Having fun is a key component of life. So why shouldn’t it make the roster for your wellness program? Steven Reiss, a psychologist known for his work in intrinsic motivation and more, includes fun in the list of 16 intrinsic motivators that may encourage your employees to engage in healthier behaviors.

Doing what is best for your health sometimes feels like effort. But some organizations, like Volkswagen, have experimented to see if a little fun will make it easier to achieve healthier behavior. After all, exercise loses its feeling of necessity when you are enjoying what you’re doing, says Colleen Seifert, a University of Michigan psychology professor.

Volkswagen created The Fun Theory project to see if people might choose a better option, whether it is to benefit their health, the environment, etc., if they were having fun.

Their Stockholm subway experiment showed that people chose the stairs, rather than an adjacent escalator, 66% more often when the stairs resembled large piano keys. (The piano keys also composed a melody as walkers stepped on them.) Commuters were having fun and, in turn, choosing a healthier alternative to their routine without much effort.

Adding more fun to your workplace may increase physical activity, which leads to several benefits, such as reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, decreased cancer risks, lower levels of depression, and so much more.

Introduce Your Employees to Fun Activities to Improve Their Health

How can you add (or amplify) fun in your workplace to indirectly improve employees’ health?

Make daily tasks fun and healthy. Encourage your employees to make the simplest of tasks, such as grabbing an afternoon snack, healthy while they’re at work. Some ideas include:

  • Host a healthy snack bar with fun, interesting health facts. Facts could be attached to the snacks with simple sticky notes.
  • Offer a smoothie bar once a week with ample options that allows employees to come up with new concoctions.
  • Organize an after-work healthy cooking demonstration.

Make health education enjoyable. Effective wellness programs introduce fun at the ground level through employee interaction, such as game-like tools relating to a health topic. (One study shared that kids were more likely to understand and be interested in a topic when it was coupled with a fun activity, such as a game element.) One way you can game-ify health might be to model a fitness challenge or nutrition challenge off the Olympics. Think of your favorite game structures (is it ‘Jeopardy!’?) and start from there.

Use humor to facilitate fun. To get your employees involved in their health, you might try adding a little humor. There are several ways you can do this and humor has its own benefits as well.

Encourage the buddy system. The social connection found in workout groups and among co-workers carries a lot of weight for many folks in encouraging them to stay active. Research shows that behavior, whether healthy or unhealthy, is reciprocal between an employee and their spouse. So an impactful way to improve employee health is to promote ways partners and co-workers can be active together. Some other examples include training for a 5K walk/run with a team for accountability or forming a company softball or kickball team.