As new employees join companies, especially freshly minted college grads during the summer, their first impression defines the workplace culture they will experience. Without proper planning, the excitement of a flashy new job can quickly be ruined by an awkward and cumbersome employee onboarding experience that is inconsistent with the culture and values an employee expected from the recruitment process.

Employers looking to show they care about the well-being of employees may want to rethink traditional onboarding processes that require a heavy dose of sitting and listening. These sessions send the wrong signal about the importance employee health and suggests that the employer may not value or care about the well-being of its employees. It’s one of the many ways you can lose out on top talents.

Want a way to change up the status quo and spice up your health and wellness program? Look no further! Below are some fantastic ideas to make new employees feel welcome, let them know that wellness is an integral part of the organization’s culture, and increase engagement during their first few weeks with the company.

Onboarding Activities - Walking Challenge

Team Walking Challenges

Many companies have an employee wellness program to track and reward employee well-being, encouraging physical activities. Employee onboarding is a great way to introduce the program to new employees and build the foundation for a culture of health. Try incorporating a special team challenge just for new employees to give them a fun and healthy activity to get to know each other while signing them up for the wellness program early on, a challenge (no pun intended) best addressed sooner rather than later.

Make it a short challenge, maybe just one or two weeks long, that encourages communication and teamwork among new employees as they strive to meet their goal. Here are some trendy and budget-friendly options for rewards to promote participation. Make sure to allot time during onboarding for employees to engage in the challenge, further emphasizing the importance of employee health in the company culture. Incorporating the challenge into the onboarding process does not have to detract from new hire orientation. For example, the office or neighborhood tour can be designed to “take the long way” to encourage extra steps (see the next idea for more details).

Remember, employees don’t need brand new Fitbits to participate. A platform that allows for smartphone integration ensures everyone will have the technology to participate in the palm of their hand.

Onboarding Activities - Exploration Challenge

Exploration Challenge

Familiarity with surroundings is important to making new hires feel comfortable and happy. This includes the area outside of the office, not just inside. Have the participants group into teams and go to specific locations nearby that have some meaning to the company’s culture. These places could be employees’ favorite eateries, places to relax like a park, or a historical site. It’s also a good habit to get fresh air to break up the work day.

They can take a picture of themselves at the designated locations and send it to the program’s organizer.

Take It Up A Notch

If your workplace wellness platform allows for geolocation check-ins, the groups can verify that they’ve been to the locations via their smartphone. Participants can quickly check in with an app like Swarm and start moving up the leaderboard in the challenge. Want more? Make the exploration challenge a scavenger hunt and promote team building through problem solving by having new hires work together to find the next destinations.

Onboarding Activities - Healthy Habits Challenge

Healthy Habits Challenge

Most people know of specific actions within an office that, if done consistently, could dramatically improve health and well-being, such as drinking more water, taking the stairs, opting for healthy snacks, and standing up every 20 minutes. Let new hires practice important small behaviors that will have a big impact on their health and watch them carry those habits into the workplace.

Take It Up A Notch

Encourage employees to “buddy up” with a fellow new hire to complete the small behaviors together. They can take this relationship and the habits with them after orientation, and if paired with a member of a different department or group, it is a great way to promote relationships across functional groups at large organizations.

Onboarding Activities - Mindfulness Challenge

Mindfulness Challenge

A hot topic in workplace wellness is addressing stress with various mindfulness techniques. While trendy, there is hesitation surrounding sitting in a corner and meditating in an office bustling with people. Employers can assuage these concerns and send a clear message to new hires to make sure they feel comfortable utilizing these techniques at work and at home, which will in turn help with productivity, burnout, and retention. Activities like meditation groups can also be integrated and rewarded points on many wellness challenges platforms. However, at its purest, meditation does not require technology integration.

Take It Up A Notch

If you happen to have an Apple-centric group, the native Health app can pool data from various meditation apps in the form of “mindfulness moments” which can be an objective way to record and reward participants’ activities.


Employers face growing pressure from team members across all departments to make employee onboarding experiences highly educational and prepare new hires for success at the company. However, they also need to consider maximizing employee satisfaction for the new hires and supporting the company culture as well, and the ideas listed in this article are a perfect way to accomplish both simultaneously. Feel free to use them as an outline for more specific initiatives that make sense within an organization’s budget and time constraints.

If you are looking for more employee engagement activities, check out this article from our friends at Runrun.it!

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