These days, employers are eager for ideas to help their teams focus on their well-being and stay connected to each other in our new world of work. A corporate wellness challenge is something to consider. It brings the whole organization together—even if not physically together—for some healthy competition, all while getting employees engaged in their health. Not sure what kind of challenge to host? Check out these popular wellness challenge ideas.
Ideas for employee fitness challenges.
For some employees, the pandemic offered more time to exercise. But for the vast majority, quarantine, caregiving responsibilities, and increased workload made getting enough exercise more difficult. As a result, fitness challenges are incredibly popular right now. They can help employees who have become more sedentary jumpstart a routine, and also provide ongoing motivation and encouragement for regular exercisers. Here are a few fitness challenge ideas:
If you’re an outdoorsy type of company and have access to some good terrain, host a hiking challenge. It’s best to hold this challenge over a longer period of time so employees have enough time to complete it. Some of our clients have created incredible hiking challenges for their populations, complete with a full list of local places to hike with varied levels of difficulty and trail lengths. With more options to pick from, more employees can participate at a level that works for their individual lifestyles and health goals.
Get employees walking during lunchtime. This works for both in-office and remote employees. This option can also be great for individual teams to start as well. Leadership can encourage managers and coworkers to tally the most walking meetings or lunch breaks to encourage people to step away, get some fresh air, and come back relaxed and motivated.
Office fitness ideas.
For organizations that are 100% in-person, you might host a stairs challenge, where employees tally the number of times they use the stairs at work versus the elevator. A get up and move challenge encourages employees to get up from their workspaces and move for a few minutes every hour. Stretch break challenges are also a fun way to get people to stand and stretch throughout the day or during long meetings. For more physical challenges, consider:
- Squatting or planking. Have employees commit to doing a certain number of squats or time spent holding a plank. I love a good wall squat during the start of a meeting!
- Strength workouts. Ask people to tally the number of strength workouts they do per week. Of course, core workouts count here, too!
- Take advantage of warmer weather and summer vacations to host a swim challenge. Employees can complete at home, in an ocean or lake, or at a fitness center.
- Workout streak. Ask employees to record the number of days in a row they’ve done some sort of workout—whether it’s cardio, yoga, or even stretching.
Ideas for team wellness challenges.
Hosting a team-based challenge is a fun way to boost morale and employee engagement, connect people from different parts of the organization, and get some healthy rivalry going. What’s great is that technology makes it possible for people from different geographic locations to compete on the same team—so someone in Boston could be virtually tallying steps alongside someone in Hawaii. Here are some group health challenge ideas that work well for dispersed teams.
Steps challenges, like our Invitational Team Steps Challenge, allow participants to compete in small groups to tally the most steps per week. These are always a hit for both our own staff and our clients. In fact, we even hosted the Invitational twice this year to help our teams get outside, get social, and engage in a little good-natured competition. Recently, we even followed some of our colleagues during their Invitational journey to see how they used the challenge to work on their own personal goals. Read their stories here.
Steps challenges work well for all fitness levels and departments within an organization. Employees can use their own pedometers, steps-tracking app, or exercise converter—like switching biking mileage to steps walked—to record their progress. As many of our clients have discovered, a steps challenge is a great way to give people in different business units or offices the chance to connect and compete together.
What we eat not only affects our physical and mental health, but impacts our planet, too. Examples of healthy eating challenges include a clean-eating challenge where participants pledge to eat only whole foods for a certain amount of time, or a plant-based eating challenge where employees log the number of plant-based meals they eat for a month. Host a healthy lunch competition where employees note the number of healthy lunches brought from home. Get folks to up their produce intake by recording the number of fruits and vegetables they eat.
Studies show that when employees participate in volunteer or workplace giving programs, they not only give back to the community, but are also more likely to feel committed to their company.1 So why not create a challenge to log the greatest number of volunteer hours or donated items, like a clothing or food drive? Doing these activities together also boosts social connection, which we know is critical to our well-being.
One of our clients recently combined social justice with a four-week steps challenge. They encouraged participants to get their steps in by taking a digital cross-country journey to important locations in the racial justice movement. When they virtually reached each area, they received a link to a podcast from the client’s “Racial and Social Justice Action Toolkit,” where they got to learn more about the significance and impact that area had on the social justice movement. It was extremely successful, and they plan on doing another theme-based challenge later on.
Ideas for individual wellness challenges.
Sometimes it’s just not feasible to run a team-based challenge. And, if you host multiple challenges during the year, you’ll want to have a mix of team and individual events. Check out these ways employees can focus on individual behaviors that lead to better health. Note: Many of these individual challenges are also more inclusive and accessible to people of all abilities.
The benefits of drinking water are well-known, yet many of us still don’t drink enough. Tracking water intake is a great personal challenge that’s easy to record and reward, and works well for remote workers. For those in the office, make it fun by posting signs directing people to the water cooler, or give everyone—remote workers included—a reusable water bottle to kick off the challenge.
Meditation and mindfulness.
Many of us are reluctant to start a meditation practice or don’t think we have the time, so hosting a meditation challenge is a way to encourage people to try it out and see if it benefits them. Provide access to meditation sessions via your well-being program or an app, and reward employees for achieving a certain number of meditation minutes or sessions per week.
Experts say one of the most important things we can do for our health is to get more sleep. In a sleep challenge, employees log the number of hours they sleep each night and try to achieve a specific goal. For example, if they typically average about five or six hours a night, their goal might be to sleep for seven hours. Combine the challenge with education around good sleep hygiene and how to create a sleep ritual to kickstart more healthy sleep patterns.
Keeping coworkers connected when some are in the office and others work remotely isn’t easy. Challenges that get people to have more interactions with colleagues can help. For example, you could have people tally the number of coworker connections they have over a certain period. This could include things like virtual water cooler chats, meet-ups after work, participating in a virtual bingo or trivia event, or—like one of our employees did—use a walking challenge as a chance to re-connect with a coworker.
Psychologists have documented the positive effects of practicing gratitude on our emotional and physical health. Give everyone a small notebook at the beginning of the challenge and ask folks to record the things they’re grateful for. At the end of the challenge, you could create a gratitude wall—in-person or virtual—that allows participants to share entries if they want to.
Worrying about finances causes stress and can even make us sick. Get employees more engaged with your financial wellness program by creating a challenge that rewards people for attending a workshop, completing online education courses, or meeting with a financial advisor. Given our current environment, this type of challenge may be more popular than you think!
Acts of kindness.
Scientists have found that practicing random acts of kindness can actually reduce stress, boost our immune systems, and help reduce negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, and depression.2 Have employees record the acts of kindness they perform over a month. For example, our employees share photos in a chat channel proving their act of kindness—adding a book to a little library, paying for the coffee or meal for someone behind them in line, picking up trash at a local park, donating to a food bank, volunteering at an animal shelter, things like that. You could also weave in self-care, which is perhaps the most important act of kindness!
Challenges that focus on eco-sustainability are popular right now. For example, focus on reducing plastic consumption by not using plastic wrap or purchasing plastic water bottles. Encourage walking or biking to work or to do errands. Create a challenge around recycling or composting. Get people to eat locally by visiting farmers’ markets and posting the snacks or meals they make with their local foods. All of these activities can be tallied and rewarded with a small token, like a reusable shopping bag or water bottle.
For companies who want to help employees focus on their well-being and improve engagement and employee connection at the same time, workplace fitness and wellness challenges are a great idea. If you’d like some help setting up your next wellness challenge, visit our website or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.