Workplace Wellness Challenges – Fun, Effective, and Free!

M. J. White
January 29, 2014

A Win-Win

Workplace Wellness “Challenges” - activities that engage people in becoming happier, healthier, and more energetic at work - are gaining popularity and changing lives at work. The purpose of Challenges is to encourage healthier lifestyle behaviors. Challenges are successful when a supportive, positive climate of fun and camaraderie helps people to adopt or maintain a healthy way of living. With little or no investment in creating a company challenge, the net result is an engaged and productive workforce that performs at a higher level – everybody wins!

Create a Challenge

Challenges can be created by anyone in the organization. Better buy-in results when everyone participates in generating ideas and has input into the selection process. Challenges can be done frequently or infrequently. However, consistency produces the best results and levels of participation. Short duration challenges, e.g. one week or one month, are more focused and effective. If done on a monthly basis, a Challenge can last the entire month, or any portion of the month. With this approach, a new month starts a new Challenge. If you prefer more variety and less duration, Challenges can change weekly.

Reward Effort

Challenges should be designed to reward effort and make it possible for as many people to succeed as possible. An example would be a company that had a month-long “Challenge to Not Drive to Work”. Employees earned one point for every trip to or from work that did not require them to drive a vehicle. A local bicycle retailer offered to provide a free bicycle tune up to any employee who accumulated over 30 points. During the month, many employees walked, rode a bike, took public transportation, or car-pooled to work. At the end of the month, a number of employees achieved over 30 points and enjoyed the free bicycle service. All the employees who participated in the Challenge enjoyed the unique experiences that it provided throughout the month. Additional benefits derived from the environmental awareness that the Challenge promoted throughout the company, and the community goodwill that was generated from including a local business as a sponsor of the contest.

Rewards for participating in Challenges are optional. Typically, they are simple and non-monetary. Sponsorships, like mentioned above, are a great incentive. Talk to local businesses about offering a product or service discount to the Challenge winners. A monthly “healthy” potluck lunch, that publicly recognizes participants, is an effective way to end each Challenge and introduce a new one.

Be Cautious

Competition can cause people to engage in physical activity that is potentially dangerous. Before participating in a Challenge that demands physical exertion, make sure that employees consult with a physician, particularly if they have been inactive, are very overweight, or have or suspect any sort of medical condition that might be worsened by exercise.

Company Challenge Ideas

Listed below is a variety of different types of Challenges. Use these ideas, improve upon them, or create your own. The key is to have fun and help people live happier, healthier, and more energetic lives. Measurement is often subjective. Do not worry if people appear to be less than honest. They are only denying themselves the real benefit of the experience. Eventually, they will come to appreciate this.


Overall Physical Condition

Exercise & Fitness


Emotional / Personal Growth / Capacity for Change


Health Risk

Wellness that is fun, effective, and free is good business! Workplace Wellness Challenges contribute to a more positive and productive work environment. Challenges engage people in healthy lifestyle behaviors that help them make “lasting” improvements. Lasting improvements mean lasting benefits to your business. Start planning your first company Challenge this month. Be ready to start changing lives on September 1st !

Live WELL!

About the Author

M.J. White is the Founder of WELL Street, a Chicago-based provider of wellness services and products.  WELL Street’s mission is to help individuals and organizations become happier, healthier, and more productive.  WELL Street combines Limeade’s innovative online “Employee Vitality” program with life-changing local wellness resources to make “lasting” behavior change possible.M.J.’s background includes advanced degrees and leadership positions in both education and business.  He is a popular speaker, writer, and consultant on workplace wellness issues.  M.J. can be contacted at:M.J. White
WELL Street
65 East Scott Street, Suite 5P
Chicago, IL 60610
Office:    312-846-6615