Business of Well-being

Workplace Wellness Challenges - Fun, Effective, and Free!

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

  • A minimum of 7 hours of sleep - get one point every day that you sleep for a minimum of 7 hours
  • Physical exam or health screening to understand your current health condition - if you take the exam you win the Challenge
  • assessment - complete the assessment and win the Challenge
  • Drink 32 oz. of water during the work day to stay hydrated and avoid fatigue - earn one point each work day that you drink 32 oz. of water on the job

Exercise & Fitness

  • Participate in "Mile-Per-Day" program - choose from two dozen different aerobic activities each day and complete the minimum minutes to equal one mile. A Monthly Certificate of Achievement is awarded each month for Gold (30 miles), Silver (20 miles), and Bronze (10 miles) levels of achievement. Ask for it FREE at
  • Walk or bike to work - count each trip to and from or count the miles
  • Do the "Noon Walk" - walk a mile during lunch with coworkers and count the miles. A Monthly Certificate of Achievement is awarded each month for Gold (30 miles), Silver (20 miles), and Bronze (10 miles) levels of achievement. Ask for it FREE at
  • Exercise for 30 minutes - every 30 minutes counts for one point
  • Do resistance or weight training to strengthen muscles - every 30 minutes counts for one point
  • Compete in a community event such as a Walk or a Race - participation and completion wins the Challenge
  • Stair climbing competition - count the stairs climbed everyday toward achieving an established goal for total stairs climbed over a given time period
  • Avoid the elevator - get a point every time that you take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Stretching - earn one point each day when you spend 15 minutes stretching


  • Eat 5 servings per day of fruits and/or vegetables - get one point for each serving of fruit or vegetables. One serving of fruit = a medium apple, banana, or orange, a cup of cooked or canned fruit (chopped), or cup of fruit juice. One serving of vegetables = one cup of raw, leafy vegetables, cup of other vegetables (chopped, cooked or raw), or  cup of vegetable juice.
  • Eat healthy snacks - get one point each day that you only eat fruits and/or vegetables for snacks
  • Avoid eating junk food - get one point each day that you do not eat any junk food
  • Eat breakfast - get one point each day that you eat a healthy breakfast
  • Reduce calorie intake by 100 calories each day - eliminate 100 calories (use the mobile phone app "Lose It!" for calorie counting) from your diet each day by eating smaller portions or avoiding certain foods or beverages that you normally consume.  Get one point for each day that you succeed.
  • Keep track of your calorie count - use a calorie counter to count the calories in everything you eat and drink. Try it for a week at a time. Receive one point for each day that you successfully account for everything you eat and drink.
  • Prepare healthy meals - earn one point for each healthy meal that you eat
  • Share healthy meal recipes that can contribute to a company Healthy Cook Book - receive one point for every healthy recipe contributed, up to an established maximum

Emotional / Personal Growth / Capacity for Change

  • Express sincere gratitude to someone - "gratitude is an attitude". Foster it by encouraging it. Earn a point each time you express sincere gratitude to someone - up to 3 points per day.
  • Volunteer to help someone in the company - "help" can take many forms. Think outside the box and outside the workplace. Satisfy the Challenge by helping a colleague in need.
  • Volunteer at a community organization - discover the needs of others in your community and put your talents and skills to work.  Satisfy the Challenge by helping out.
  • Read a fun book - relax and lose yourself in a good book.  Finish the book and you finish the challenge.
  • Quiet relaxation or reflection - 10 minutes of quiet time each day earns a Challenge point
  • Contact a friend or family member - stay in touch with those that matter most. One contact per day earns one Challenge point, but you cannot contact the same person more than once during the Challenge.
  • Sign up for something that you have always wanted to do or learn about - participation wins the Challenge
  • Listen to relaxation tapes - 10 minutes dedicated to relaxation each day earns a Challenge point
  • Read a self-help book - what are you really good at?  Choose a book to read that will make you even better at it!  Finish the book and win the Challenge.
  • Enroll in an educational class - what have you always wanted to know more about, but were afraid to ask?  Go find out and win the Challenge.
  • Plan a fun activity for yourself or with others - "Life is good" Make it so for others and win the Challenge.
  • Spend time outdoors "smelling the roses" - Spend 15 minutes outside observing nature and life around you. Earn one point each day you do this.
  • Spend time giving full attention to a child, family member, friend, or co-worker - Give 10 minutes of undivided attention to someone and earn one point, up to 3 points per day.
  • Mentor or tutor a child/student - this Challenge could extend over a few months. Every session counts for a point.


  • Share lunch with a co-worker - go out to lunch, or enjoy a brown bag lunch with a co-worker in the lunchroom, the goal should be to get to know your colleagues better.  Each lunch earns a point.
  • Plan a fun activity for co-workers - plan a fun activity for your co-workers and win the Challenge
  • Actively support a charitable cause at work - employees hold a campaign to select a single charity to adopt at work. Presentations lead to a company-wide vote.  The person or team, behind the selected charity, wins the Challenge.
  • Plan an office "healthy" potluck luncheon - everyone who brings a healthy dish to share wins the Challenge
  • Do a "Noon Walk" with co-workers - see Noon Walk description above
  • Make an effort to do get to know a co-worker better - make an effort to get to know a co-worker better. When you do, you win a friend and the Challenge!
  • Host an employee birthday celebration and honor them with sincere praise - during the "Host a Birthday Party Challenge" sign up to host a birthday party for a co-worker and win the Challenge
  • Compliment a co-worker - offer a sincere compliment to a co-worker and earn one point. Earn up to 3 points per day.
  • Enroll in a class or program to improve your professional skills - complete the class or program and win the Challenge
  • Create a workplace team to compete in Walk or Race event, or volunteer for a charitable cause - complete the event and win the Challenge

Health Risk

  • Lose weight - the most pounds, or the highest percentage, lost wins the Challenge
  • Lose inches off waist - the most inches, or the highest percentage, lost wins the Challenge
  • Reduce body fat - the highest percentage of body fat lost wins the Challenge
  • Reduce Body Mass Index (BMI) - the most BMI points, or the highest percentage of BMI points, lost wins the Challenge
  • Reduce unhealthy pleasures, e.g. smoking or drinking - the goal is to reduce the number of cigarettes smoked, ounces of alcohol drunk, or amount of calories consumed.  Pick the unhealthy pleasure that applies to you. Low number wins each Challenge category.
  • Take a physical exam or health screening - know your risk indicators - a physical exam or health screening during the Challenge, or in the previous 11 months, wins the Challenge.
  • Conduct a family health history - complete a family health history form and win the Challenge
  • Seek medical help for a nagging health condition - obtain medical assistance and develop a treatment plan for a chronic health condition and win the Challenge

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

Learn about how you can become a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist→