The Gamification of Wellness at Work

Can insights from video game data support wellness at work?

In 2022, Wired covered the increasing use of data analytics in the video game industry. Much of this data had previously been used in-house (e.g., to predict what players will purchase, ad engagement, or how they play) or shared with researchers in psychology (e.g., to better understand what behaviors correlate with personality types). But what I found most fascinating in this article was the suggestion that there’s an increased focus in applying analytic insights from video game data to other types of domains. For instance, AI systems have been trained using video game data, and other applications include the gamification of work (e.g., understanding how to incentive workers through video game like systems). The article took a fairly dystopian stance on the use of this data, which I don’t disagree with, but it led me to wonder if there were positive applications of this data or gamification at work?

One application the article mentioned in passing was using video game data insights in healthcare systems. Could these insights be applied in organizations to help support wellness practices through some sort of gamification? Wellbeing/satisfaction at work has been linked to a variety of other positive work and life outcomes, so creating some sort of gaming app that encourages healthy behaviors at work (e.g., taking breaks, walking/stretching, meditating for a few minutes, not being on email after hours) could be well-received by employees. I know personally that I aspire to engage in these behaviors at work, but I don’t prioritize them and struggle to implement them with regularity. Having this kind of system in place at work could also signal to employees that their wellbeing is valued and supported by the organization (not just their ability to complete tasks). And while wellbeing is often abstractly encouraged in organizations, creating an organization wide wellness game could foster an organizational culture that encourages wellness practices. And perhaps I’m leaning too heavily into the use of the word “game,” but could the use of gaming systems also foster a sense of play or fun at work?

Of course, there’s a more dystopian critique to consider when it comes to wellness data or gamification at work. Rather than just understanding how people do work tasks, this type of system could require workers to share data on their bodies in a manner that’s more intrusive than simply sharing calendar data. It also raises interesting questions about the boundaries between our personal and professional lives, in which wellbeing and fitness is often considered something people handle in their personal time. Does engaging in these types of activities at work implicitly recognize that workers are people, or does it further commodify them? To that end, one would have to think about the worker perception of this type of wellbeing game. If employees view this as just an intrusive system designed to promote workplace productivity, it could very well backfire and leave workers feeling commodified. I don’t personally love the idea of gamification of tasks for sheer productivity, but I’m intrigued by the idea that more play could be incorporated into organizations, and how gamification may support workplace wellness practices.



Take Step 1 back to square 1


Tech Is Transforming People Analytics. Is That a Good Thing?

Student comments on The Gamification of Wellness at Work

  1. Hi Liz! This is a really interesting article – it makes me think of a time when my office (at the start of COVID) did a workout challenge where every minute of working out that was logged in Strava would correspond with a certain amount of money donated to COVID relief charities. I quite enjoyed it, and it did signal a commitment both to our community, but also to wellness amidst a challenging time of remote work and heavy workloads. However, it did make me nervous about the kind of data that was being shared with my office – i.e., my running route, where I was located, and how far I ran (though it did push me to run farther!)

  2. This is a very interesting topic to think about! Many companies have wellness programs that try to get employees to be healthier (whether to lower insurance premiums or improve productivity), but I haven’t heard of the type of gamified app you are talking about for healthy micro habits. It made me think of some initiatives that my university was putting into place when I was in undergrad. There is a lot of research that talks about the effectiveness of gamification on motivating millennials. As Gen Z enters the workforce, I wonder if the idea you are talking about would become more or less effective over time. Would people be motivated by the achievement of some app or tracker? Or would the idea of having yet another to-do list item for work turn people off? I’m not sure I know the answer but this definitely has me thinking!

Leave a comment