The new year always brings new initiatives to boost health and wellness. Employers often undertake office wellness challenges with the best of intentions, looking to promote higher levels of well-being among staff. However, corporate wellness challenges tend to result in their own set of – you guessed it – challenges. Mental health, nutrition and employee engagement should not boil down to a contest, and organizations would be wise to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach when planning future endeavors.

Thinking about your next workplace health and wellness challenge ?

The purpose of health and wellness challenges is to inspire positive change among employees, empower individuals to take control of their well-being and create environments that support a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle. If challenges are poorly planned or executed, employers actually risk the well-being of their employees, leading some to feel resentment or negative feelings about their current health status.

It's crucial to steer clear of imposing unreasonably high standards or targets when creating an employee health and wellness challenge. It is also best to refrain from promoting unhealthy competitiveness or a single path to success. Furthermore, it is critical to avoid ignoring mental health issues and concentrating just on physical health. Setting the focus on wellness and self-improvement will propel employees towards a more positive undertaking, that will ultimately pay dividends in the workplace.

Common mistakes to avoid


Avoid forcing everyone to partake in these initiatives. While a manager may be excited for what lies ahead, employees are busy and may already have extracurricular activities eating into their schedules. Forced participation could lead to resentment or even isolation, should workers be unable to complete a challenge.

Overlooking realistic goals

What is the desired end result? Challenges should indeed be a challenge – but still remain achievable. Setting parameters that are viewed as too easy or too hard can deter motivation levels. A successful wellness challenge will be supportive and provide resources for employees looking to improve their health. Ensure that the onus isn't on the employee to make the first step when finding those resources.


Are any activities pertaining to the challenge eating into the workday or one's personal life? It can be seen as problematic to constantly demand employees meet workplace deadlines, and then expect them to fulfill the challenge's components as well. If employees are swamped, they're probably reconsidering their participation and might wish for some extra time to unwind on their own terms, instead.

Know employees' limits

Any pre-existing medical conditions and physical limitations must be considered beforehand. Physical activities must be safe and appropriate for all staff undertaking the challenge, with proper form and technique being prioritized. It might be a better idea to avoid physical activities altogether, depending how strenuous they may appear.

Being resistant to feedback

"We do this every year!" does not make a successful tradition. Were employees able to boost their levels of health and wellness? Did some of the resources available fall flat? Listen to what employees have to say, and put their feedback to good use when constructing the next venture.

Health and wellness efforts should be all-encompassing

There are still many benefits to running health and wellness challenges, and it takes a well-thought-out approach. Employers must be prepared to offer guidance, motivation and resources to those looking to improve their well-being. Apps, online tools, educational materials or webinars, and in-person or virtual fitness classes all represent the first step towards healthier living. Regular check-ins paired with new offerings will continue to keep employees motivated as they strive to meet their goals.

Health and wellness doesn't only pertain to physical fitness. Mental health plays just as large a role in the wellness of and organization's employees, and also requires some careful planning. Corporate wellness challenges may focus on getting employees moving, but reducing stress levels is just as important. Efforts for employees to feel renewed and refreshed can boost their levels of engagement within the workplace and bring a newfound enjoyment to completing their daily tasks.

Celebrating the improved health of employees also plays a role. Recognizing and rewarding staff for their efforts will keep them motivated and likely to keep working towards their betterment after the challenge ends.

Does everything have to be a challenge?

Remember what I said about resentment? If the same people keep winning, what's the point for others to participate? Consider hosting low stakes, "for fun" activities as well. Re-framing activities to reward hard work or blow off steam not only recognizes how hard they work, but that the organization prioritizes a work-life balance. This can take root by giving the team an afternoon off if they've worked hard on a big project, for example.

Employee well-being continues to be prioritized by employers in the fast-paced workplace of today. As the COVID-19 pandemic forced drastic changes on the working landscape, and businesses are coming to understand that putting their workers' health first improves output, lowers absenteeism and raises employee engagement. This is even more important as the next generation of employees enter the workforce with their own demands.

By supporting mental health, fostering work-life balance and tending to physical health issues, workplace health and wellness challenges foster a culture where workers feel appreciated and thrive. Making investments in workers' welfare is an investment in the future of one's business.