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Planning Your Annual Employee Wellness Challenge

Planning Your Annual Employee Wellness ChallengeFew things bring teams together and inspire individual achievement more than striving toward a shared goal—or overcoming a shared challenge. We all learned that lesson in 2020—but in 2021, your organization can apply the idea to something a bit more healthy, fun, and productive.

A company-wide employee wellness challenge that all employees participate in is one of the key best practices for implementing a successful wellness program.

Now is the time to start planning your annual challenge before becoming overwhelmed with holiday scheduling and all the big projects that inevitably kick off after the New Year.

What Is an Annual Employee Wellness Challenge?

Individual wellness challenges are essential to getting results from your employee wellness program. But they are not always enough to spark the high engagement levels most employers aim for.

Employee wellness programs typically include individual wellness challenges your employees can choose to participate in. Each challenge focuses on one or more aspects of well-being, such as improving nutrition, getting more exercise, or sleeping better. Challenges may also focus on mental health and stress reduction, encouraging healthy habits such as meditation or keeping a gratitude journal.

Individual wellness challenges are essential to getting results from your employee wellness program. But they are not always enough to spark the high engagement levels most employers aim for. 

We recently completed a survey of over 600 organizations that use the WellRight corporate wellness platform. We found a striking commonality among the organizations that see engagement rates of 80% or higher: Nearly every one has an annual employee wellness challenge.

Employee wellness challengeAt WellRight, we call this type of challenge an anchor challenge. An anchor challenge is a wellness activity your entire workforce participates in once a year, usually at the same time and for the same duration each year.

Ideally, your anchor challenge is something everyone in your company looks forward to. There is special branding and communication around your anchor challenge, such as flyers, posters, and emails informing everyone what to expect and how to participate as the event gets closer.

How Will an Annual Employee Wellness Challenge Increase Wellness Program Engagement?

If you’ve ever tried and failed to force yourself out of bed for an early-morning jog or given up on making a healthy home cooked meal after a draining workday, you know that wellness can sometimes be a lonely pursuit. When left to our own devices, many of us understandably choose the easy path over the more-rewarding-but-harder healthy option.

Group wellness challenges help people develop healthy habits through the dual motivating powers of competition and cooperation.

As your employees follow each other’s progress in the challenge, they will naturally (and hopefully, in a friendly way) try to one-up each other. The cooperative aspect comes in when they support and encourage each other throughout the challenge; if they succeed, they all share in the reward.

Additionally, an annual group wellness challenge sets the tone for your organization. It reminds your employees that your company values their health and well-being. It also tells your employees you support their efforts to be physically and mentally healthier and that you will provide resources to help.

(Note: Anchor challenges are also a great way to orient or reorient your employees to the features of your corporate wellness program.)

Examples of Successful Anchor Challenges

1. Annual Shape Up Challenge

One of our clients has held an annual “Shape Up” challenge for the past 10 years. Participants must complete 30 minutes of any physical activity three days a week for the duration of the challenge. Those who don’t meet the minimum activity requirement for the week are eliminated from the challenge. Participants compete in teams, so the desire not to let your team down provides an extra motivational push.

2. “Meet Me at the Manger” Steps Challenge

Another client, a Christian liberal arts school in San Diego, integrated its faith-based culture with an anchor challenge. During the month of December, participants logged their steps to honor Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. The meaningful challenge, named “Meet Me at the Manger,” inspired 85 employees to cover over 100 miles.

3. Ultimate Health Olympics Challenge

We recently read about a Virginia-based nonprofit that held the “ultimate health Olympics” at the height of the pandemic in May. While employees couldn’t come together in person to complete challenges like drinking more water or getting in steps, they shared their progress via an online platform, along with inspirational messages, videos, and GIFs.

The company’s human resources managers said the virtual interaction helped team members feel connected and supported throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

If you’re looking for more ideas for your annual wellness challenge, we would be happy to help. WellRight has helped hundreds of organizations like yours plan, promote, and implement anchor challenges that have gone on to become beloved traditions among employees.

Contact WellRight today to start developing a company-wide challenge your team members will look forward to every year.

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