers to discuss how employers can have a positive impact on employee health and wellness.

Now, we’re happy to unveil the findings of the conference, in the form of the Irrationally Healthy Report. The report contains many valuable insights and recommendations that you can put into action now—with little to no cost.

Download the guide

Here are just a few highlights:

  • Lower barriers to entry. One example: Invest in an onsite cafeteria, and design it to nudge toward healthier choices. Researcher Brian Wansink found that putting fruit in an attractive bowl in a well-lit area increased fruit consumption by 103%! Since food choices have a larger impact on health than exercise, let’s make it easy for people to make better decisions.
  • Make incentives simple to understand and easy to complete. Those with too many steps or complex instructions will lose employees along the way. The type and timing of the incentive is important, too. Focus on rewarding the behavior (getting a flu shot, attending a class about healthy eating) rather than the outcome (BMI, cholesterol levels), and make sure the reward is given in a timely manner. Research shows that people are more motivated by rewards they receive immediately after displaying the desired behavior, than by those they’ll get in the future.
  • Frame the message differently. Simply changing the language of your everyday benefits communications can have powerful results. The behavioral insights throughout the report can be applied to your language. Consider the concept of loss aversion, for example, which holds that losses are more painful to us than gains are pleasurable. Therefore, instead of promoting a $50 reward, reframe your message to say, “Don’t lose out on $50!”

Take a little time to peruse the report. Share your thoughts with us at or drop us a line  if you need help applying behavioral economics to your benefits communications.