Hubbub health uses gamification, friends and family in employee wellness offering

By Jonah Comstock
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When Virgin Pulse (then Virgin HealthMiles) opened its services to (up to three) family members for free last fall, execs from the company told Babyforyou.net.ua they predicted other employee wellness companies would follow suit. But hubbub health, a spin-off of Portland, Oregon-based Cambia Health Solutions, is doing one better, offering its gamified employee wellness offering to any number of friends and family members of employees.

"It's all predicated on finding ways to make it fun, make it flexible, making it relevant ..., and allowing friends and families to actually participate in our corporate wellness program," Brian Berchtold, vice president of sales and marketing, told Babyforyou.net.ua. "And that comes from our belief that corporate wellness doesn't end at [5 PM]. And it certainly doesn't end Friday night. After work and on the weekends are when we digress into bad habits, and if we can involve friends that we spend time with after work and on the weekends, we're going to be able to influence behavior."

Hubbub health was founded in 2010 and spent about a year in development and another year in beta. It launched to the public last year. All the funding the company has received so far has been from Cambia Health, which also owns Healthsparq. Hubbub focuses its web and mobile-based online employee wellness-focused program on small and medium sized businesses, although the platform will also work for large companies.

"In the markets we serve, there's not one vendor that really targets that group," Berchtold said. "The reason that it's important is that [size] employer doesn't have a dedicated wellness team. So we created this turnkey solution." 

For $3 per employee per month, companies get access to a gamified challenge platform. Employees can do challenges created by their employer, by hubbub, or by other employees. The employer can set up rewards for challenges through the platform. Although some challenges are activity-based -- and the platform integrates with Fitbit, Jawbone, Nike, and Withings to track activity -- Berchtold said they steer away from too myopic a focus.

"Not even a third of activities on this platform are focused on physical activity," he said. "It's been centered [on] nutrition, work-life balance, mingling, volunteering. Some of our most popular challenges are family cooking, game night, eat something orange. Basic little activities that foster the idea of community, family, and small behavior challenges around healthier habits. One interesting thing we've learned is, if you present a challenge that's 'lower your weight, reduce your cholesterol,' people didn't migrate to that. It's too scripted and very much felt like an insurance company. If you can integrate family and make it fun, people start going to that."

About 20,000 employees are currently using hubbub's platform, according to Berchtold. Ninety percent of employees sign up and 88 percent of those engage with the software regularly, he said. Employees on the platform level up by engaging and participating in challenges. Berchtold said that employees who reach level 20 check in twice a day, have an average of 62 friends on the platform, get an average of 19 miles of exercise per month, and have lost an average of three pounds since signing up.

"We wanted to create an environment where there's a low barrier to entry," said Berchtold. "To get as many people as possible to participate, not just the marathon runners and triathletes."

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