Team members in the modern workplace are constantly surrounded by screens and desks. In fact, the average American spends 7 hours and 4 minutes a day looking at a screen. Studies also suspect that most team members spend 65–75% of their workdays sitting. A workplace step challenge is a great way for employers to support employee health and encourage work-life wellness.
What is an office step challenge? Why does it matter? And finally, how can you get one started and actually have it succeed? We’ll answer these questions—and more.
What Is an Office Step Challenge?
An office step challenge is a company-sponsored team-building event that challenges employees to track and record the number of steps they take over a certain period of time. A step challenge can be a competition where employees compete individually or as teams to take the most steps; or, rather than a competition, companies can challenge participants to hit a certain benchmark each day (10,000 steps anyone?) to complete the challenge.
Sometimes there are prizes or other wellness incentives for having the most steps, or everyone’s steps are working toward a collective reward for everyone involved. However it looks, office step challenges are the most fun when there’s a real challenge involved.
Why Start a Step Challenge at Work?
At its core, a step challenge is all about encouraging physical activity among your coworkers and helping them achieve their health goals. In fact, workplace wellness programs have been known to boost employee health. The CDC explains that employers are in a unique position where they can have an impact on their team members’ health. Some other benefits of a step challenge at work include:
- It supports a healthy workplace: Helping employees build healthy habits ultimately supports their physical and mental health and improves the employee experience at work.
- It builds a culture of teamwork: A step challenge is a great way to bring individuals and teams together to achieve a common goal, strengthen communication, and improve employee relations.
- It can save your company money: Employers pay $13,728 annually on employee healthcare, which could be hurting your company wallet. Wellness programs at your company can reduce healthcare expenses .
- It increases productivity and engagement: Workplace wellness has been known to lower absenteeism (which might already be costing you $2,650 a year) and boost productivity and engagement.
Convinced yet? We hope so! The key now is to create a good step challenge and get it started, so your company can reap the benefits of keeping your team members healthy.
How to Start a Step Challenge at Work
With a little planning and preparation, you can create a fun and engaging step challenge that your employees are excited about. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help get started!
- Set Challenge Rules and Goals
Before you do anything else, you’ll want to determine how employees can participate in the step challenge and the general rules for participation. A few things you should consider include:
- What the step goal is each day: The average American takes 3,000–4,000 steps a day, so anything above that could be considered a challenge. It’s common to choose 10,000 steps a day, which challenges employees to go 6,000–7,000 steps more a day during the challenge.
- How long the challenge will last: It can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to the whole year. Most challenges are 1 to 2 months (or 4 to 8 weeks) because that’s typically long enough to have an impact but not too long to lose motivation.
- Whether your employees can enter as teams or individuals: You can choose to count each person’s steps individually, or you can combine all the steps from a department or team. If your employees participate as a team, consider increasing the step goal.
- Decide How to Track Steps
To have a challenge, you need a way for your employees to track how many steps they take. You can have participants use classic old pedometers, but most companies will take advantage of all the employees with smartphones and watches. Most devices have a way to track steps these days.
You’ll also want to decide if you want everyone to join a specific app or platform such as ones designed for step challenges like Pacer for Teams. You can also have employees submit data to a program or a form that gets compiled each week. You can also have employees self report via email or in a shared document based on activity from their own tracking devices. All of these methods work great; it just depends on what works for you and your employees.
- Determine Rewards and Milestones
Employees may be more motivated to participate in a step challenge at work if there are rewards and wellness incentives they can work towards. Here are a few ideas you could consider:
- Monetary rewards
- Gift cards (preferably to somewhere that would help boost health)
- Free lunch
- Company party or excursion
- Company dinner
- Gym memberships
You can also offer small rewards throughout the challenge (such as healthy snacks or other wellness gifts) to keep employees motivated. Don’t underestimate the value of a simple public recognition post on an internal messaging system, too! You can celebrate milestones such as the halfway point in the challenge or the first person or team to hit 10,000 steps–the options are endless.
- Promote the Step Challenge
It’s time to spread the word! Create flyers, send company-wide emails and post on internal messaging systems to advertise your step challenge and generate excitement. Get your employees pumped to start by educating them on why this challenge is important for their health.
- Incorporate the Challenge into a Larger Wellness Program
A step challenge is only the beginning. Typically a step challenge is only one facet of a much larger fitness challenge or wellness program that’s aiming to improve employee health. Your wellness program could include nutrition guidance, mental health support, Gympass, health insurance, office weight loss challenges, and more.
Step Challenge Ideas to Encourage Walking
Now you have a great outline for how to build your step challenge, but how do you get it to the finish line? How do you keep momentum going and boost employee health? Here are a few tips for running a successful step challenge:
- Encourage “walking meetings”. Let’s be honest: meetings can get pretty boring pretty fast. A step challenge can actually help with that and get your employees moving. Picture this: a walking meeting. While you hold meetings, get everybody walking. Everybody racks up steps, and nobody dozens off.
- Start a walking group. Get your employees together in a group everyday at lunch or after work (or hey, before work for the early birds) to walk. It’s a win for getting steps in and a win for socialization.
- Provide a local trail guide. Sometimes people need a little boost to know where to walk. Give them a local trail guide as a great way to get their steps in and soak in some nature.
A step challenge is just one way to help your employees build healthier habits and improve their well-being. To get started with great benefits that encourage employee health, talk to a wellbeing specialist today.
- Elgaddal, Nazik et all. (August 2022). Physical Activity Among Adults Aged 18 and Over: United States, 2020. US Department of Health & Human Services. Retrieved October 31, 2022 from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db443.pdf.
- Employers’ Total Annual Health Care Costs Per Active Employee in the U.S. From 2015 to 2020. (April 3, 2020). Statista. Retrieved October 27, 2022 from https://www.statista.com/statistics/240690/companys-medical-and-drugs-costs-in-the-us/.
- How Much Are Your Absent Employees Affecting Your Bottom Line? (February 1, 2021). DailyPay. Retrieved October 27, 2022 from https://www.dailypay.com/resource-center/blog/absent-employees/.
- How to Set Up a Step Challenge At Work. (April 4, 2022). Wellics. Retrieved October 27, 2022 from https://www.wellics.com/blog/set-up-step-challenge-at-work.
- How Wellness Programs Reduce Healthcare Costs for Companies. (May 18, 2022). Wellics. Retrieved October 27, 2022 from https://www.wellics.com/blog/wellness-programs-reduce-healthcare-costs.
- Haworth, Josh. (September 21, 2022). Alarming Average Screen Time Statistics (2022). Exploding Topics. Retrieved October 31, 2022 from https://explodingtopics.com/blog/screen-time-stats.
- Kateri. (September 7, 2021). Why You Should Set Up a Step Challenge and How to Do It. IncentFit. Retrieved October 27, 2022 from https://incentfit.com/wellness-word/why-you-should-set-up-a-step-challenge-and-how/.
- Lefroy, Emily. (August 30, 2022). Over 75% of American Adults Are Failing at Exercise. New York Post. Retrieved October 27, 2022 from https://nypost.com/2022/08/30/75-of-american-adults-are-failing-at-exercise-cdc-report/.
- Morris, Alex. (October 5, 2021). Employee Experience Magazine. How To Run A Step Challenge At Work? Retrieved October 27, 2022 from https://www.emexmag.com/how-to-run-a-step-challenge-at-work/.
- Occupational Requirements Survey. (November 19, 2021). U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved October 31, 2022 from https://www.bls.gov/ors/factsheet/sit-and-stand.htm.
- O’Dolan, Catriona et. all. (January 15, 2018). A Randomised Feasibility Study to Investigate the Impact of Education and the Addition of Prompts on the Sedentary Behaviour of Office Workers. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved October 27, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5769488/.
- Renner, Ben. (July 31, 2018). Average Office Worker Spends About 1,700 Hours a Year In Front of Computer Screen. StudyFinds. Retrieved October 27, 2022 from https://studyfinds.org/office-worker-1700-hours-computer-screen/.
- Rieck, Thom. (March 23, 2020). 10,000 Steps a Day: Too Low? Too High? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved October 27, 2022 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/10000-steps/art-20317391.
- Top 6 Ways To Create a Successful Office Step Challenge. (January 5, 2021). Woliba. Retrieved October 27, 2022 from https://woliba.io/blog/creating-a-successful-office-step-challenge/.
- Towne, Samuel D. (June 12, 2018). Physical Activity and Associated Medical Cost Savings Among At-Risk Older Adults Participating a Community-Based Health & Wellness Program. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved October 27, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5997342/.
- What’s Your Role? Employers. (March 16, 2022). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 27, 2022 from https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/activepeoplehealthynation/everyone-can-be-involved/employers.html.
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.