What can you do to ensure that your wellness challenge really makes an impact? How do you get your employees to engage? And how do you get those who normally don’t exercise to move more?

Sometimes, the best workplace initiatives are hard to implement, even when everyone agrees it’s a great idea. This is often the case when it comes to exercise and movement so we’re sharing 7 tips to help you host a successful wellness challenge at work.

1. On everyone’s terms

Take a step back from the confines of a traditional step counting competition and move toward a broader, more dynamic health challenge with the ability to work for more people. The best corporate wellness challenge is one that works for all participants - regardless of the sport or activity. Workouts are more likely to occur when participants get to choose the way they move.

Lack of participation in your company health challenge can happen if employees feel like it’s unfair; that those who regularly exercise already have an advantage. That’s why a challenge that takes individual traits into account is the best wellness program for work. We suggest a fitness app that takes gender, age, and weight in consideration with plenty of activity options for the participants to choose from. The mission is a more inclusive and fair fitness initiative.

2. Provide opportunities to exercise

As the employer, you impact the challenge enormously by actually creating space for movement to take place. Give gym memberships, encourage lunch time strolls, walk instead of sit at coffee breaks, even hire a personal trainer to lead a class after work. What if you considered approving some exercise during the work day?

Leverage the power of the group and be sure to use terms like “more movement” rather than “hard workouts.” It’s important that the challenge is approachable for those who aren’t used to regularly exercising. When the bar is set too high, it can feel overwhelming to participate. Make it easy to join in but also give employees the freedom to adapt their workouts to what suits them best.

And of course, lead by example! Naturally, the leadership team should participate in your company challenge.

3. Measure and set goals

Setting measurable goals and communicating expectations is a great system to have on the job - a tactic that works for physical activity, too! Tasks that are measured, are then prioritized, and completed.

That’s why it’s important to set clear goals for your workplace wellness challenge and the team building activities that will accompany it. Have realistic expectations and don’t set goals that are going to be hard to achieve. Consider the length of challenge, target points or steps accumulated, and distance goals. An adequate time frame for a workplace fitness challenge is 4-8 weeks.

4. Up the value of your company challenge

Incorporate some fun prizes that everyone is eligible to win. At the end of the challenge, you want all the participants to feel good, no one should feel like a loser. Celebrate those who completed your company's health challenge, not the people with the most workouts. This may be easier said than done, but it’s important for participants to feel proud of themselves.

Attract the people who don’t regularly exercise by connecting your company challenge to a charity goal. Points accumulated during the challenge can be turned into money that participants pool together to donate to a philanthropic effort. Doing good for ourselves and others, gets more people to join.

5. Use the power of teamwork

We tend to value the whole above the individual so being a part of a team is a powerful motivator. Competing as a team of colleagues yields better results than individual challenges.

With group structure, you can count on the natural support and encouragement of team members to tackle activities large and small. By competing in groups that also represent individual traits, common goals are clear and easy to achieve - despite different strengths and weaknesses among team members. Or maybe thanks to them?!

A company fitness challenge can therefore be as much a team building exercise as a health challenge.

6. Inspire and provide knowledge

Get employees to talk about fitness, good habits, and how they’ll get started. Provide a platform for participants to follow along with the challenge and showcase their achievements with each other. This naturally feeds into more ideas for everyday exercise and can even lead to colleagues finding common interests.

Empower them with knowledge and give plenty of good examples, tips, and ideas. Invite a speaker or coach at the kickoff or half-way point of your challenge to get participants fired up. By the way, did you know that the paceUP! team offers wellness lectures?

Make sure the challenge always feels fun and rewarding!

7. Make it a part of your company culture

Make health, exercise, and wellness a part of your company culture by setting long-term goals for sustainable employee wellbeing. This continuous investment gives you a greater opportunity to provide ongoing support to employees and inspire those who don’t regularly exercise. If your staff is healthy, so is your company!

Your goal of a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle should be reflected in your company’s values, internal communication, and your business team building activities. Help an employee quit smoking, treat their neck pain, commit to regular physical activity, or provide them with the knowledge to achieve a balanced lifestyle.

While the company challenge is underway, make sure it stays top of mind. It should be your most important company goal at that time. Motivate by sending messages, tracking and sharing the standings, even keep water bottles on your desks.

A concept for successful health challenges

paceUP! wellness challenges were created using the mechanisms that motivate a life in motion. A challenge should act as a springboard into physical fitness and inject new energy into regular workouts.

Achieving goals together while respecting the individual is the driving force of our platform. We strive to bring an active lifestyle to the forefront of our work by adding value and setting achievable goals. Focusing on simplicity, accessibility, while weaving in a social element is paramount. We’ve gamified the fitness experience as a fun and inviting way to set more lives into motion.

Researchers across the globe agree that there is a clear connection between physical activity, increased productivity, and less sick leave. Employees who exercise during working hours are just as productive, if not more productive, despite fewer working hours. That’s why more companies are making the investment in exercise.

An American study published in the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine from 2011 showed that 2.5 hours of weekly exercise during working hours decreased sick time. A similar study from the Public Health Agency of Canada confirmed these findings, reporting a 20% decrease in sick leave among companies who actively promoted their employee health and wellness program. A British study from several years earlier showed that employees with gym access during their work day were more productive and said they felt better in general on the days they exercised.

An investment in wellness pays for itself

As a part of their employee wellness initiative, Swedish housing company Mimer gave an extra week of vacation to employees who exercised at least three hours a week. This commitment was an attempt to break the cycle of increasing sick leave. Employees who exercised more than four times a month received a free gym membership, and the company even hosted staff wellness conversations.

Two years after the project in 2018, sick leave had decreased by 30% and employees described feeling healthier in general. Fewer reported headaches, neck pain, stomach issues, said they felt tired or had issues sleeping. This project assisted the company to operate at a profit and with that also came increased renewed energy, job satisfaction, and pride amongst employees. 

That same year, Mimer placed 7th overall in Sweden’s “Great Place to Work 2018” list.

Exercise during working hours elevates productivity

As early as 2008, researchers at Stockholm University examined the effects of allowing employees to exercise during their workday. A group that got to spend 2.5 hours of their workweek on physical activity reported accomplishing more and accumulated less sick leave.

The first part of the study examined the effect physical activity had on an individual level. A 21% decrease in sick leave was reported across participating workplaces. The second part of the study looked at the effects of exercise on an organizational level, with a primary focus on productivity levels. It turned out that employee groups maintained or even increased productivity during the same period year-over-year. This again, was achieved despite working fewer hours.

A balanced work life yields a sustainable society

The social media platform Hootsuite's founder Ryan Holmes wrote in a well-known column a few years ago that employers have a lot to gain from offering generous corporate health care benefits and wellness stipends. He coined the term, “Companies that sweat together, stay together” and went on to demonstrate how the culture of movement and active employees became paramount to his company’s success.

He wanted to shed light on the statistic that a staggering 80% of American adults don’t do the 2.5 hours of recommended pulse-raising activity each week. He remarked that “it’s hard to maintain a robust team if people are dying of preventable heart diseases, cancers and respiratory afflictions because they’re out of shape.”

The article quickly went viral and would soon inspire many companies to invest in health and exercise as a part of their company culture. Together, we can take long-term responsibility for people’s well-being in and outside work, laying the groundwork for a sustainable society.

Sources

Has your company moved to fully remote or hybrid working? While lots of employees are glad to swap their daily commute for more flexibility, the sedentary nature of working from home takes a toll on our long-term health.

When we transitioned to working from home, we lost the helpful routines and healthy behaviors that our on-site job provided us. Even the smallest physical activities, like walking to the bus, going to a meeting, grabbing a cup of coffee, or heading to lunch are eliminated with virtual work.

You have probably heard it said that more exercise means more energy, better sleep, and improved overall health. But did you know that physical fitness also helps you focus, strengthens your memory, makes you more creative, more tolerant to stress, and more efficient?

Moving your body makes virtual working less mundane. Our four tips below will help you and your colleagues to build a healthier workday with good routines and more physical activity.

Replace your commute with a walk

Before clocking in for the day, take a brisk 15 minute walk. If you need to get the kids to daycare or school, work it into your morning routine. Even a leisurely walk raises your pulse, increases your metabolism, and reduces your stress. Beyond that, it’s just a great way to start your day.

Create a work schedule that supports a good routine

Working from home seems like the best way to get more things done. You can begin your workday earlier and work longer than a typical office day, right? Not quite. Keeping yourself to a fixed work schedule with regular breaks and proper time off is imperative for a healthy work-life balance. Not to mention, structuring your workday improves your work performance. Use this method to schedule your workouts, too. If you book the time, you are more likely to actually do it.

Encourage walk and talk meetings

Walking during a phone meeting is a great way to maximize your time and get more movement out of your workday. Stay flexible, and encourage colleagues by setting a good example. Remember to avoid being too static and comfortable during the workday. Set your phone’s timer to remind you to get up and stretch, at least once hourly. It is easy to forget to move without the natural buzz of the office culture and in-person meetings with your colleagues.

Kickoff a step counting competition or wellness challenge at work

Inspire your colleagues to move more by inviting them to join a wellness challenge. This is a fun team building activity that creates community and provides a platform for discussion around sustainable and healthy workplaces. Seeing each other exercise helps to energize and excite others to move, too! Remind your team that any movement is good movement - even a walk to the store or a stroll with the dog has a positive impact on a person’s overall health.

A workplace in motion is the best benefit

Building a routine around fitness is important for both our physical and mental health. Countless studies show that good physical condition protects us from a variety of illnesses. Studies have also confirmed that active people who regularly exercised during the pandemic were better equipped to fight the COVID-19 virus.

Inspiring your colleagues to move more not only reduces sick time, it improves employees’ quality of life in the long run. Now that’s probably the best benefit your workplace could offer!

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