Wellness Challenges and the Workplace: What Works?

February 2, 2018
Eliza Parish

The Rise of Wellness Programs

Employee wellness programs have become increasingly popular for companies as a way to reduce employee turnover, attract top talent, and foster a happier, healthier work environment.  The big push for wellness programs began a few years ago largely as a way to off-set rising health care costs for employers, with greater emphasis on the physical aspects of health and not necessarily holistic employee wellness.

The industry has since shifted it’s focus and there has been a lot of positive action around wellness programs with 73% of employees saying they are interested in them.  Nearly 60% of the employees that have access to a program credit them with actually improving their overall health, according to a 2017 article in BenefitsPro.  Additionally, 25% percent of employees now own an activity tracker, up from only 13% the previous year.  With the popularity of these programs on the rise (83% of large firms offer a wellness program according to Kaiser Family Foundations’ 2016 Employer Health Benefits Survey), we thought it would be important to take a look at what types of healthy lifestyle challenges within the overall wellness program work best.

Components of a Good Challenge

A 2017 Workplace Wellness survey reported that employers are realizing that wellness is not just about reducing health care costs because employee wellness is more than just that.  Further,

“embracing the broad definition of wellness has led to a tremendous impact on organizational health and worker productivity and happiness” (International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, 2017).

So, what types of challenges are these employees embracing and feeling motivated about?  Here are some of the key components that we have found:

  • It’s a grassroots movement –  employee input is critical.  Survey employees and see what they are interested in doing and what motivates them.   Leadership input is great, but a top-down approach in not very effective in getting employees invested.
  • Couch potatoes welcome – don’t cater to those who are already active.  You don’t have to run a marathon, or a 5k.  There are lots of fun challenges out there that don’t necessarily have to be an athletic event or an unrealistic expectation.
  • Create a reward system- let’s be honest, we all love swag or even a fancy homemade medal on occasion.  There are lots of opportunities to incentivize, or gamify your challenge.  Provide rewards (gift cards, certificates, gear, etc.) for hitting challenge goals AND personal goals.
  • Link it with charitable giving- it feels awesome to give back.  You don’t always have the time to give back to the community like you want or give to a cause that you care about.  Link your wellness challenges to charitable causes and double the impact.

Challenges that Work

Start simple!  Step challenges can be a great introductory challenge for employees.  Take advantage of what you are already doing, and provide an opportunity to challenge yourself.  Easily link an activity tracker (you can often negotiate bulk deals on activity trackers for your company) or use your phone to track your steps and you are set to go! A survey conducted by DHS Group showed that during a step challenge, 84% of participants were motivated to move more and increase their steps and 93% of participants would like to do another challenge.

Team challenges are a fun way to work together for a goal.  This is also a great opportunity to tie in charitable giving.  Motivate together toward a common goal for a great cause.  Employers can also offer incentives for the whole group as they work toward the collective goal.  Team challenges are also easy to continue from month to month by finding new charities and causes to support each month.

Think outside the box and have a sleep challenge!  For the ultimate couch potato office – just kidding! Studies show that getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night is optimal for functioning at your best you.  Don’t short change yourself or your coworkers – host, arguably the best challenge – a 30 day sleep challenge and try to log your 8 hours a night.  It’s hard to go wrong with this challenge.

Make your employees wellness challenges fun, motivating and rewarding and your workplace environment will feel the same.  Check out our challenges page for more ideas on how to get motivated.

Click Here to Browse Challenges