As a busy young professional, there are weeks in which I see my co-workers more than my husband. And, I’m not alone. Typical Americans work about 40 hours per week, logging significant hours with their colleagues each day. Spending this much time with co-workers means that they are major influences on our decision making.
To harness that influence for good, we recommend setting up a workplace wellness challenge. This friendly competition brings colleagues together to become each others accountability buddies and encourages health and fitness.
Rally the team
Kick things off by getting your peers excited about tackling a wellness challenge as a team. In a corporate environment, there are two key ingredients to making this happen: people and perks.
First, find an office leader to sponsor the challenge by advocating for what you’re doing and encouraging the team to join in. With a ringing endorsement from your leadership, it is easier for your peers to see the challenge as a positive use of their time.
To further incentivize the group, work with your sponsor to identify a small budget to provide prizes for participants. These perks don’t need to be monetary or even very substantial; consider awarding activewear and exercise accessories, gift cards to local studios and healthy restaurants in the area, or even an extra vacation day.
Design the challenge
After you’ve recruited an interested group, you’re ready to figure out the guts of the program. There are a lot of options for fitness challenges; the big idea here is to pick something simple and straightforward that will fit your office environment. You have three key decisions to make:
How long will the challenge run? Aim for at least 2 weeks and up to 3 months to gain and maintain momentum.
Will you compete as teams or individuals? Make a decision based on the personalities on your team and whether or not working together towards a healthy competition will be received well.
What will the actual challenge be? There are a lot of options for this – you can compete to collect steps, complete workouts, try new activities, eat healthy meals, or any combination of these and more. The possibilities are limitless; pick something that plays to the strengths of your team while also challenging your colleagues to set a goal that requires work to accomplish.
A friendly rivalry among colleagues is one of the advantages of a workplace wellness program. Decide how you’ll award points and then figure out how you’ll ask the participants to keep track of their activities.
We’re fans of keeping participants in the loop about how they and the other competitors are faring throughout the competition, because it keeps everyone accountable. If your team is co-located, tracking on a poster board in a common space is an easy way to keep everyone informed and excited about the experience. If your team is spread out across different offices, consider using technology to stay connected.
Fitbit offers weekly “work week hustle” contests where you can compete with your friends to get steps during the week. Our sister company, the SweatWorking App, helps you tackle fitness through your smartphone, including forming teams to connect and conquer challenges together.
To continue the bonding aspect of the workplace wellness challenge, set up a few team workouts. Working out with your colleagues may seem daunting at first, but studies have shown that when colleagues work up a sweat during the work day, it actually makes them nicer to each other.
To get started, contact local studios and ask if they’d offer a free or discounted class for you and your colleagues. Many local franchises are happy to offer a complimentary group class if they think there is a likely chance they’ll end up with permanent business out of the deal. If your budget and space allows, you can also hire a yoga teacher or personal trainer to come by your office to conduct a class for you and your challenge friends. Keep these group activities optional and play to a range of fitness levels to ensure that everyone feels included.