6 company-wide health challenges for 2018

There are two camps you can fall in: pro-New Year’s resolutions or *cue eye roll emoji* when a co-worker comes in on January 2, determined to drop 20 pounds. While various schools of thought recommend or dismiss the notion of new-year-new-you mentalities, improving your overall quality of life, happiness, and health is never a bad idea — regardless of what date on the calendar jumpstarts your inclination.

Considering you spend far more time with your colleagues, employees, and managers than you do with your friends or family, adopting a newfound dedication to wellness might be more successful in the office environment. In addition to the obvious benefits of shedding those five extra cookies you didn’t technically need at the holiday party, health and wellness coach Kevin Bailey explains the wide ripple effect of a January company program.

“Challenges create an office wide atmosphere of accountability and encouragement because everyone is ‘watching’ each other. If the challenge has a strong reward, like money, then overall group compliance is increased. Most coworkers want to see everyone win, especially if the reward or benefit is contingent upon the success of the group or team as a whole,” he says. “With increased compliance, you will have more employees achieving their goal, which means they are becoming healthier! The ultimate goal. This will result in increased office camaraderie, more harmony and teamwork among co-workers as a result of becoming healthier together.”

Here, a few ideas from health professionals on office-appropriate, company-wide challenges to propose to your team this year.

Walking challenge

Talented, hardworking employees come in all shapes and sizes, and any health initiative should cater to inclusivity. Not only does this reap the most participation, but it ensures no one makes a complaint to HR for an activity that’s out of reach for certain staff members.

According to registered dietitian and professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD, FAND, a walking competition is a pressure-free place to start. As a team, you can select any type of destination — an amusement park, a ski resort, a major city, etc. — and determine how many miles away it is. The idea is to walk those many miles over the month as a team — from commuting into work or having active meetings outside or logging miles on a treadmill.

Once you reach the mile goal together, the prize is a trip to the spot you walked toward — literally.

Ask your employees or coworkers what they want

The definition of what it means to lead a healthy lifestyle will dramatically shift depending on who you’re talking to. That’s why fitness coach and expert Nadia Murdock says to poll staffers on what they’d like to work on in the New Year. Perhaps it’s a meditation program, access to a specific boutique gym or meetings with a nutritionist.

Whatever the cause, the key is ensure a prize for participation.

“Health challenges circled around a prize tend to do well especially when the prize is money. It creates an opportunity to get those into working out and leading a healthy lifestyle if they don’t already. Chances are after the challenge is completed they will stick to their new lifestyle,” she says.

Individual incentives

Every industry experiences a different busy season, and if yours happens to be at the start of the year, squeezing in time for workouts or breaks to focus on a healthy-something-or-another challenge might feel frivolous. Even so, the CEO and co-founder of Virtual Health Partners, Jillian Bridgette Cohen, says employees are inspired by individual incentives, too. This could be offering opportunities to be recognized or awarded for attending classes, walking a certain number of steps or another form of physical activity.

She encourages managers to apply a ‘15 minute’ challenge, where you inspire employees to take even a short amount of time to do something that benefits their health. “It is an excuse saying you are too busy to stop. I also think offering the opportunity for employees to participate in a virtual program with nutrition, lifestyle modification and fitness is very helpful,” she says.

Weight loss based on percentage

While many people are often eying the ideal number on a scale, others have further to go than their counterparts. Weight loss challenges can be difficult to implement in office settings, since everyone faces various barriers to actually shed pounds. That’s why Ayoob suggests setting aside a structured group for voluntary participation and making the incentive based on percentage lost, not actual pounds.

“When they lose the percentage of their body weight they set as their goal, without fad dieting, they can be rewarded with a gym membership for a month, a spa day, or whatever non food-related prize they want,” he says. This takes off the pressure or any potential shaming habit they might develop because they select their own success marker.

BYOL challenge

Especially if your city is covered in a sheet of sparkling, never-ending snow during the winter, takeout seems like a great idea… every single day. The only issue with food that’s prepared out of the home is the mystery surrounding preparation and ingredients. Understanding the true salt, sugar, and fat content is difficult, since you rarely watch it prepared before it arrives via courier.

As a way to not only save money but be mindful about what you’re chowing down on deskside, Ayoob suggests a ‘bring your own lunch’ challenge with coworkers. The person who wins the January (and February) prize can select the one for the upcoming months, and so forth, creating friendliness and support in the office.

“The goal here is compliance: the person or team that does this regimen the most is the ‘winner.’ Without noticing, they are actually changing their lifestyles and eating habits, without focusing on losing weight,” he says. “It’s more about eating well and living better.”

A straight-up steps challenge

A step — no pun intended — from the miles contest is a step challenge. With a plentiful budget, you can purchase pedometers or even FitBits for the whole office, inspiring employees to battle kindly against one another. Because everyone can track their steps, Bailey recommends rewarding every employee, with various levels of achievement, from 10,000 to one million steps.