Team wellness challenges are great ways to engage and motivate employees to increase their physical activity, improve their nutrition, get more sleep, or make other meaningful changes to their health and well-being. Furthermore, wellness challenges provide employers with opportunities to blend employee health initiatives with team and culture building within an organization. Unlike biometric screenings, health risk assessments, and other wellness services, wellness challenges incorporate group and peer support, which strengthens adherence rates as well as delivers ancillary benefits, including community building within organizations. Although wellness challenges do not need to be difficult to launch and administer, many companies break some cardinal rules to great programs. Check out the list below to make sure your wellness program is effective.



#1 Keep It Simple

The death of all wellness challenges is confusion. If employees don’t understand one element of the program, they will choose not to participate. Keeping it simple in every aspect of the program is critical. This includes how the challenge is scored and winners are determined to the rewards and prizes available to win. Keeping it simple will help you keep the communication simple, which is a must.

Pro tip: Run your challenge structure by some employees before you launch. If they don’t “get it” within a few minutes, it’s time to simplify.

#2 Ease of Use

Having a simple program isn’t enough. Employees want participation to be easy. Having to log in everyday to record your activity on a site that is not mobile friendly will result in frustration and low adherence rates. Do everything in your power to make the participation as easy as possible for employees.

Pro tip: Try using a program that allows for third-party app/device integration. Allowing employees to have their Fitbits and other popular wellness technologies sync with the program makes things really easy. It will actually save you money.

#3 Real-Time Data

Imagine watching a basketball game in which one team is playing in the second quarter and the other is playing in the fourth quarter. It wouldn’t make much sense and would probably be taken off the air quickly because lack of interest. This is what happens when employee wellness challenges allow employees to enter their activity at the end of the week or month. Imagine the employee ire when one colleague jumps from last to first because he or she just uploaded all their activity. Keeping the data as up-to-date as possible intensifies the gaming effects of a challenge so it is important to set protocols that make the entries no more than a day old.

Pro tip: Similar to “Ease of Use”, third-party integrations can ensure that data is collected accurately and updated in a timely fashion.


#4 Limit Team Sizes

Some wellness challenges incorporate teams as part of the program. It’s a great idea, but it is important to limit team sizes to 3-8 people (4-5 works best). Smaller teams are more reliable in delivering support and motivating each other.

Pro tip: Having a tight leaderboard promotes competition and engagement. Create team captains and randomly assign teams based on performance in previous challenges. Captains will help organize and motivate the team and random assignments will help employees interact with colleagues they may not know.

#5 Recognize (Not Just Winners)

Although it may seem fair and intuitive to recognize and reward the top finishers of a challenge, the real winners should be the average employee, not the triathlete in sales. Success stories of average employees help promote future participation and build your culture of health. Try to recognize these success stories publicly and find a way to make them eligible for rewards.

Pro tip: Set aside prizes for the top finishers of challenges as well as those who put in a good effort. If you have a tight budget, allocate some of it to raffles for all participants so everyone has an opportunity to win a prize. At Wellable, we like to raffle off prizes based on number of points earned (each point represents a raffle ticket) so even if an employee is not a top finisher, he or she still has an incentive to end the challenge strong because more points equal better odds of winning.

#6 Evaluate and Repeat

Every organization is unique, and as such, their wellness challenges should be reflective of their culture and employee base. Also, despite the best practices listed above, every challenge an employer runs will be a teaching moment for the wellness coordinators. Make sure to evaluate (before, during, and after) the program and make iterative changes to constantly improve your wellness challenges.

Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to test things out. Worst case scenario is that you will learn what does and doesn’t work.

#7 Cost Efficient

This seems like an obvious quality, but we find that so many organizations spend or anticipate spending too much per wellness challenge. This results in fewer challenges or an employer choosing not to launch a challenge at all. Also, the more an employer spends on the administration of a challenge, the less it will have for rewards. Anything more than $10 per active participant per challenge is probably too much.

Pro tip: Don’t forget the hidden costs of running wellness challenges. Running a challenge yourself may seem free, but the hidden costs ad up very quickly.

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