Running Your Business

Low-Cost Workplace Wellness Challenges: Tips, Contests and Award Ideas

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Posted by July 25, 2016

If you’re a small business owner working with a tiny (or even nonexistent) budget for workplace wellness challenges, the idea of starting one may feel overwhelming, or even impossible. Here are four tips and four contest ideas to help you get a workplace wellness challenge up and running at your company.

1. Survey Your Employees

Do you know what your employees want in a wellness challenge? If you don’t, press the pause button on your initiatives, and ask them. Regardless of how little your workplace wellness challenges cost, if your employees aren’t interested in participating, you’ll end up wasting both money and time.

2. Nominate Wellness Champions

To get your challenges going, you’ll need employees who are willing to be cheerleaders and rally other employees to join in. They don’t have to be the most athletic employees or have a position in HR or administration, but they do have to be interested in and dedicated to the challenge. Once you have a few enthusiastic employees, the rest will follow.

3. Determine Awards

Your employees are going to want to know what the rewards are before they begin. When surveying your employees, ask what type of awards they’d find motivating. If the rewards don’t interest your employees, they won’t participate. If they are mediocre, they may join in but not give it their all. Make each award affordable, but also worth winning.

4. Barter for Services

One of the best, most cost-effective ways to secure resources to support your workplace wellness challenge is to barter with individuals and businesses in your community. If, after surveying your employees, you discover that they’d like to take Zumba classes or practice meditation, you can ask local connections if they’d be willing to lead a class and accept services as payment. For example, if you own an accounting firm, you might offer a meditation practitioner a certain number of hours of accounting consultation in exchange for leading meditation classes in the office. Or, if you own a cleaning company, you could offer a Zumba trainer cleaning services at their studio in exchange for classes for your staff.

Workplace Wellness Challenge Ideas

1. Walking Challenge

The best part of a walking challenge is that your employees are responsible for tracking their own steps. Invest in some cheap, wearable pedometers for your employees, and have them log how many steps they take each day. Tally the total number of steps at the end of the month, and crown the employee who’s walked the farthest the winner.

If pedometers aren’t in your budget, one free way to support employees is to provide them with a map of your workplace that details exactly how many steps each route takes. Then, on their breaks or off-hours, they can walk the route of their choice without having to worry about counting their steps.

Also, if you really want to engage employees, allow them to take some time off during the workday to get their steps in. You can determine the exact amount of time based on your business needs, but a good offer would be an additional 15 minutes that can be added to participating employees’ lunch breaks or used at the beginning or end of the workday for walking on or around the premises. However, make it clear that this opportunity is only for challenge participants.

If your staff enjoy the walking challenge and want to keep it going, you could add additional awards, such as the Most Improved Walker award or the Most Consistent Stepper prize, to keep employees motivated month after month.

Award options: a fancy pedometer (such as a FitBit), new walking sneakers or a gym membership.

2. A Biggest Loser-style Weight Loss Challenge

If your employees are motivated to lose weight, drum up some workplace competition with a weight-loss challenge similar to NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” Before beginning, establish some parameters, such as length of time the contest will run, appropriate weight-loss options and rules (i.e. diet pills not allowed, etc.), how often weigh-ins will take place (weekly is a smart option) and how the winner will be chosen. While there are many ways to choose a winner, the fairest way is to measure percentage of body weight lost, not overall pounds lost.

Award options: clothing or a small piece of workout equipment, workout DVDs or gift certificates to weight-loss programs.

3. Healthy Eating Challenges

If there’s one thing your employees do every single day, it’s eat. It sounds simple, but the food we choose to consume plays a huge role in our mental and physical well-being. Your employees might be cooking unhealthy meals and may not know how to improve their nutrition choices. By sponsoring workplace wellness challenges focused on healthy eating, you can help your employees make smarter food choices. If your budget allows, consider bringing in a nutritionist to lead a few classes. Then, have each employee share either healthy cooking tips or recipes with the group.

Award options: a subscription to a nutritious meal delivery program, new cookware or food storage containers, or a gift certificate to a local healthy restaurant.

4. Smoking Cessation Challenges

Do you have a workforce that is looking to quit smoking? Great! One way to motivate current smokers to quit is to provide them with incentives and support. Contact your health insurance provider to find out if they offer any free or reduced-price smoking cessation products or counseling. Ask other smoke-free employees to act as mentors or supporters to those taking part in the program.

Award options: smoking cessation gum or patches, a gift certificate for car detailing or a gift basket containing water, gum and healthy snacks.

There are many reasons why you might want to set up a workplace wellness challenge at your company. Recent studies suggest that workplace wellness programs improve employee morale and engagement, reduce turnover and may even save money on health care costs, not to mention the health benefits for participants. Fortunately, these high-reward programs don’t require a big budget. Take some time to survey your employees and kick off your first workplace wellness challenge. In the end, it can be a smart business decision.

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