Success Formula For Considering A Workplace Wellness Challenge

by Brian Hazelgren

If you’ve ever thought about doing a Workplace Wellness Challenge at your company, you’re not alone. Challenges are fun, engaging, and successful ways to motivate people to engage in a healthier lifestyle behavior.

Challenges are a great tool to use to boost morale, build teamwork, increase productivity, help to reduce healthcare costs, help to drive down workers comp claims, and create a little fun back in the business! If you would like some additional information, send me an email, and let’s figure out a positive plan for your business!

The purpose of Challenges is to encourage employees to get more physically active, as well as focus on additional aspects of wellness, including healthy eating and keeping emotionally balanced.

This article focuses on making small steps towards total wellness. Rarely will people make a drastic change; it’s more realistic – and beneficial for small changes to add up to big ones. The aim here is to provide fun activities that includes as many employees as possible, and achieve meaningful results both personally and for the company.

Who Should Be Involved in The Challenge?

Anyone can be involved in a wellness challenge. This includes individuals, families, seniors, youth and co-workers. The nice thing about a wellness challenge is that it can be done in or out of a worksite setting. As long as the leaders and employees are willing to get going, they can all join in the fun!

There are several different ways to form a challenge and decide who will be involved. Challenges can be both team based and/or individually based. It all depends on how the challenge is set up that will determine the ‘who’ of it.

The ‘who” of your challenge is quite simple. It’s the employees! It could be targeted at the employee’s families too. Once you have decided on ‘who’ and how to focus your challenge, get ready to market it to your team!

Samples of marketing ideas (are provided on my website – The important piece is getting them all motivated to participate.

The next step in organizing your challenge is to decide if it would be best to challenge as a team or as individuals; some work best on their own, while others prefer a team base for support. You could work it in combination as well. Typically a team effort tends to be more effective simply because the team members can support one another, plus it provides friendly competition and builds camaraderie.

What type of Challenge should be used?

There are several different types of wellness challenges. I developed a cool type of Challenge that lasts six weeks – and is a point-based competition with cash prizes, participation awards,  and a personal package for each participant. My Challenge develops a general feeling of teamwork, competitive edge, plus morale and productivity boosters. It’s called the iMatter Challenge™ and lasts 6 weeks, but we also promote other types of challenges as well…such as  consideration for the following types:

  • Step challenge—in a step challenge pedometers are used to count steps taken each day. Each team and/or individual works to increase the number of steps.
  • Point challenge—some use a point system where a certain amount of points are assigned to various activities, recorded and ultimately tallied. This is a great way to encompass all aspects of wellness. (The iMatter Challenge™ is this type of competition).
  • Minute challenge—another popular way of providing a challenge is by counting the minutes spent performing a physical activity.
  • Mile challenge—this challenge is similar to the minute challenge, only miles are logged versus minutes.
  • Weight Loss challenge—this challenge is based on losing weight and motivating the participants to lose that spare tire! It can be as little as losing 5 lbs. or as much as 100 lbs. or more. The event will have a start and stop time, possibly 4-6 weeks.

Or think of challenges that motivate employees to make small changes with healthy eating. One example is:

Five-a-Day Challenge – this challenge incorporates fruits and vegetables.

  • Each team and/or individual will get points for fruits and vegetables eaten daily or weekly.
  • You can set the point system to accommodate your workplace the best.
  • At the end of the challenge, the team or individual having the most averaged points wins the top prize!

There are pros and cons to each type of challenge. These different types of challenges should be brought up to the health and wellness committee for their feedback, so a more educated decision can be made.

When Should We Start the Challenge?

A challenge can be implemented at anytime of the year for any length of time. However, it is usually best to work with management and the staff to find a good time when the majority of people can participate.

For many organizations, a good time would be the beginning of the year; a new season; after a merger; to celebrate the annual birthday of the company; or a myriad of additional dates. Get creative…this way participants can hit the ground running with resolutions and keep them going with one another’s support. Spring also  tends to be a good time, as the weather warms up and people are excited to go outside and enjoy it. It’s much easier to get people mobile and active when they are already out there. The spring weather adds more attitude to their motivation.

In colder climates, it might be best to wait until summer rolls around to make sure the weather is comfortable and cooperative with the timing of the challenge. The only challenge is that mid-June through mid-August you will need to plan on lower participation with employees taking family vacations while the kiddos are out for the summer break.

On the flip side of the coin, Holiday Challenges are very popular as we all tend to eat too much, drink too much and get stressed on a regular basis!

Worksites often see more positive results when the challenge is set for a specific period of time. Interest may be lost if the challenge is offered for too long; however time is needed to get it going and to develop the activity into a habit. A suggested amount of time is between 4 – 8 weeks. Be sure that the start and end dates are clear.

The primary complaint of those trying to get active is that of time constraints. However, many do not realize that a big block of time is not needed to get active and participate in a successful challenge. Only 30 minutes of activity is suggested per day. These 30 minutes can be broken up into three sets of 10 minutes or six, five minute walks. A person does not need to do all 30 or more minutes at one time.

There are many small things that can be done throughout the day to stay active, such as walking to a co-worker’s desk rather than e-mailing, using the stairs more often, or parking further away. Small steps do count. Challenge your people to find time to enjoy physical activity, even in small increments. Small steps lead to BIG changes!

The same goes for barriers to eating healthier. Often you will hear people say it’s hard to eat healthier. Common remarks are, “It’s too expensive to buy healthy food,” or “I don’t know how to cook healthier,” and of course there is the ever-present excuse “I don’t have time to do healthy activities, or prepare a healthy meal.” Eating healthier doesn’t mean you have to completely change the way you have always done things. It’s just a matter of making a few small changes that can make a difference. Adding a vegetable or fruit during each meal is a step in the right direction to becoming healthier – not to mention it counts towards the point total that people will be striving for during the challenge. Or perhaps simply taking a few bites less each meal.

Start the Challenge Now!

A challenge can be started right in your workplace. Kick off the challenge at a staff meeting or host a Wellness Day where free screenings are offered, a local dietician speaks on healthy food choices, and participants can take part in an organized one mile walk.

You could also have healthy snacks on hand for employees to sample. Work with your local grocery stores and see if they’d be willing to donate fresh fruits/vegetables. Utilize outside resources. If they are unavailable, find somewhere within your workplace where members can get together and be active.

Challenge employees to do more while at work or in the home. For example:

  • Take the stairs rather than the elevator
  • Walk to the mall or to the local restaurant for lunch
  • Use a basket at the grocery store instead of the cart
  • Grow a garden
  • Mow the lawn with a push mower or do their own yard work every weekend
  • Eat healthier snacks such as low fat, low sugar trail mix and granola bars, bananas, apples, nuts, celery sticks or carrots
  • Eat gluten free food for a month
  • Spend a minimum of 30 minutes of quality time with family
  • Set a policy that only healthy foods are allowed during meetings conferences, and other worksite functions and in all vending machines
  • Drink 80 ounces of water every day to stay hydrated

There are several ways in an ordinary day to become more active and choose healthier foods and habits. It just takes a little extra thought.

Get Moving!

Here is a list of just a few of the endless benefits to healthy eating and increased physical activity:

  • A reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Increased energy and morale
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Better weight control
  • Decreased dollars spent on medical bills and insurance
  • Reduced insurance claims
  • Less absenteeism and presenteeism (showing up to work at less than full capacity)
  • Enhanced productivity
  • Healthier joints, bones and muscles
  • Better flexibility and fitness level
  • Longer life
  • Enriched quality of life

Not only does a healthier lifestyle increase physical health, but it also improves mental health. Physical activity and healthy eating have been proven to boost energy levels throughout the day and increase the release of endorphins which improves moods and controls mood swings.

In addition to the numerous benefits to one’s personal health, there are also benefits to the company. By using a tool such as a Wellness Challenge, employees are encouraged to band together to do fun activities. This forms healthy relationships and improves the morale of the workplace as a whole.

Providing a Workplace Wellness Challenge is not as difficult as it may seem, although it does take some time and effort. I have simplified the process for you and would be happy to share another article to you help you. It’s called: 16 Powerful Steps To A Highly Successful Workplace Challenge. You can literally just follow this step-by-step guide to a healthier workplace Challenge and find a lot of success. All you need to do is go to my website: and download it.

As I stated at the beginning of this article, “Challenges are a great tool to use to boost morale, build teamwork, increase productivity, help to reduce healthcare costs, help to drive down workers comp claims, and create a little fun back in the business!” If you would like some additional information, send me an email, and let’s figure out a positive plan for your business!

Brian Hazelgren is the CEO of Platinum Partners Wellness, which runs challenges and wellness competitions throughout the country with companies of all shapes and sizes. Brian is a former All-American athlete, National Champion, Record Holder in Track & Field events, professional speaker, best-selling author and mentor.

You can reach Brian at:, or view his websites: and

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