Wellness Challenges

25 Out-of-the-Box Employee Wellness Challenge Ideas to Kickstart 2024

Written by Kate

A recent Forbes Health/OnePoll survey shows that 48% of Americans have made improving their physical fitness a top priority for 2024. Additionally:

  • 38% want to improve their financial wellness
  • 36% desire better mental health
  • 34% plan to lose weight
  • 32% hope to improve their dietary habits

Unfortunately, only 9% of people complete their resolutions. Worse still, 23% quit by the end of the first week, and 43% are out by the end of January. 

Introducing exciting workplace wellness challenges early in the year can solve this problem. Are you curious about wellness challenges? Let’s dive in and explore how they work!

how employee wellness challenges work

Bridge the Gap with Out-of-the-Box Wellness Challenge Ideas

Let’s talk about the WHAT briefly before diving into the HOW. What is a workplace wellness challenge? In simple terms, a wellness challenge is a structured activity (or set of activities) designed to promote more healthy lifestyle habits and improve employee health.

A typical, employee health and wellness challenge comprises the following:

  1. Goal setting – What are you looking to achieve with the challenge? Is it encouraging employees to walk a given number of steps daily? Do you want to promote healthy eating habits? Identify the goals and set the timelines. (Employee wellness challenges can run for a week, month, or longer).
  2. Participation – Onboard the employees. Ideally, the entire team will sign up and commit to participating in the workplace wellness challenge. This often involves tracking their activities or progress towards the set goals.
  3. Tracking and Reporting – Make it easy for participants to track their progress. Apps, journals, and even shared documents will do. Progress reports often motivate participants to do more.
  4. Rewards and Recognition – Set some wellness incentives to encourage participants to achieve their goals. These can be anything from certificates, prizes, or even just public acknowledgment of their efforts and achievements.

So, how do wellness challenges enhance an employee wellness program?

Creating a Culture of Accountability

An article on Forbes suggests that accountability increases chances of success by up to 95%. When employees participate in a shared wellness goal, they become accountable to themselves and their colleagues. This shared responsibility can be a powerful motivator.

Goals and Regular Check-In

“I want to lose weight” is an ambiguous goal that sets you up for failure. An effective wellness challenge helps break down larger goals into smaller, more manageable tasks, like, “I’ll lose 2kgs by the end of January.” Regular check-ins and progress tracking as part of these challenges help maintain focus and momentum.

creating a culture of accountability

Support and Encouragement

Being part of a wellness challenge means being part of a community. “The communal benefits of coming together with friends and colleagues, and doing something difficult, while encouraging one another, pays dividends beyond exercising alone,” concluded researchers in a study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

Making It Fun and Engaging

Many traditional wellness programs are yawn-inducing, and that’s why most fail. Out-of-the-box wellness challenges add an element of fun and creativity, making the wellness program more engaging.

Leveraging the Power of Habit Formation

Wellness initiatives that span a significant period help in forming new, healthier habits. It’s all about repetitive actions. Incorporating daily or weekly tasks into the workplace wellness challenge helps participants to adopt these tasks as part of their routine gradually.

Encouraging Healthy Competition

Well-designed employee wellness challenges create a sense of healthy competition in the workplace. This motivates participants to achieve personal goals and contributes to a collective effort as well.

Key takeaway: Good intentions alone don’t create healthy habits. We need discipline, motivation, and the kind of support workplace wellness programs provide. 

With that said, let’s dive into some innovative and engaging employee wellness challenge ideas to help start 2024 on the right note.

25 Employee Wellness Challenge Ideas for 2024    

mental health challenges

From financial well-being to mental wellness to physical fitness, here are wellness initiatives to encourage employees to adopt healthier habits.              

Mental Health Challenges

These wellness challenges enhance mental and emotional well-being and stress management. Here are 7 examples to add to your wellness program:

1. Mindfulness Marathon

Consider setting a month-long challenge where employees participate in daily mindfulness activities. Kickstart the challenge with simple activities like guided meditation, group yoga sessions, or journaling.

2. Gratitude Challenge

Don’t wait until next Thanksgiving for your team to express what they’re grateful for. Instead, create a gratitude challenge where employees share something they’re grateful for each day. This not only creates a positive work environment but also increases employee morale and happiness.

3. Digital Detox Day

 Increased screen time doesn’t just affect users’ eyes; it also causes psychological strain. Create a wellness challenge that encourages a day without non-essential digital devices to promote mental well-being and focus.

4. Silent Retreat Day

The world is too noisy on any given day, which doesn’t help our mental health. Set a silent retreat day that’s less likely to have important meetings or deadlines to reduce that noise. Explain the goal is to reduce noise pollution, encourage mindfulness, and allow employees to focus inwardly without the usual distractions. This works well with meditation days.

5. Random Acts of Kindness Challenge

 Kindness fosters a positive and productive work culture. First, performing acts of kindness can release feel-good neurotransmitters in the doer’s brain, creating a phenomenon often referred to as the “helper’s high.” Receiving acts of kindness makes individuals feel valued and supported, enhancing their job satisfaction and overall morale. Spreading positivity creates a ripple effect, enhancing the company’s culture.

6. Community Service Day

Doing something for someone who can’t pay back can increase employees’ sense of purpose and satisfaction with their job and employer. Organize a day of volunteering for a local cause, promoting mental well-being through helping others.

7. “Unplug at Lunch” Challenge

Finding a moment of pure silence can be hard in our interconnected world. There’s even a term – Nomophobia (fear of being without your phone) – that reflects the increasing reliance on smartphones in modern society. This wellness challenge can promote mindfulness and healthy eating habits.

employees eating lunch together

Physical Health Challenges

These wellness challenges focus on improving physical activity levels and encouraging healthy eating. Physical health challenge ideas include:

8. Virtual wellness challenges

Offer frequent online fitness classes that cater to different levels and interests. Think pilates, dance workouts, yoga, or aerobics. This helps both in-office and remote workers achieve their fitness goals conveniently.

9. Walking Meetings

Sitting for longer hours contributes to chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer. It also causes physical discomfort to various parts of the body including the lower back, neck, and shoulders. Use walking meetings instead of traditional sit-down meetings to promote physical health.

10. Deskercise Challenge

Let no one miss leg day because the gym is too far. Challenge employees to do chair squats, seated leg lifts, desk pushups, chair dips, seated toe taps, calf raises, etc.

11. Pedometer Challenge with a Twist

A steps challenge doesn’t have to be boring to be effective. Besides tracking steps, consider including a fun twist. For example, introduce a “take a new route to your desk” or “walk to a colleague instead of emailing” challenge.

Assign specific days with themes, such as “Nature Walk Wednesday,” where participants are encouraged to walk in a park. Introduce team-based challenges like a “Teamwork Tuesday,” where steps only count if walking with a colleague.

12. “No Elevator” Day

Challenge employees to ditch the elevator and only use stairs for a day to promote better cardiovascular health. According to a study published in Atherosclerosis, climbing more than 5 flights of stairs daily can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 20%. Regular stair climbing can also build muscle strength, improve bone density in post-menopausal women, and enhance overall fitness.

13. “Back to Childhood” Sports Day

Playing childhood games can be a great stress reliever for busy employees. Organize a sports day with games like hopscotch, four square, jump rope, or tag to add fun and nostalgia. Top the fun off with three-legged races, sack races, or wheelbarrow races.

adults playing sports

14. Recipe Relay

Don’t just speak about healthy food choices. Encourage employees to share their go-to recipes for a healthy meal. One team member can share a healthy recipe this week and others can try to recreate it with their twist. Rotate until everyone has shared.

15. Flash Mob Fitness

Organize surprise fitness sessions where, at a random time, a bell rings, and everyone does a quick, fun exercise. Introduce exciting exercises like push-ups, squats, or a plank challenge.

16. Cultural Dance Workshops

Offer dance classes featuring different cultural styles. This not only promotes physical exercise but also fosters cultural appreciation.

17. “Swap It” Challenge

Encourage employees to swap a harmful habit for a healthier one for a month, like replacing soda with water.

Additional Wellness Challenge Ideas

Supercharge your wellness program with these add-ons that address everything from physical and mental health to financial well-being to healthy living.

18. Financial Wellness Webinar

Offer seminars on financial planning and budgeting to empower employees with the knowledge to manage their finances better.

19. “Frugal Week’ Challenge”

Challenge employees to live as frugally as possible for a week. Encourage them to share their experiences and tips on how they saved money.

20. Barter and Trade Fair

Organize an event where employees can barter items or services with each other, promoting a different approach to value and trade.

21. Puzzle and Brain Games Tournament

Host tournaments with puzzles and brain games to encourage cognitive health and team bonding.

employee chess tournament

22. Eco-Challenge Week

Motivate employees to adopt more environmentally friendly habits at work and home. Encouraging eco-friendly commuting methods like public transportation, biking, or walking can save employees money and conserve energy.

23. Office Karaoke Session

An informal talent show is a fun way to relieve stress, encourage team bonding, and maybe even discover hidden talents. Host a karaoke session during the mental health week to spice up your wellness challenge.

24. Wellness Wheel Spin

Create a wheel with various wellness activities (e.g., a 5-minute stretch, a health trivia question, or a hydration reminder) for employees to spin and complete.

25. Pet Therapy Day

Organize a day where employees can bring their pets to work or coordinate with a local shelter for a pet visit. Research shows this is an excellent way of improving mental health and increasing physical activity.

pet therapy day

Common Pitfalls of Wellness Challenges

As we’ve previously noted, many wellness programs fail because of poor design. The same can be said for wellness challenges. Here are several pitfalls to watch out for as you design your workplace wellness challenge in 2024:

Complexity and Accessibility

Any challenge that’s too complex will discourage participation. So will one requiring specific skills or resources. Ensure our workplace wellness challenges are simple, clear, and accessible to all to encourage widespread engagement.

Timing and Scheduling Conflicts

Many employees cite a lack of time as a hindrance to their wellness goals. Schedule the wellness and fitness challenges at convenient times to maximize participation and enthusiasm.

Lack of Inclusivity

Workplace wellness challenges must cater to the diverse needs and abilities of participants. Ensure you consider employees’ different physical abilities, dietary restrictions, or cultural differences before adding them to your workplace wellness program.

Ineffective Tracking and Feedback

Proper tracking of progress and providing feedback are essential for maintaining engagement. Invest in adequate tracking and feedback mechanisms to maximize the impact of the workplace wellness challenge.

Insufficient Incentives

Lack of meaningful incentives or recognition can reduce motivation. Remember, incentives do not always have to be tangible; even recognition and celebration of achievements can significantly boost participation.

Overemphasis on Competition

While competition can be motivating, overemphasizing it often leads to stress and a counterproductive environment. Balancing competition with collaboration and personal goal-setting is key to a successful wellness challenge.

Closing Thoughts

Well-designed workplace wellness challenges can significantly contribute to participants’ overall health and well-being. They can also boost employee morale, enhance job satisfaction, and support a more vibrant, productive, and positive work environment. Create effective and truly inclusive wellness challenges, and see employee engagement rates soar!

Curious about how challenges could work for your company? Schedule a call with our Benefits Experts to learn more about engaging employees year-round.

Corporate Wellness Benefit Managers having a discussion while looking at an electronic tablet.

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