Here’s One Way to Nudge Employees to Get That Flu Shot

Here’s One Way to Nudge Employees to Get That Flu Shot

Flu season is upon us in the northern hemisphere, and given the significant business costs of a flu outbreak in the workplace, many employers are now holding seasonal on-site clinics where employees can get vaccinated against it. However, Roberta Holland points out at Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge blog, most employees who can get a free flu shot at or near their workplace don’t take the opportunity to do so. That brings her to Harvard professor and behavioral economist John Beshears, who recently studied what motivates employees to visit an on-site flu clinic (or rather what discourages them from doing so) and found that something as simple as the location of the clinic can make a big difference:

Beshears and colleagues tracked 1,801 employees of a health benefits administrator, Express Scripts, during the 2011-2012 flu season. Their goal was to determine whether there was any link between getting vaccinated and how far the clinic was from someone’s office, or how their daily routine brought him or her near the clinic location. …

Beshears and his colleagues used building blueprints to measure base proximity, or how far workers had to walk to get to the clinic from their offices or desks. They used badge swipes at a passageway near the clinic to determine functional proximity, or how often employees were passing by the clinic location on a typical day. Each employee was assigned an anonymous ID code, which allowed Beshears to match the data with whether that individual got a flu shot without identifying workers by name.

The team’s findings showed that putting the clinic in a location where employees pass by naturally increased the likelihood of getting vaccinated by 6.4 percent. …

“In a way it’s a very simple analysis, but we think it’s a powerful one for really drawing out this distinction,” Beshears says. “We found that pure proximity as measured relative to your desk or office didn’t really seem to make the difference. What did make the difference though was this functional proximity; how frequently did your day-to-day routine take you in the vicinity of the clinic.”