Over the last several years the workplace has seen some huge changes. Whether an employee is coming back to the office, working from home or has found a balance that works for them, they all have one thing in common. They crave to find balance and value in their workplace. As the way we work continues to change, it’s important our spaces change to meet their needs.
One of the newest ways to help your team find balance and value in your organization is through workplace wellness challenges. These challenges help your employees build healthy habits. Wellness challenges have become more and more popular in workplaces across the country. Before you commit your team to a challenge, you may have a few questions about what they are, if they’re worth your time, how to plan them, and a few ideas you can use to get your workplace to come together.
What are Workplace Wellness Challenges?
Promoting employee healthis wildly important in our current environment. This is where workplace wellness challenges can truly help. These challenges are simple activities your team completes to promote a healthier lifestyle and better habits. This includes obvious things like physical challenges, and mental exercises, but can also include financial health challenges and self-care challenges. The challenges are completed daily by each employee, though are discussed and encouraged by the entire team. Lifestyle changes can be difficult alone and rarely stick, but when we work together those barriers are easier to overcome.
Are Workplace Wellness Challenges Worth the Hassle?
The answer is…YES! Workplace wellness challenges are absolutely worth the effort they take to coordinate. At face value, these challenges offer new and fun ways for employees to interact with each other and explore new wellness habits. Additionally, there are several amazing effects your team will benefit from.
Improved Workplace Relationships
Even before our digital workplace, there were a multitude of team building exercises. While traditional team building exercises work, they are not long term. Workplace wellness challenges are daily. Additionally, traditional team building exercises have the explicit goal to bring your team together. Workplace wellness challenges, on the other hand, use a mixture of goals to help your employees in multiple ways. Through these challenges employees can build camaraderie through linked experiences. Wellness programs help promote their relationships outside of work, and help their communication and engagement on the job.
Employee morale is continually one of the more important issues facing companies today. The morale of your employees is intricately linked to every other aspect of your business. When employees are happy, they do better work. In fact, the best way to help your employees enjoy their work is through balance. Nearly 41%of people say they enjoy their current position because of the work life balance it provides. A number that has been rising in recent years.
Workplace wellness challenges help improve morale in a few key ways. Firstly, it shows employees their company cares about them and their wellbeing. Employees want to feel valued and appreciated. Providing them unique ways to develop healthy habits through company wide challenges can be a great way to show this. Furthermore, the benefits of the challenges will bring employees closer to the company. Making lifestyle changes is difficult, but in groups, facilitated and organized by someone else, it helps them focus less on what may have led to the changes occurring, and instead shifts the focus in a way that gives them a supportive environment where they can fully focus on the challenges themselves.
When companies take steps to facilitate this type of change, employees can find better balance, create better relationships, be more engaged, and overall feel better.
Another great benefit of workplace wellness challenges is on the overall health of employees. For many people it can be difficult to fully separate from work, even while at home. This type of behavior can lead to employee burnout. Burnout is now recognized as an illness plaguing many workers.
The best way to help employees fight against burnout is offering avenues for them to prioritize their wellness inside and outside of work. The CDChas recognized that wellness programs, such as workplace wellness challenges, can have a significant effect on the health and productivity of employees. Through newfound habits, employees find they are sick less often, call out of work less, suffer less burnout and are even more attentive while working.
Employees Feel Valued and Appreciated
Building a positive work culture should be a top priority for any company. Thecompany culture directs everythinga company and its employees do. After building a caring, positive culture, it’s equally important for a business to uphold those values. People want to feel valued and appreciated, and feeling that at work can be extremely rewarding. In fact, studies show 93%of workers that feel valued are more motivated to do their best work, and 88% feel more engaged. Compare this to 33% of those willing to do their best when they do not feel valued.
Workplace wellness challenges are a great way to help employees have these needs met. It shows they are more than cogs in the machine, but instead a part of an organization that cares about them. Work is work, that never changes. But, what can change is the unique ways companies can help employees feel and act like they are part of something bigger.
How to Create Engaging Workplace Wellness Challenges
Obviously, wellness challenges are a worthwhile tool to invest in. Now, it’s time to learn how these challenges can best be implemented. Done correctly, the benefits of the program will be felt by each employee and your overall business. However, if handled improperly it can create friction within organizations. To help avoid these situations, here are some helpful tips to get your workplace wellness challenges off the ground.
Gauge Employee Needs
Every workplace wellness program should start with the people it’s directly benefiting; the employees. Before starting any challenges or programs, it’s important to find out what your employees are looking to gain from these experiences. Tailoring the challenges to your employees is key to making sure they’re participating and getting what they need out of the experience.
There are a couple easy ways to gauge these needs. First, one-on-one conversations can be helpful to find out what employees think they are missing from their overall wellness. Of course, it is possible employees may not feel totally comfortable relaying this information in person. In that case, surveyscan be a great tool to help bring these walls down. Employees can remain anonymous if they want, and feel comfortable knowing their specific information won’t be shared outside the context of the survey. These also allow for larger amounts of data to be gathered more quickly. Once this information is gathered, planning can begin!
Run Multiple Challenges
One of the great things about workplace wellness challenges is how bespoke they are. There is no need for a one size fits all solution. Based on the results of the survey, you can create multiple challenges to meet the needs of your employees. Instead of forcing everyone to participate in a nutrition challenge, you can also offer exercise challenges, mindfulness challenges, along with others. As long as there is a group interested in meeting these challenges, it’s worth doing.
You may also recruit more people than you think to these challenges. Everyone may not respond to a survey and others may not realize they’re missing something until there is an offer to help them create better habits. This means someone who knew they wanted a better diet, can have the opportunity to explore their mindfulness, instead of being siloed into one form of wellness.
For many, the reward of building new habits will be enough to warrant taking part in these challenges. That doesn’t mean you can’t and shouldn’t offer additional rewards for those who choose to participate. These rewards can act as extra incentives for those who are unsure about participating as well. Though, it’s important to be mindful about how you offer these rewards. These challenges are not necessarily meant to be a competition. The goal is to help employees build healthy habits and live better lives. Instead of rewarding one person for being the “best” at living healthy, it’s important to recognize the strides each person makes towards reaching their goals.
It’s also important to make sure everyone that is participating wants to do so. No one should be forced to participate in a workplace wellness challenge. Forcing wellness directly goes against the purpose of these challenges and can harm employees and their relationship to an organization.
One of the key parts of the “workplace wellness challenge,” is the word “workplace.” While these challenges are created to help build habits for life outside of the workplace, they are being facilitated by the organization. This means there should be dedicated time for individuals participating in these challenges to meet with others, discuss their progress, and make future plans to meet their goals. This is a workplace activity, and many of the benefits will be seen there.
These dedicated meeting times will also help people learn about each other, make friends and build strong workplace relationships. If these meetings are forced out of the workplace people may be less willing to participate and will be missing a large portion of the benefits that come from these challenges.
Once the challenge has begun, it’s important to track the progress each person is making towards their goals. Each person can take a more public or personal approach depending on what they feel comfortable sharing. The importance of tracking is to help people meet their goals, but not to shame them for straying from the challenge.
There are a couple great ways to track progress depending on the type of workplace wellness challenges people are taking part in. This can include things like step counters, punch passes for attending a fitness class, and journaling. Each of these methods provides individuals a fun way to track their progress, and compare with their new friends.
Be Aware of Boundaries
When planning your workplace wellness challenges, it’s important to keep certain privacy regulations in mind. Specifically, HIPAA and ADA laws. When dealing with health information of any kind it must be kept protected, and there is other information that is not even allowed to be discussed. Wellness is about lifestyle, not gathering information about specific illnesses and ailments people may deal with in their daily lives. Avoid asking directly about diseases or specific health questions, and instead stick to more general challenges and goals.
13 Unique Workplace Wellness Challenges to Try
Finally, now that you know why wellness challenges are so useful, and how to properly plan yours, we have 13 incredible ideas to try in your workplace!
- Fitness class challenge
A fitness class challenge is a great way to help employees meet health goals and keep them moving. For this you can provide a class punch card and encourage them to fulfill a certain amount of class/punches in a given time. This can be 10 classes in a month for example. Employee’s can take these classes together and provide a fun activity to look forward to.
- Meditation challenge
Set aside time each day for employees to take a 15-20 minute break to focus on their mindfulness and meditate. These are great mid day activities to help employees re-center themselves and continue work. If your work is high-stress, or sometimes includes unhappy customers, meditationshould be encouraged when needed outside of the allotted time. High stress jobs, or interaction with upset customers can cause serious illness. These short breaks to refocus can help them continue to perform their best without burnout.
- Guided journaling
Guided journaling is another great mindfulness exercise. Either in the morning, or at the end of each day, they can write their thoughts, feelings, and goals for the day ahead. This helps keep things clear for them and focus on the things most important. We recommend having a challenge around this related to the amount of pages they write each week. Five pages a week may be a good starting point for this challenge.
- Random acts of kindness challenge
Another great challenge is to encourage acts of kindness throughout the office. This is especially helpful to build relationships in the workplace, and can even help immensely when new people join a team. Many offices can become very individualized. This challenge breaks through those walls and encourages employees to consider what their peers like, what might make them smile, and what motivates them.
- Office garden
An office garden is a great way to build community, and offer a small getaway during stressful days. This space can be indoors or outdoors depending on what is available to you. If it’s inside, the small indoor plants can offer some nice color in the workplace. If outside, it can allow for each person to take some amount of additional ownership in something outside of their work.
- Trash pickup challenge
Trash pickup challenges expand outside of the workplace and can help multiple communities. Encouraging litter clean up helps employees become more involved in their own communities, and if other co-workers go to help them, can help people learn more about each other. These challenges can be completed around the workplace, at nearby parks, or closer to someone’s home. All that matters is the world is left a little better than it was before.
- Cooking challenge
Cooking at home can be a huge challenge. The idea of coming home after a day at work and cooking a meal for you or your family can sometimes sound like an insurmountable task. These challenges can help employees push past those barriers and discover that cooking is a fun calming activity. For a certain amount of time, have employees cook a meal at home and then discuss the next day. They can share recipes, tips, and cooking hacks to help each other find easy ways to make turning on the oven each day worth it.
- Socializing challenge
A social based challenge can be great fun when building new teams, or just introducing new members to an established team. Really, they’re even great to encourage people to talk to people outside their specific teams or departments. Breaking down these walls, and creating bonds is important for a strong workplace. This challenge facilitates these relationships.
- Step challenges
Step challengesare a fun way to get people up and moving, even when going to the gym may not be an option. Walking is an easy activity and can be achieved on breaks, at home, or even during meetings. Walking meetings are surprisingly useful and can help keep the blood moving, and the brain thinking. Having trouble thinking through a complex issue? Take a walk! Have each participant keep track of their steps with an app or separate step counter and report back each week or month to see where they land.
- Sustainability challenge
Encourage employees to work together to save the planet! This challenge goes hand-in-hand with the trash pick up challenges, but includes a little extra twist with social challenges. With car pooling employees can get to know each other and save on gas money. The driver can cycle daily for fairness. They get to save some money, some time, and learn more about the people they work with.
- Reading challenge
A reading challenge, or even a book club can help build creativity in the workplace and provide fun and unique social interactions. People can read the books together, or each person can read their own book. If reading as a group, it’s a great opportunity to focus on books that can help them build new skills, or that may apply to projects they are currently working on. It’s not a bad idea to throw a fun one in every once in a while either.
- Water drinking challenge
None of us drink as much water as we need to. This challenge is a fun way to help get our daily water intake. The Mayo Clinicsuggests about 3.7 liters of water a day for men, and 2.7 liters for women. Water has a ton of benefits, and being fully hydrated can be a wonderful experience.
- Flexibility challenge
Yet another fun mindfulness challenge. When paired with meditation, daily stretching can really take your mind off stressful things in work and life and help you focus on yourself. Encouraging employees to take a quick stretch break, especially after sitting for so long, can help keep them engaged in their tasks and awake during the slowest parts of the day.
Workplace wellness challenges are a great way to help employees feel appreciated, find balance, and build relationships. Help your employees be the best they can be every single day. For more information about employee wellness, speak with a wellbeing specialist today.
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.