Happy employees are usually indicators of a healthy workplace.
If you want this for your company, consider implementing some fun workplace wellness challenges. These will encourage your employees to create healthy habits, socialize, and become more productive and engaged.
This article contains:
(Click on the links to jump to a specific section)
- What are Workplace Wellness Challenges?
- 6 Fun Ideas for Workplace Wellness Challenges
- How to Create a Workplace Wellness Challenge
What are workplace wellness challenges?
Workplace wellness challenges are short-term team activities, contests, and interventions designed to encourage healthy behaviors and boost employee morale. Most of these challenges last about a week, with added incentives encouraging participation.
You can reward employees when they achieve a goal or cross a milestone. This reward creates a positive feedback loop and keeps everyone motivated.
Some challenges can be expanded into a more significant strategic effort, forming a workplace wellness program.
Why conduct a corporate wellness program
These challenges provide lots of insights regarding the importance of employee wellness in your company.
It helps employees understand that you care about their wellbeing, inside and out of the office. It also creates a positive association in their minds about the workplace, making them more engaged.
Additionally, companies with robust wellness programs usually have:
- Lower turnover rates.
- Reduced absenteeism.
- Higher employee job satisfaction.
- Lower healthcare costs.
- Increased productivity.
Studies also show that most employees want their employers to take an active role in encouraging healthy behaviors.
So they look for companies with robust health offerings. You can take advantage of this expectation and benefit during recruitment by offering a wellness program from the get-go.
When implemented correctly, these challenges help employees feel cared for and loyal to the company.
Let’s explore some wellness challenge ideas you can implement in your workplace.
6 fun ideas for workplace wellness challenges
A wellness challenge should be three things: short-term, easy, and fun!
Now, it might not be possible to conduct certain programs as a ‘challenge’ because what health and wellness are to one person may not necessarily be the same for another.
That’s why it’s best to discuss with your employee before you go ahead with any workplace wellness challenge. Additionally, you could take up wellness initiatives — providing the right resources or knowledge to your employees to help them set their own challenges.
Here are eight major categories of corporate wellness challenges:
1. Fitness challenges
Regular physical activity can help in many ways, such as:
- Mood improvement.
- Regulating circadian rhythms.
- Reducing feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Aiding weight loss.
- Reducing the risk of chronic diseases and many more.
But let’s say you have an employee who can’t find a regular sitter for their kids. They can’t exercise consistently, even when they want to.
Through a workplace fitness challenge, the employee can lead a healthy lifestyle without worrying about conflicting schedules with the sitter.
When you’re proactive about employee wellbeing, your employees are more likely to respond positively. Additionally, a short-term fitness challenge with the right incentives could encourage employees to participate.
Here are some fitness challenges you could introduce in your workplace:
A) Walking challenge
Walking is a simple activity that can get blood flowing. It’ll also help your employees lead a healthy lifestyle by taking breaks more often.
Most smartphones have a steps tracker you can use to calculate who walked the most. You can even turn this healthy habit into a group activity and foster camaraderie within the team.
Additionally, if your employees are feeling stuck on their tasks, walking could help boost their creativity.
B) Biking challenge
Biking to work can be an excellent wellness challenge idea. It’s a win-win for your employees as it’ll help them save gas or cab fare and reduce their carbon footprint.
You can also organize a bike race and ask your employees’ loved ones to join too. An event like this will encourage participants to give their best shot and socialize with each other.
C) Workout at work
Corporate fitness classes are an easy way of prioritizing employee health in your workplace. These workout sessions can provide a much-needed break and foster a healthy work environment.
With a Zumba class or a meditative yoga session, you can create more opportunities for your employees to meet their personal goals. It’s also a great way to let off steam, relax, and bond with your coworkers.
Start by offering classes every month and slowly ramping it up as attendance rises. Turn it into a fun fitness challenge by rewarding a gym membership to employees who are regular attendees.
D) Online group workout
The pandemic led to a rise in all sorts of online classes, primarily virtual workout classes.
These sessions, often led by experienced and qualified instructors, can get all team members together, no matter where everyone is.
It’s a great way to socialize, especially if your team is mostly or entirely remote.
Doing a workplace wellness challenge provides your employees many chances to interact and learn new things about each other. Such collaborative group activities can help mitigate feelings of isolation and improve overall wellness.
Note: Ensure participants consult a physician for a health screening before beginning any physical activity. Some challenges may not be suitable for certain employees due to pre-existing health conditions.
2. Nutrition challenges
If you aim to help your employees become fit, you can’t ignore nutrition.
A balanced diet can help:
- Strengthen the immune system.
- Decrease chronic disease risk.
- Improve heart health.
- Boost mood and energy levels.
- Increase life expectancy.
If you can encourage your employees to make better food choices, this healthy behavior will likely follow them home and help their loved ones as well.
Some common ways to encourage healthy eating are:
A) Healthy cooking challenge
You could host your very own worksite cooking competition. Decide on the ingredients and ask your employees to prepare innovative dishes with them.
Alternatively, you can make it an inter-departmental challenge and treat the winning department to a healthy lunch.
B) Healthy snacks
To encourage healthy eating habits, you should replace all snacks in your office pantry with more nutritious options. Some of these may include veggies, various dips, fresh fruit, yogurt, etc.
If you want to shake things up, partner with a delivery service that’ll allow your employees to choose healthy snacks from a menu every day.
C) Meal subscriptions
Remote employees may often make poor dietary choices — overeating, skipping meals, or depend too much on unhealthy takeout.
You can address this issue by signing up for a meal subscription program that delivers ready-to-eat healthy foods. Challenge employees to try new things by signing up for a service that sends ingredients and cooking instructions for a specific meal!
Max Benz from RemoteCanteen adds that if you’re working remotely, you can even set up online cooking meetups to try the meal subscriptions together and use it as a team building event.
D) Stay hydrated challenge
The average adult needs to drink about eight glasses of water a day, yet most of us struggle to do so.
This is despite knowing that dehydration can lead to headaches, fatigue, irritability, and dry eyes — especially if you’re staring at a screen all day.
So why not turn it into a challenge?
You can create a dedicated Slack channel where everyone can share their hydration progress. You can then recognize or even reward people who performed well.
Note: These challenges should focus on mindful eating as self-monitoring is enough to improve the quality of the food you eat. Additionally, avoid organizing challenges as a ‘weight loss challenge’ that might be potentially harmful and non-inclusive.
3. Mental health and emotional wellbeing programs
Did you know that nearly 80% of employees experience workplace stress, and about half would like help managing their stress levels?
Stress can severely diminish your employee’s mental health and emotional wellbeing, leading to fluctuating work performance. This creates a vicious cycle of stress and burnout.
With remote work blurring the line between home and office, some people put in more hours, leading to overworked employees.
But you can avoid this situation with a few simple challenges:
A) Mindful monday
The pandemic left many people feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and fearful.
Mindfulness was a welcome respite as it focused on being aware of the present moment.
Observing the present without any past or future interference lets you evaluate your emotions, behaviors, and thoughts objectively.
Allocate a specific date and time, like on Monday, for mindfulness practice at work to help your employees:
- Improve their self-regulation.
- Increase emotional resilience.
- Enhance social relationships.
- Improve focus.
- Increase productivity.
After all, wellness goes way beyond strictly physical health.
B) Start a hobby
Research shows that hobbies can help manage workplace stress and foster social connections.
You can incentivize employees to pick up a hobby by offering to subsidize their class fees or allowing them to leave work early those days. Allowing your employees to focus on their lives outside work will contribute to their overall happiness.
And happy employees are more productive.
C) Gratitude challenge
Ask your employees to write down at least one thing they’re grateful for at the end of each workday. Allow them to share this with a trusted colleague or keep it private.
Just this simple act of acknowledging gratitude can improve your employees’ mental health.
At the end of the month, you can reward employees who have consistently kept up with the challenge with a day off — to show your gratitude to them.
All employees, especially remote employees, want to feel cared for and acknowledged.
By acknowledging their efforts and hard work, you can create a healthy and encouraging work environment.
D) Improve time management and avoid burnout
Studies have shown that effective work-life balance policies help control employee burnout, improve productivity, and reduce absenteeism.
Turn this into a challenge by asking employees to keep an eye on their work patterns and improve their time management skills. You can then recognize employees who finish their allocated tasks without overtime.
Fortunately, you can use an employee productivity tool like Time Doctor to help you out here.
Time Doctor lets employees track the time they spend on tasks, giving them accurate insights into their productivity.
Additionally, Time Doctor has a Work-Life Balance Widget that managers and employers can use to improve employees’ work-life balance and prevent burnouts.
With the widget, you can check if employees:
- Put in long hours.
- Work outside of their shifts.
- Work on weekends.
Explore Time Doctor’s features and benefits.
4. Sleep challenge
As stress levels rise, so does sleep deprivation. It’s so common that one in three adults don’t get the required hours of sleep.
Lack of quality sleep for employees can have multiple short-term and long-term consequences, eventually costing businesses tons of money every year.
To ensure all employees get enough sleep, companies should implement regular sleep challenges and programs.
As sleep is a multi-faceted topic, the challenge needs to be so too.
Some examples are:
- Yoga workshops on poses to improve sleep quality.
- How to practice pre-bedtime meditation and mindfulness.
- What foods to avoid for midnight snacks.
In the end, employees should have relevant information on how to get a good night’s sleep.
Encourage employee engagement in these programs by creating a sleep challenge and asking participants to note their sleep hours each night. Allow your participants to set their own goals as each individual has different sleep needs.
5. Smoking cessation
There’s a correlation between high stress and increased smoking. And long-term smokers can find it hard to quit without proper encouragement and resources.
As this wellness initiative is about long-term behavior change, your employees would benefit from a realistically-paced program. For example, start with a week to a fortnight, a month, three months, six months, and so on.
You may also ask your employee’s loved ones to participate as a form of encouragement, especially if they smoke too. This will remove temptations and help your employee get in the right headspace.
Another option to help employees quit smoking is offering financial incentives.
Since these financial rewards rely on reaching certain milestones, like not smoking for a week, employees will feel motivated to quit smoking.
Note: Remember that smoking might be an addiction for some. So if an employee smokes during this period, try to accept and understand their struggle without judgment.
6. Financial wellness
When employees are insecure about their finances, this can spill over to the workplace, increasing stress and burnout risk.
As a result, financial wellness programs are gaining popularity because they apply to people of all ages — from recent college grads to older millennials.
However, employees are hesitant to share sensitive financial information in the workplace.
That’s why conducting financial education seminars and workshops are excellent ideas. Seminar participants can earn points for attending, which acts as a challenge to motivate employees.
However, the main focus of these employee wellness programs is to provide employees with relevant information on how to increase savings and make better financial decisions.
You can also make this a recurring program through regular updates on changing laws and regulations.
How to create a workplace wellness challenge
Here’s how you can create an employee wellness challenge that will engage everyone:
1. Let employees pick the challenge
Give your employees a list of preapproved challenge ideas and take a poll. This encourages everyone to participate, at least in the survey, and make them invested.
Ensure your employees don’t miss the challenge or any of its details by:
- Sending reminder emails and texts.
- Sharing relevant posters.
- Mentioning it in meetings.
- Reminding them of participation perks.
2. Make participation easy
A good challenge is as inclusive as possible.
For instance, in a step challenge, ensure all employees have the necessary equipment to record their steps. If they don’t, try partnering with a company providing such equipment, like Fitbit.
Additionally, set up the challenge to automatically record the steps in the employee’s account.
3. Reward effort
Since wellness activities are voluntary, reward employees through perks like time off, cash rewards, gift cards, etc. These will increase employee participation and incentivize progress.
Read more about implementing remote workplace wellness challenges.
What we covered here are just some examples of workplace wellness challenges you can implement.
And while the ones you choose will depend on your specific needs, the main objective should be to encourage healthy behaviors and create an accepting, inclusive workplace culture.
But some employees won’t be able or willing to compete. That’s why we recommend not limiting wellness initiatives to contests.
Listen to your employees, consider their suggestions, and remain proactive. You could also use employee-friendly productivity tools like Time Doctor to maintain a genuine interest in their wellbeing.
Andy is a technology & marketing leader who has delivered award-winning and world-first experiences.