Looking for a way to get your employees more engaged with their well-being? Try a wellness challenge. They give people the structure and support they need to make positive changes in their health while strengthening workplace well-being culture. Not sure what to do for your wellness challenge? Check out these popular wellness challenge ideas.
Wellness challenges can focus on a range of healthy behaviors—like exercise, nutrition, mental health, or social connectedness. Activities can be done individually, or you can host a group challenge where employees from different work locations, departments, or regions compete against one another. Depending on the challenge, you might ask people to record their participation daily, weekly, or monthly. And, of course, it’s up to you to decide how long you want to run the challenge.
The most important thing is to have fun while engaging in healthy behaviors! Encourage people to participate by providing an incentive for completing the challenge—for example, points through your well-being program, a small token, an end-of-challenge celebration with healthy food, or a donation to a favorite charity. Ultimately, the challenge and the encouragement should match your organization’s culture and values, so take some time to determine which items are most meaningful to your company and employees.
Here are some wellness challenge ideas for your organization:
Ideas for Group Wellness Challenges
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 healthy competition. We’ve loved it!
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. We also see positive changes in employee morale and engagement following this kind of challenge.
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 period 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 log 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.
Here, you could focus on increasing the number of strength workouts people do each week, or host a plank or squat challenge. These challenges are especially fun if your organization still meets up in person for work! Ask employees to record their workout streaks—the number of days in a row they’ve done some workout—whether it’s cardio, strength, yoga or even stretching. Of course, the goal with any exercise challenge is to get folks to move more and sit less!
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 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.
Ideas for Individual Wellness Challenges
The benefits of drinking water are well-known, yet so 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 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, but hosting a meditation challenge is a great 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 getting 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 six hours a night, their goal might be to sleep for eight hours. Combine the challenge with education around good sleep hygiene and creating a sleep ritual.
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.
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 the person behind them in line, picking up trash at a local park, donating to a food bank, volunteering at an animal shelter—our employees love to help out, so the list goes on! 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.
We hope you’ve found some inspiration in these healthy challenge ideas. For more information on planning wellness challenges, see our e-book How to Plan and Implement Wellness Challenges or check out our whitepaper, Wellness Challenges Boost Results and Culture. For help planning your wellness challenge, visit our website or contact us at email@example.com.