Why Adding Wellness Challenges Can Drive Engagement

wellness challenges

Adding Wellness Challenges

What is it about the element of wellness challenges and competition that entices people?

From the birth of the Olympic Games in Ancient Greece in 776 BC to the invention of Pokémon GO and everything in between, organized competition is a great way to attract participants. Us humans tend to seek out interaction, feedback about progress and success, goal-setting, and methods for keeping score. We love a good challenge.

In the work context, employees are already wired to compete with peers, expect feedback, and track progress, but what happens when part of that competitive spirit is funneled toward wellness challenges? And by wellness challenges, we mean rewards, incentives, or motivation for employees to work towards a set goal related to their health.

The challenge could be to lose weight, stop smoking, or lower cholesterol levels. Your workplace may have taken some initiatives to try to promote these types of behavior changes in the past. Maybe you set up an educational workshop, hired a nutritionist to be available in the lunchroom, or supplied healthy, catered lunches once a week. These are great ideas, but they likely didn’t see much traction unless they were paired with some kind of challenge. Let’s find out why that is. What is it about wellness challenges that drives engagement?

We Crave Competition

Competitive feelings are natural and unavoidable. Whether it’s competing with a co-worker for a promotion or competing in a golf tournament for a cash prize, competition is in our blood. However, it often holds a negative connotation, especially in the case of wellness comparison. We have this innate desire to assess how we match up to peers, friends, family members, even significant others. And this comparison can lead to things like jealousy and self-doubt. However, wellness comparison and competitiveness, when applied in a positive way, can be great motivators!

A health-related challenge at work is the perfect example of a scenario where competition and wellness comparison can be used for good, not evil. Through a friendly workplace challenge to stop smoking or to lose weight, employees get to flex those competitive muscles while aiming to accomplish something that will benefit them on an individual level.

We Respond Well to Personalization

This concept has been studied over and over in the case of marketing. According to HubSpot, marketers have come to learn that consumers will more likely buy their products or services if their marketing is personalized. Whether the piece of marketing is targeting a specific demographic, people with certain interests, or it flat out has the individual consumer’s name on it, tailored messaging is key. Laura Bright’s study at the University of Texas identified that it’s because personalized marketing gives us a sense of control and releases us from information overload.

Let’s apply this to wellness challenges. Administrators can break employees into subgroups based on exercise threshold, for instance — giving employees a sense of control. This is key to creating groups of people who can support and compete against one another and not get bored or overwhelmed by the challenges that are outside of their level — relieving employees of information overload.

Here’s another example. Let’s say there’s a company-wide smoking cessation challenge at work, and employees who have been smoking for over twenty years and those who have been smoking for a couple of weeks are competing at the same level. For the long-time smokers, this would likely lead to disinterest and a lack of participation.

Another strategy would be to segment several groups of smokers: heavy, medium, and light. Then assign each group a different goal, a different prize, or both. This type of personalization will not only keep employees engaged, but it will also connect them with a support system that can better relate to what they’re going through.

We Want to Spend Our Time Having Fun

You get home from work, you’re tired, it’s dark, and all you want to do is sit on the couch and turn on your favorite show or play a video game for some fun entertainment. But with the development of Pokémon GO, you find that going on a walk can be even more fun than sitting in your apartment. You can stroll around catching Pikachus and Jigglypuffs to further your progress in the game; all the while, furthering your health progress, too.

This is “gamification” at its finest.

Gamification is the application of game concepts and principles to non-game things — much like wellness challenges at work. Social challenges take something that’s not a game and maybe isn’t fun at all, such as quitting smoking, changing your diet, or exercising (for many of us), and turn them into games. By tracking progress, receiving points, advancing through levels, or taking home the prize, participants begin to associate that new, healthy behavior with fun, and they are more inclined to repeat the behavior again in the future.

We Want to See Measurable Results Easily

Doesn’t it feel more rewarding when you can find out exactly how you did after completing something? Let’s say you go for a walk, don’t you want to know how far you went and how many calories you burned? Thankfully, there’s plenty of technology to help us with this.

It doesn’t take several devices and a piece of paper and a pencil to measure, record, and interact with others about our health progress. It generally takes either a smartphone or a smartphone plus a wearable tech device that automatically syncs with the appropriate app. The amount of time and energy we need to put into tracking and recording health progress is so minimal these days; most of that energy can be directed toward the actual goal or behavior we’re trying to accomplish, instead.

Organizing Wellness Challenges For Your Employees

What is it that your employees should be working towards in regards to their health? To make sure you’re setting up the most appropriate wellness challenge, you need a wellness portal where employees’ personal health data gets pulled into anonymous, high-level reports for you to view. If the data tells you that your employees aren’t drinking enough water, it might make sense for you to set up a daily water intake challenge. Not only will this be a fun way for employees to do something positive for their health, it will also show them that their employer supports their well-being.