Project Summary

As a UX Research Intern at Xerox Research Center India, I was given the responsibility to conduct a qualitative study with the pilot participants of Standup, a workplace wellness system which pervasively monitored the sedentary lifestyle of employees in the workplace and sent notifications to take a break when they sat for prolonged hours. The aim of the study was to investigate the drop in the system usage. Additionally, we wanted to evaluate the impact of workplace wellness applications in the context of developing regions, by understanding users’ perception, motivations, experiences, lifestyle, the role of gamification and incentivization.

Duration: 3 months

Responsibilities: Contextual Inquiry, Affinity Analysis

Findings from the study

Findings from the qualitative interview and log data indicate a strong correlation between user attitudes towards their health and the usage of the StandUp system i.e. the higher the motivation, more the usage.

  • Users in Group1 were found to be health conscious and already involved in healthy activities such as regular gym exercises, swimming, cycling. We observed a consistency in the usage of the system with strong health impetus among users irrespective of workplaces we studied.
  • Most participants from Sample Group2 communicated the effectiveness of the StandUp system to be moderately high; however, many users stated their lack of motivation towards general health activities. All agreed that StandUp system induced a fair amount of behavior change in them and oriented them to think about their health.

I wasn’t conscious about my steps early. Now I check my steps when I go for snacks or go for walk for some reasons.

I take frequent breaks at office, for water or other things in an hour or 40 minutes.

  • Conversely, participants from Sample group-3 showed a significantly low motivation for health related activities.

Actually, people keep thinking to do something with their health, I too have thought about being healthy and doing something about it like taking morning walks. However, it is not continuous. More than anything else its laziness

Many participants in group-1 and group-2 stated that they would like to see additional information like calories burnt, distance covered in kilometers, heart rate, and blood pressure, rather the number of steps or compliances. One participant said-

If you are fit, then you do not pay much attention to health, but if you know, you have to lose some weight, then calories matter.

Another participant preferred accurate distances rather than number of steps and commented-

I personally calculated that a 1200 steps of mine roughly equals 1 km

Findings from our field study also reveal that users desire to have a strong connect with the information provided on the health applications as if the ‘information is just for them’. A low personalisation experience of health information systems results in low adoption. As one user articulated that he often felt that the ‘system is made for somebody else’.

Most participants (n=9) from group-3 reported their irritation about the push mechanism and pervasiveness of the StandUp application. A user from Site-1 commented –

I like the picture how much time I have sat without getting up. I would like to arrange my own getting up and sitting down. I want notification at the end of the day. I like silent text notifications.

The StandUp system was designed with a twin objective of complying with a pre-set sitting – standing cycle and meeting with the goals of the desired number of steps in a user’s work day. Our findings suggested a mistaken interpretation of the system as a health application providing physiological data. For many participants (n=8), the Stand-up system was limited to step counts. A participant commented-

I only look at the end of the day in the evening so as to check that I have walked but I know at the back of my mind that I have walked enough for the day. The app is just to validate that.

More importantly, we noticed participants perceiving ‘wellness as not a stand-alone concept limited to workspaces’.  This resulted in an extension of usability for such application from workspaces to recreational and personal space.


As stated earlier, three Field Sites had different work contexts, organizational settings, demographic variation in educational level and tech savviness. Findings reveal the work profile of a user and her nature of the work often negatively affected usability. A user from Site02 commented-

I provide support to many clients in Europe, which requires a screen sharing. Many a times I am sharing my screen, a pop up comes. The client asks what this initiative is about, somewhere it distracts the conversation during meetings.

Another participant commented-

The pop-up occupies big part of the desktop and will not go until you click on it – this is so frustrating.

Similar insights were observed in Site-3. A participant commented-

During the financial analysis on MS Excel sheet, the popup is very irritating. Our work is mostly about numbers, and we have to be very careful so I uninstalled it from desktop within a week.

Apart from the work types, it was observed that the work timings also influenced the usage of StandUp. A Site02 participant commented –

I am fully packed from 5:30 to 9:30, I cannot move for 4-5 hours even if I want to. During meetings, I can stand up and walk a bit but the desktop app does not recognize that I am taking a break until I lock my desktop. And it, again and again, gives pop-ups.

A female (Site02) mentioned –

Our work timing are from 0230 pm until 1130pm. By 0830pm, whole office campus becomes lonely. It is not safe for a woman to go for walk outside office afterward.



Many participants from Site02 (n=8) and Site03 (n=10) shared a desire to follow the system in a more committed way. However, they faced a limitation with the spatial layout of their office infrastructure.

An angry Site02 participant complained–

You cannot expect a system like this to work if you cannot give a dedicated break out area in your office. There is no place to go when we want to take the break.

Few users also told us how they adjusted their present work conditions to StandUp. A female participant in Site02 reported –

After dinner, I go to the ground floor and regularly call my parents who live outstation. I walk while talking.

For many users (n=12), the leaderboard was successful in motivating them to use StandUp. An enthusiastic user commented –

Leaderboard is good. If you do it alone, then there is no point. Seeing that others are doing better than you helps in improving.

At the same time, many others (n=24) got demotivated by noticing their colleagues perform better and stopped using the StandUp system in consecutive weeks. A female participant from site02 commented –

When I first started using the app, I was very motivated to increase my steps. When I saw in the leader board people are actually doing 13k steps, got me demotivated, I haven’t seen the leader board in the last week.

Participants reported an inflation of motivation, whenever they could view an organizational leader in the leader board. A user inspired by the high ranking official on the leader board mentioned –

It was so motivating to see even company’s vice president using this app and among the top performer in the leader board. I assume he is always busier than me. If he can to it, I should also do it.

Many users (n=22) in Site01 and Site02 believed that incentives do not motivate them to use the system. A group-3 participant commented –

I am not interested in leader board or incentives. I cannot do so many steps. I am married. I would rather spend time with my family. Going to Gym is for youngsters and unmarried who have free time.

Another participant from Site02 commented-

Contest is secondary … at the end of the day you do it for yourself… your health. People should understand this.

Another user commented –

Motivation of getting incentives only work while you are in competition, not to those who are average performers.


Four weeks into the pilot, the complaints about technical failures of the StandUp System were received. Almost all of them (86%) were related to an inaccurate number of step counts. 14% of the complaints we received were about high usage of battery.

An unsatisfied user commented –

It drains a lot of battery. When I am on the field, I am not able to do anything because the app runs continuously in the background.

It is interesting to note that few users from Site03 secretly complained to researchers that their colleagues in leader board keep on flipping the phone in the free time just to increase their step counts. Few female users commented on the inefficiency of the system to count the number of steps when their mobile is in the Handbag.

A user commented –

Your application counts extra steps even when I am traveling in an Auto rickshaw on bumpy roads.

While these issues were due to technical limitations in mobile sensing, flaws in software deployment or uncontrollable external factors, they added to user frustration and general mistrust toward the system.

Design Implications

The concept of wellness is not just limited to workplaces but extends to multiple scenarios in a user’s every day. In addition, it is important to understand that workplace behaviors are generally a mix of organizational culture and individual behaviors that may digress from the out of office daily routines of an individual. Thus, a more synthesized approach is needed for inducing healthy behaviors to extend beyond office spaces.

Wellness information that is presented to users should be highly customized and should have desired level of granularity. Such platforms should be highly adaptive to personalization and make users believe that the information display is targeted for their own use and not for a generic user population.

While it is important to personalize user experiences, applications targeted towards high user adoption should define wellness goals clearly to targeted users. Firstly, setting a clear use case and expected outcomes from the application will induce a fair level of trust thereby increasing compliance with recommended behaviors. Secondly, it will clearly define self-monitoring parameters to users, persuading them to change current health behaviors and practices.

Any workplace wellness application should complement work practices, work timings and infrastructure available to the users in their workplaces. These factors play a pivotal role in defining the experiences and usability of applications, and more often than not, bad experiences sabotage and arrest user interest.

Users need to be suitably compensated for leaving behind unhealthy behaviors and adopt new healthy ones. Given that healthy behaviors are perpetual and need sustainability, incentives should be planned for long-term behavior change. A small term incentive may be helpful in early adoption of wellness systems, often unsustainable in the long run. Importantly ‘incentives’ work differently across users and should consider a diversity of user preferences offering customizable experiences.

Healthy behaviors can be effectively introduced to users by increasing general health awareness. Surprising users with interesting and niche information, adding relevant triggers urging users to collaborate and converse with colleagues could be helpful. Previous studies have reported social interaction and ideas like virtual trip can be a powerful strategy for persuasive technology interventions. A culture of a strong hierarchal setting in certain workplaces could also be advantageously utilized in relevant workplaces. For example, leader boards can be designed to represent this hierarchy and allow user flexibility to turn off the display when needed.