Social networks kept the 41,000 participants in the Sprint Get Fit Challenge engaged and motivated throughout the 12-week challenge. Collectively, participants (who made up 35% of the telecom company’s population) lost more than 41,000 pounds, took almost 4.8 billion steps, and logged nearly 22 million exercise minutes. By building excitement and supportive competition through social media, Sprint’s wellness leaders engaged participants over the long-term.

Through the social network platform powered by OptumHealth, individuals could track and compare their personal progress against their own goals, their team’s progress, or an average user’s results throughout the challenge. Employees’ privacy was protected so that their weight was not viewable by the team and only percentages of weight change per individual were posted online. Through the website, participants could share workout plans, schedule healthy activities at their workplace, cheer on a teammate’s progress, encourage lagging colleagues, and celebrate wellness accomplishments with a high-five graphic.   

“For a first attempt at a national wellness challenge, the Sprint Get Fit Challenge results were amazing for the employees and for Sprint! We wanted to provide a simple, fun, team-focused challenge that would get employees excited about getting — and staying — healthy,” says Stacey Nelson, Sprint senior professional in Human Resources and manager, Health and Welfare. “Around the company, we saw people really stepping up — showing incredible team camaraderie, participating in sporting events for the first time, and doing everything in their power to achieve their goals.”

By engaging committed employees through social media, the Sprint wellness challenge drew robust results. More than 1,850 people reported losing at least 10 pounds, for example.

Social media also expands the possibilities for sharing data in real-time and building engagement around disease management initiatives. Participants can engage in group challenges and be held accountable for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing their chronic conditions by their peers.

In the Sprint case study, over 20% of participants in the challenge were considered “high-risk” and nearly 70% were first-time wellness benefit users.

“The rise of technology and social media has driven individuals no matter where they are coming from whether at the worksite, remote or telecommuting and has tremendously improved the way we’re engaging individuals and our ability to pull them into [disease management programs],” explains Beena Thomas, vice president of health and wellness for OptumHealth. “We’re going to see social media playing a very defined role in improving and driving individual engagement in these particular programs. By bringing gaming paradigms into the workplace, we’re seeing success with individuals who otherwise may have not engaged with us.”

To incentivize employees to participate in the initiative, Sprint raffled off two high-tech devices that track steps taken and calories burned during exercise. Throughout the challenge, employees who logged on to the social networking platform at least once a week to record their results were automatically entered into weekly drawings for Sprint devices.

Those that made it to the half-way point of the challenge received Sprint e-Points that could be redeemed for prizes. And at the end of the contest, leaders held Grand Prize drawings for employees and teams to win more e-points, Sprint devices, game consoles, or a laptop computer. To solidify the brand of the wellness challenge, the 680 employees who walked more than one million steps received Keds sneakers emblazoned with the Sprint logo.

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