10 Employee Wellness Challenges Your Colleagues Will Love

It's no surprise — healthy workplaces attract healthy employees. More and more companies are investing in wellness initiatives to encourage their employees to stay healthy and active. Wellness initiatives and programs are a great way to earn employee loyalty as well. According to the Global Employee Benefits Watch report, employees who felt that their employer-provided benefits had a positive impact on their lives were 40% more likely to say they were loyal to their company. 

However, "wellness initiatives" can be pretty broad — it's not all ultra-competitive step challenges and signing up for early morning 5Ks. Wellness can range from physical and mental health to financial wellness and even activism. 

We've put together a list of 10 fundamental wellness challenges you can try out with your company. You can even build on these ideas and add fun themes that better fit your company and its culture.

1. Walking challenges

Let's start with the most popular. Walking challenges are pretty straight-forward and have been the most well-known company-wide fitness challenge for a reason: they work. Countless research has shown the benefits of walking and "getting your steps in" day in and day out. Another bonus: it works well for both in-office and remote employees, allowing more opportunities for employees to interact and socialize.

You can have your employees track their steps by using a fitness watch or step tracker. To encourage participation, you can add themes to the walking challenge. Instead of hitting over 10,000 steps or reaching 5.5 miles, name the challenge "Climbing Mt. Everest," which is equivalent to 5.5 miles.

2. Nutrition challenges

Eating healthy and maintaining a well-balanced diet is crucial when it comes to overall wellness. But, it's often the most difficult to address and accomplish. You can approach a wellness challenge around nutrition in a couple of ways. You can offer free and incentivized catered lunches that serve fresh, healthy meals. You can also provide healthy snacks around the office so your employees won't have that afternoon snack time guilt. 

Employees can also partner up with other colleagues as accountability partners to help everyone stay on track. Bringing in a nutritionist or health coach is a great way to educate your team on nutrition and healthy eating options as well.

It's important to focus on nutrition and how it allows people to live healthier lives. Be careful when offering weight-loss challenges; you do not want to associate negativity with certain foods. You can also consider offering an option for employees to maintain their weight if they desire to do so.

Another way you can make this more competitive is by rewarding employees who prepare healthy meals at home and bring in healthy recipes to share with the rest of the team.

You can track everyone's data with a Google Sheet; however, be careful when using a public spreadsheet for any type of wellness challenge. Some employees may be uncomfortable having their information shared with others. Talk with your team about collecting data beforehand and make sure everyone is on board before moving forward.

3. Mindfulness challenges

Over the last year and a half during the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health has become a major discussion. Employers should be very aware of their employees' stress levels and burnout. Meditation seminars can be easily turned into wellness challenges by rewarding employees if they consistently participate. 

However, some of your employees might not have the flexibility to consistently attend these seminars. There are a variety of mindfulness apps, including Headspace, that you can use for challenges. Have your employees report their usage on their app of choice through surveys or by using Google Sheets. You can provide incentives based on the number of meditation minutes or day streaks.

4. Habit-forming challenges

Building a new habit can be one of the hardest tasks for people to take on. But, it doesn't always have to be so tough. Encouraging people to adopt a healthier lifestyle through small changes like taking the stairs, staying hydrated, or getting appropriate amounts of sleep makes a big difference. You can create a challenge for your employees to start a new, small habit each week, so it's not so overwhelming. For example, the first week of the challenge could be to aim for 7–9 hours of sleep a night, or it could be something simpler like drinking more water throughout the day.

You can track everyone's daily habits with a Google Sheet and also assign accountability partners.

5. Financial wellness challenges

It's no surprise that many employees often struggle with being financially stable. Employers are also negatively impacted by this, as employees may bring their stress and struggles to work, which affects their productivity and mental health. Most people can benefit from better financial wellness, which is why financial well-being programs have been on the rise in the past few years.

Since building a challenge around financial wellness can be difficult to execute (sensitive, private information), developing a challenge around educating your employees is a better route to take. You can host webinars or provide your team with educational finance tools. You could even hire a company-sponsored financial adviser to answer questions and offer advice.

6. Sustainability challenges

You should always pay attention to the environment and the impact your company has; this is something that is also often important to employees. You should do your best to create and maintain and environment where nature and humans can harmoniously exist.

A sustainability challenge should focus on both environmental and personal health. You can address the personal health component through physical activities or nutrition. For example, you can encourage employees to bike to work instead of driving themselves. Employees could also earn points in this challenge by educating themselves on sustainable practices or by working on the company's garden/farm (if applicable).

7. Sleep challenges

Sleep plays a major role in physical, mental, and emotional health. And unfortunately, it's often neglected and completely left out of fitness challenges. Many chronic disease have been linked to insufficient sleep, which leads to higher health care costs for both employees and organizations.

You can introduce a sleep challenge by educating employees on the value of a good night's rest and discuss how people can practice healthier sleeping habits. Webinars, videos, and articles can make up the educational component, and you can administer quizzes for the challenge. But remember, employees should be rewarded for participating in the activities and quizzes, not just for their scores.

A sleep challenge can also include an activity before bed; for example, you can introduce pre-bedtime meditations and measure consistency among your employees.

8. Charity challenges

It's been scientifically proven that giving back makes people feel good. So, it's no surprise that many employees would rather support a cause they truly care about than receive a bonus. A charitable wellness challenge is a win-win — your employees will improve their well-being while giving back to others.

Your charity challenge can promote any kind of wellness, such as financial, physical, or mental. Then, you can use charitable giving as rewards. Employees can earn points by participating in your challenges and then the points can be transformed into dollar amounts that people can use to donate to a charity of their choosing.

GlobalGiving is another service you can utilize; it's a gift card service that employees can use to fund multiple charities and nonprofits from across the world.

9. Social challenges

Now more than ever, people are working remotely across the globe. While this has given many employees and businesses a great amount of flexibility, the pandemic has caused extreme amounts of loneliness. Common locations for meeting and grabbing coffees have disappeared, along with the friendships that formed with them.

Depression, stress, and anxiety are the results of extended periods of social isolation, which is detrimental to employees' emotional and mental well-being, in addition to their productivity levels. This is when team-based wellness challenges are perfect to introduce. You can still foster a sense of community and maintain social engagement by having your employees team up for challenges. This way, your employees can still feel connected without having to be in the same city, state, or even country.

10. Vacation Exploration challenges

Did you know more than half of Americans aren't using all of their paid vacation days? Now that we're living in an era where unlimited paid time off is a common work perk, many employees are taking less vacation time, if any at all. Many workers cite worrying about work as the main reason for holding them back from taking time off. And even when employees take time off, they're often taking calls and checking emails, making them unable to fully unplug and relax.

Unplugging from work has been found to actually boost productivity, creativity, and problem-solving skills. So, it's incredibly important to make sure your team is taking their vacation days and actually unplugging. You can incorporate this into a wellness challenge by educating your employees on the benefits of taking time off, but by also discussing different ways to enjoy a vacation. Staycations are just as important!

You can follow a similar plan like you would for a sleep challenge; offer webinars, videos and articles, and then quiz your employees afterwards for the challenge aspect. And as always, reward your employees based on participation, not their scores.

Using these 10 wellness challenge ideas can really make a difference in your employees' physical, emotional, and mental health. Happier employees are loyal employees.

At OnSite Wellness, we prioritize health and wellness. Incorporating a wellness program at your workplace can have massive benefits for your employees in managing their health. Contact us to learn more!