One way to improve employee morale, build camaraderie and increase worker health is to hold a team wellness challenge. Placing staff members into two or more teams and rewarding them for healthy lifestyle activities is easy with a little planning, tracking and communication.
A wellness challenge is not a weight loss competition. It focuses on healthy lifestyle practices that improve overall health, fitness and well-being. Improved employee wellness can help companies reduce absenteeism and health care costs, and increase productivity.
Here’s how to create a one-time or annual office wellness challenge.
Create a “scoring” system – 1 hour = 1 point
A wellness competition should last for at least 30 days to help employees see beneficial results from their lifestyle changes. Create an objective way to track the results for each team. An easy way to do this is to award a point for each hour that employees spend on healthy activities. Qualifying activities might include:
- Exercising – working out in a gym, playing sports, yoga, hiking, walking, biking, or any other type of exercise
- Getting eight hours of sleep in one night
- Eating healthy foods – cutting down on sugar and caffeine, eating a minimum of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, drinking water instead of pop or soda
- Taking a smoking cessation class
- Meeting with a registered dietician
- Getting a physical, stress test, blood pressure checkup or cholesterol screening
Different point amounts could also be awarded for the following:
- Purchasing fitness equipment
- Reading a book related to wellness
- Buying a juicer or air cooker
- Taking a healthy cooking class
NOTE: Don’t use weight loss as a contest measurement. Posting people’s weight or weight loss can be embarrassing and result in fewer employees participating in the challenge. Furthermore, the goal of the challenge is to help encourage everyone in the office to make long lasting, positive lifestyle changes and to have fun.
Set up a reporting system
Determine how staff members will report their wellness activities. Give each contestant a sheet with the various activities that count towards the wellness challenge and the points they’ll earn for each activity a few days before the contest begins. Allow them to make suggestions for other healthy activities.
Have employees submit their activities and points weekly. This will let them see how much (or how little) healthy activity they’re doing during the week. Post the team standings each Friday afternoon or Monday morning so teams can see if they are ahead or behind and how much work they need to do to catch up in order to win the challenge.
Decide on prizes
Keep the first, second and third place prizes similar. A wellness contest that awards points that employees track themselves will rely on the honor system. For this reason, if you have a large disparity between the first and second place prizes, the second place team might feel upset if a team member on the first place team reported some unlikely numbers.
The main goals are to promote wellness and workplace morale by offering a fun, team competition. Prizes should be a secondary motivator for team members.
The best way to alleviate hard feelings is to provide prizes for the top three teams that are similar in value so there’s no big loss if one team comes in second versus first. You might offer prizes that are similar in value (such as gift cards), but let the first place team choose first, the second place team pick second, etc.
Make it a charity event
In addition to, or instead of, awarding individual prizes, make a donation to the winning team’s charity of choice. You can award all of the prize money to the winning team’s charity, or donate money to the top three teams’ charities. You can increase the amount of the donation by having employees make an optional $10 donation when they sign up, or by requiring a $5 or $10 registration fee per person.
Announce the contest
Spread the word around the office with a special flyer, an email and on your company intranet. Let employees know how the team challenge will work, what activities they can use to earn points and what the prizes will be. Tell employees how they should submit their activities. Announce in advance how to submit weekly point sheets, who will be totaling the points and how it will be done.
Create the teams
If you let employees choose their own team members, this might encourage more sign ups. If you want specific employees (e.g., from different departments or floors) to meet and mingle more, the company can assign registrants to teams. A third option is to simply pick names from a hat to create the teams. The number of employees on each team will depend on how many prizes you want to award, how many employees you want to meet new people, and how many employees sign up. Aim for at least five employees per team so that no one employee can overly impact a team’s results.
Invite a wellness speaker
Consider inviting a wellness speaker, such as a Zumba instructor, personal trainer or a chef who specializes in healthy cooking to lead an exercise session or to give a hands on presentation. This event should count as a wellness activity for the challenge.
Announce the winners
When the wellness challenge concludes, let everyone know who the winners are. Notify everyone, even those who didn’t participate so they can congratulate their colleagues who participated. Let your vendors, suppliers and customers know about the contest and notify the local media about the challenge if your company donates money to a local charity.