A case for team wellness challenges over individual challenges

A treadmill in a row of empty cardio machines can seem like a remote island — hardly an appealing place to spend one’s lunch break. Even the most motivated people might bow out of workplace wellness programs if they don’t feel empowered.

However, group fitness challenges — such as weekly step challenges — that become a natural part of the workweek can inspire employees to achieve their health goals, generate workplace camaraderie, and build self-assurance for navigating work tasks. Over time, this can enhance business performance. Here are five great benefits you can create for your company and employees by adopting team wellness challenges. Plus, a few challenge ideas to get you started.

1. Motivate employees.

Group-based fitness challenges spur motivation to achieve goals by creating accountability. The main objective of a challenge might be something along the lines of a team of co-workers logging a certain number of collective steps per week, with each individual on the hook for doing their part (measured via fitness tracker).

“We’ve learned that providing social motivation allows an individual to have a bit more responsibility and engagement in the program,” says Roger Koger, a senior director of field operations for fitness and wellness at EXOS. “They have a sense that another individual or a small team is counting on their participation.”

Accountability can help a person form healthier habits. To get steps in, an employee may opt for a regular lunchtime stroll around the office or may even walk to a fast-casual restaurant with a co-worker instead of eating alone in front of their computer.

A little friendly competition helps foster a sense of community in the workplace.

2. Increase enjoyment.

When a person knows they’re not alone in the struggle to achieve better health and wellness, their fitness or nutrition efforts become more enjoyable. Koger says just having a buddy can take the “scary factor” out of working out. Plus, companionship can make time pass faster.

Gamification, or applying the design and elements of game principles, can also boost the fun factor. Cheryl Bowles, a senior director of field operations for fitness and wellness at EXOS, says that this introduces a helpful competitive edge. This can be done with department challenges where an entire company department engages in a challenge against other departments.

A company can have fun with any group challenge, whether it’s focused on movement, nutrition, or just having fun. “Bringing the fun to employees makes it part of their workday,” Bowles says. “It shouldn’t be about just getting people to the fitness center.”

3. Promote networking.

A little friendly competition and group interaction (away from the conference room) can increase camaraderie among team members. “It helps foster that sense of community,” Koger explains. “In some situations, an individual has told us that making a new connection has allowed them to be more productive at work because they learned what this person did and found them to be a great resource for what they were trying to accomplish.”

4. Increase company retention.

The camaraderie stemming from workplace fitness challenges or programming can strengthen company loyalty and encourage longevity. When an employee thinks of their co-workers and supervisors as genuinely caring about their well-being, they’re more likely to enjoy their jobs and are less likely to seek employment elsewhere. Having a “work family” becomes an irreplaceable perk.

“Through these group programs, we’ve heard people say things like, ‘It’s nice our company is investing in us, not only for business function but also for our complete health and wellness,’” says Koger. Giving employees what they want ensures better long-run employee wellness.

When an employee thinks of their co-workers and supervisors as genuinely caring about their well-being, they’re more likely to enjoy their jobs.

5. Boost work confidence and improve performance.

When a team meets a group challenge goal, the accolades belong to all, and each person also owns their specific part in that achievement. “They take that same confidence and competence that they built in challenging themselves physically, or from a wellness perspective, and it helps them have a positive frame of mind,” Koger explains. “And there may be a work challenge that they now know they have the competence to achieve.”

Essentially, employees learn through group fitness challenges that their role is vital, and that they are qualified and proficient, whether serving on a team project or more broadly serving the company as a whole.

4 challenge ideas to get you started

Kick-start your group wellness challenges with these easy-to-implement ideas.

1. The virtual triathlon.

Form teams and work together to complete a predetermined number of miles on the treadmill, rowing machine, and bike. The group that takes the least time wins.

2. 30 days of movement.

Pick one movement that’s easy to complete in a work environment such as squats or pushups. Complete one repetition on the first day, two on the second, and so on, until the end of the challenge.

3. Go for H2O.

Commit to drinking 64 ounces of water each day before consuming other beverages. The team with the most consecutive days wins. And go green by encouraging employees to use a refillable cup instead of emptying water bottles along the way.

4. Healthy snacking challenge.

Divide the crew into teams and keep a tally sheet in the break room where employees can log if they’ve grabbed a piece of produce from the provided fruit basket.

Looking for other ways to improve your corporate wellness program? Try these easy-to-implement corporate wellness tools.

About the Author

Jennifer Chesak

Jennifer Chesak’s health, fitness, and adventure journalism has appeared in Healthline, Prevention, Runner’s World, SheKnows, and Field & Stream online, to name a few. She earned her master's degree in journalism from Northwestern. She’s also a distance runner and avid yogi.

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