The American Heart Association finished a pilot program it launched for its employees earlier in the year using health and wellness app Hotseat, and employee survey results show that 78% found the app made them more mindful of their time spent sitting. Sixty-two percent, meanwhile, took more breaks from sitting during the workday since using Hotseat.

The AHA launched the pilot program, sending invites to over 2,000 employees, in June and achieved a 33% participation rate, double what it had seen with an earlier pilot project using a different technology.

Hotseat is a smart phone app designed to do one thing only: get employees out of their seats regularly throughout the day. "Hotseat's very focused on that one thing only - get you up out of your seat for short activity breaks throughout the day," says Hotseat creator Fran Melmed, who is also the founder of Context, a communication consulting firm that specializes in workplace wellness.

Hotseat "was something completely different," says Stacey Barnes, projects/operations and employee wellness program director with AHA. "We try to walk the talk but we all get so ingrained in what we're doing in our daily lives and jobs each day that we're always looking for something unique to remind us to move more."

Hotseat is offered on a licensed model, and there's also a per user per year fee. "Beyond the app, there are branded communications to launch the program, market it and sustain it," says Melmed, adding that currently, Hotseat is most effectively priced for 500 users and up. Fees include an employer portal that allows employers to track activitiy and how employees are using it.

The AHA looked at several technologies, and what was appealing about Hotseat was that "it doesn't just provide a repository for tracking activity. It actually prompts you to get active. And that is rare," says Avneet Jolly, a consultant with the AHA.

Among the AHA employees surveyed, 67% said they would recommend Hotseat to others.

Employees set up a break profile, which includes selecting activities from the app's library - those they feel comfortable and capable of doing. "That's very important, because what we're trying to do is have people who are motivated, have them identify activities they are capable of doing. Those two things together - motivation and capability - when facilitated with the opportunity to act, leads to behavior change," says Melmed.

Users then set up the number of breaks they want to take each day and the days and the hours they want to take those breaks. Hotseat will even sync the breaks with the employee's calendar. "Because this is smartphone-delivered, it can sync with their calendar and look for time pockets that are open, which allows for creating an opportunity that is more likely to be taken," says Melmed. "It becomes a daily, personal, rotating schedule that coordinates with your other work schedule."



Short breaks

Activity breaks are just two minutes and Hotseat will send a meeting reminder straight to an employee's phone. "You're prompted to take the break, slide your phone open to Hotseat and you're prompted to either do the activity, snooze or skip," explains Melmed. "You're given the opportunity to snooze because it recognizes you might be in the middle of a phone call. You're also given the opportunity to skip and you're prompted to reschedule. Those that press 'do it' will come to a screen with instructions and a timer, which will time them down as they do their activity."

Users can play in solo mode or challenge mode. "If you play in a challenge, you need to complete all of your challenges in order to not be eliminated. And if one person is eliminated, then the other person wins," says Melmed. "You want to keep your string of unbroken, but completed, activities done for as long as you can until you can defeat the other person."

AHA is satisfied with the results of the pilot. "We were not novices in this space, so our expectations were relatively realistic and they were met," says Jolly. "The two main expectations were that Hotseat helps employees at the AHA be more aware and more mindful of just how long they can go at a stretch being inactive. [Our other expectation] was that Hotseat, at least for the duration of the pilot, helps these same folks get up and move."

Feedback from AHA employees was a balanced mix of positive and negative. "One individual shared with me that they really liked it; it held them accountable to get up and do those two-minute exercises multiple times a day," says Barnes. "One individual loved it so much, they were squeezing in up to 16 two-minute breaks a day ... it got their blood flowing, stretched their mind and body, and it was a great opportunity for them to interact with other co-workers."

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