So you want to get people engaged at your office, and decided on a wellness challenge? 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.
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.
Weight loss wellness challenges can be particularly tricky. 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.
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.
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.
The benefits of an Inclsuive 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.
Track Mindful Minutes
It can seem counter intuitive to track relaxation, but doing so can help form a mindfulness habit.