Inclusive Workplace Wellness Challenge – Ideas and Setup

Why Should You Setup a Wellness Challenge?

Successful people are successful for a reason. They know what they want and they do what it takes to get there. They have the right mindset, tools, and strategies to help them achieve their goals.

The first step is to change your mindset. You need to think of your wellness challenges as something that you are doing for yourself, not something that you are doing for somebody else or because somebody told you too. You need to start thinking about the benefits of achieving your goals and how good it feels when you succeed in meeting them. The next step is finding the right tools and strategies that will help you reach your goals faster than if you were going at it alone. Of course if you can do this well providing the frame work for others, be that coworkers of friends, all the better!

Great Devices for Inclusive Wellness Activity Challenges

Setting up a wellness challenge for your workplace or among friends can be a great way to encourage your employees or friend group to take care of their health and well-being. And leading a good event can even be part of your own goals.

There are a number of ways to set up office health challenges. But, in order to set up a wellness challenge, you need to first identify the objectives of the challenge. You should have clear goals in mind about what you want your employees to do and how long you want them to do it for. For instance, if one of your objectives is to get employees or friends moving more during their workday, then you might set up a walking group or make sure that there are exercise facilities available at the office.

But how do you make sure the event is useful for everyone? If you leave people out it’ll lead to demotivation, and ultimately fail at its goal. Building an inclusive wellness challenge is hard, but the payoff will benefit everyone. In order to do this you need to consider both the goals and abilities of people taking part in the event.

How to Create a Step Challenge at Work

Step tracker challenges are popular, but require mobility and leave out anyone with a disability that disrupts walking, or has an injury, or maybe simply doesn’t have a step tracker. Leaving aside the challenge, and making it an achievement instead of a competition (ex. Do 10% more this week than YOU did last week) can level some of these issues but still can leave people out.

Still, step challenges are a good option within a workplace. That is because they can be so easy to get access to and normalize across folks, for the most part they are inclusive since they can be done collectively, or individually.

  • Ensure everyone has access to a step tracker.
  • Choose a daily number goal for individuals
  • Add options for streaks (days in a row achieving the goal)
  • Create groups and determine a collective goal.

Weight loss wellness challenges can be particularly tricky, as are using weight loss trackers as a guide for a challenge. First, without proper guidance they can lead to perverse incentives and bad habits. And again if it is a challenge amongst individuals, not everyone will have the same ability to loose. This could be because they are at a lower, even unhealthy, body weight already or are challenged by another medical condition that dictates they not be aggressively losing weight.

Similar issues arise for nearly all areas of challenges. Nutrition challenges and ones that center around focus and productivity can become problematic when structured poorly.  Even mindfulness challenges can wind up causing stress, which entirely defeats the purpose. Any wellness tracker that reports back a score can also greatly impact the mental health of participants in the challenge and have unintended consequences. A few non-inclusive examples caused by wellness tracking devices.

  • A workplace step challenge, with Fitbit or other step trackers can exclude those with mobility issues
  • Sleep trackers exclude those with insomnia, a general schedule conflict, or other sleep disorders
  • Activity trackers inherently show bias toward certain activities
  • Diet/Calorie tracking can vary simply by height, and even more by body type or underlying issues like diabetes, thyroid conditions, etc.

How to Host a Wellness Challenge at Work?

The key to a good and inclusive wellness challenge is to have a clear objective, and let people modify it to fit their needs. If you have the goal to help create or support one healthy sustainable per person, it is a lot easier to structure a series of activities that can be tailored to individuals. There is no reason that a single activity should be applied uniformly, unless you already know that everyone within it has the same focus.

Apple daily averages for wellness challenge

At the office this is often less likely, whereas a challenge among friends is much easier to setup and allow opt in. Excluding people in an office event have the negative effect of adding layers of stress, making them feel as if they are being left out or underperforming. That is why it is so important to have an inclusive wellness challenge, rather than one that leaves people out and leaves people behind even when they are trying to participate.

If you want to start setting up your own challenge, start small and find one or two other people. There is no reason to scale to a massive challenge right out of the gate. Having the template and outline for a successful program can make it easier to get buy-in for larger setups. If you wind up having to go to a central approval, either your boss or human resources department (HR), showing that you have a proper program plan that is proven to have worked with at least a small subset of the group you plan to roll it out to will go a long ways.

The Benefits of an Inclusive Wellness Challenge

Studies show only moderate benefits of wellness challenges, but there are benefits. The key is to set the right expectations Importantly the scope of their long term effect is found only in some areas, but a challenge can have multiple facets. They can be a way to connect with coworkers. Especially if you are a remote team it provides a chance to learn more about coworkers and functions as an ice breaker.

As for long term effects, One study, summarized in The Harvard Gazette, found that over 18 months challenge programs resulted in “8.3 percentage point higher rate of employees who reported engaging in regular exercise and a 13.6 percentage point higher rate of employees who reported actively managing their weight”. There may be some bias in these, since challenges are sometimes self selected and those who don’t plan to build habits can opt out. Still, setting things up the right way can help people avoid self screening and encourage participation. Arguably participation is more important that optimizing for impact of specific habits in a smaller group of people.

Why Adding Mindfulness Tracking To a Wellness Challenge is a Great Idea

Mindfulness is a state of being aware of the present moment. It is a way to train the mind to focus on the here and now. The idea is that if we can focus on what’s happening in this moment, we will be less likely to worry about the future or dwell on our past.

In today’s world, where people are constantly bombarded with digital information and social media updates, mindfulness has become more important than ever before. Adding mindfulness tracking to a wellness challenge will help people stay present and focused for longer periods of time.

Mindfulness minutes summary in Apple Watch Inclusive wellness challenge
It can seem counter intuitive to track relaxation, but doing so can help form a mindfulness habit. Adding a component of meditation or mindfulness is also an easy way to ensure that abilities are taken into account. The mindfulness components of a challenge have a few obvious benefits that can appeal to participants. First, is that it can be done very quickly. Especially for individuals who have not taken part in any mindfulness activities, even a minute of deep breathing can have benefits. Second, is that it is highly accessible for participants since there is no gear required beyond a simple timer.

Easy Template for a 30 Day Workplace Wellness Challenge

One of the best templates for a wellness challenge we have seen is a simple Bingo card. This winds up checking many of the boxes of an inclusive challenge because of how versatile it is. It gives agency to the participants and allows each person to choose how to incentivize themselves, while also determining which things they are comfortable sharing.

The first step of the challenge is to simply setup a bingo card for each participant. It can be an interactive and personalized board, such that the first task to complete is filling in your own card. By providing a list of potential square tasks, and then allowing for custom ones, it is possible to allow each participant to add in their own list of goals for the challenge.

wellness challenge bingo card

Breaking a 30 day challenge into four weeks also makes it easy for participants to focus on one activity or square per week. With the addition of a free square this makes it possible to go for a single Bingo line with only one activity a day. And of course you can make the stretch goals or challenge rewards based on different patterns that people complete (all four corners, a big X, etc.).

If you go this route, consider finding ways to break up large groups when reporting results. Individual buddies can make it easier to share the motivation behind each selected task. A bingo master to oversee the whole challenge is one thing, but having a trusted friend or guide can be a huge individual benefit. You can also look into our other 30 day personal wellness challenge outline.

Popular Apps and Services To Host A Workplace Fitness Challenge

Keep in mind if you are organizing a workplace fitness challenge that there may be some useful resources provided by your company. Many large organizations have benefits that will extend to popular health and wellness apps including Headspace, Calm, Journey.Live, Sleepio and others. These can be a great resource around which to center a wellness challenge in addition to the fitness component. A few popular fitness apps, that have the ability to setup challenges are shown here:

Workplace Fitness Challenge App Logos - Strava, Charity Miles, Evidation

Strava – As a fitness event tracker Strava premium allows you to create custom challenges and invite groups to join you. Keep in mind that some employees may not be able to partake, or may simply want to avoid sharing their actual workouts, especially if they already use the service. Still if you want employee fitness challenge ideas the monthly events provided by Strava offer good options for single activities. A Strava group challenge, which can be customized, also offers unique way to work toward a collective goal.(website)

Charity Miles – This service allows you to tie different challenges to raise funds and support charities. It is a great option to provide external motivations for employees to stay engaged. (website)

Evidation – Choosing an app that has applications down the line is always nice, and Evidation app review we did show how the app allows folks to complete additional challenges for points that can be redeemed beyond the challenge. This added layer of motivation may be useful for having follow on effects beyond just snagging step counts. (website)

Pacer App – Pacer, or MyPacer, is a stripped down fitness tracking app that has less functionality than things like Strava but it still works well. They also provide “Pacer for Teams” which is specifically designed for corporate groups and can be setup and run by HR or group leaders.