Walking Challenge – The Starting Line
Just the word “challenge” can send some employees into their best competitive mode and others hiding behind the ficus tree in the break room. That’s why a walking challenge for the benefit of your employee’s health can be a tricky proposition to implement and have high participation rates.
The Benefit Company recently began a company-wide walking challenge and has had success implementing the first leg of a three challenge program. We are going to share with you what we have learned so you can implement a walking challenge of your own. Here are our three challenges:
- Challenge 1: Ireland Walk About (432,000 steps)
- Challenge 2: Backpacking Around Europe (486,000 steps)
- Challenge 3: California Coastline (540,000 steps)
Incentives Drive Participation
To initially get everyone excited it was important to show employees how committed TBC was to making this a success. The Benefit Company started by giving all employees and even some of our vendors a Fitbit Charge HR (now Fitbit Charge 2). Any model that reports statistics will be good enough for a walking challenge.
Employees were then further incentivized by being offered rewards to be given at the end of each challenge. $50 gift cards to the employees that had the most steps in each of the three walking challenges.
Maybe a $50 gift card prize to one participant out of a group isn’t enough for some people to get excited about. Some people need even longer range goals and bigger incentives to entice them. Consider all personality types.
The Benefit Company put up a free round trip ticket to anywhere in the U.S. for the overall winner. The person with the most steps across all three challenges will receive that ticket.
This tiered incentive structure and multiple challenges will deliver short term rewards and keeps employees just as well focused on the long range goal. It also allows participants to recover or catch up from days or weeks when they may have been ill or have an injury that would not allow them to log steps for several days.
Feedback Keeps Them Going
Just like any job or task, employees need feedback in order to measure if their efforts are making a difference. Our walking challenge utilized two different apps as well as email communications.
The Fitbit app which comes included with all Fitbit bracelets is chocked full of measuring tools. Of course steps are measured in all models but some fitness bracelets measure sleep, heart rate, active hours, water intake, stairs, calories and miles. Steps are all you need for a walking challenge so don’t over complicate unless you believe your employees are the types that love details and stats.
We paired the FitBit app with Walker Tracker. Walker Tracker is a flexible template that lets you deliver wellness to employees in a way that suits your organization. Long-term wellness initiatives based on personal goal attainment, or short-term, team-building activity competitions are all possible with their fully customizable portals.
In short, Walker Tracker allows you to create and track your challenges for groups. It gives employees that sense of progress coupled with the social aspect of seeing the progress of their team and competitors in the app.
I would note that the Fitbit app has a tab called “friends” that also allows you to make your step life more social. Add your friends you also have a Fitbit and create your own challenges without the need of subscribing to Walker Tracker.
For instance, yourself and four others could simply set a goal to walk 100,000 steps in a week using “friends” in Fitbit. First one to reach the goal gets a treat from the other four. The idea is friendly competition and cheering each other on to success.
Fun, Friendly and Fast
Our competition at The Benefit Company is between “The Kilts” and “The Clovers”. Team names that play into the Walk About Ireland first challenge. This is a key point. Keep your competitions light-hearted and walk away from the temptation of shaming anyone into participating or carrying their weight.
If your employees are not having fun (what we call gamification) then you may need to go back to the starting line and communicate more clearly with them that other than the potential to win prizes this “competition” is for fun and winning isn’t the only objective. Teamwork, camaraderie and the social aspects of these challenges will translate into happier employees who are truly engaged with their work and co-workers.
To get off to the fastest start, have clear printed instructions and communicate them in multiple ways. Get employees psyched up by promoting the challenge well in advance of the start date. Put a flyer in the break room, send out multiple emails, show the prizes.
Do all the things you do in marketing your products and services to clients and customers but focus on your employees. It is difficult to recover from a false start. Having wellness programs like walking challenges require planning, investment and intent for them to be long term solutions that have lasting effects.
Let TBC Show You the Way
Walking challenges are only one way we drive employee engagement. Our goal is to create the happiest employees at the least possible cost. Contact us for a complimentary consultation and review of your current efforts. The Benefit Company can put your organization on the path to success.
Honest Summary – Top 5
Walking challenges are not the only or best solution for getting your organization moving and healthy. At The Benefit Company we believe that every organization is different and requires an understanding of your organization’s goals. Even within our own group we received a mix of feedback on our own walking challenge. Here are some of the feedback highlights, good and bad.
- Employees stated that they were more conscious of making an effort to be active.
- Employees figured out small ways to add to their step count like parking further away from the office.
- Some unforeseen benefits like spending more time with family and pets by going for walks.
- Reduced stress by taking time to be away from screens and getting out into nature.
- More interactions between employees by discussing the walking challenge and their stats.
- Some employees thought the first walking challenge lasted too long.
- Initial glitches with the set up for some employees was a source of frustration.
- The Fitbit band was an irritant to some who were not used to wearing a band (or watch) of any kind.
- Thinking about how many steps you were getting daily was sometimes a distraction from more important things.
- Glitches or technical delays in reporting steps to Walker Tracker was a problem for some.
For The Benefit Company, our walking challenge is a successful part of our well-being initiatives and we will continue it. The good qualities of the program have long-lasting benefits while the negatives are points that can be addressed and solved. The key is that your walking challenge be tailored to your organization with some trial and error and employee feedback. Make it fun!
The Benefit Company is a leader in well-being programs and employee benefits advising. Contact us for an interview to understand how a partnership with us can deliver lasting positive change in the engagement and satisfaction of your employees.