Spring 2014 marks our 4th annual fitness challenge—a wellness initiative we've been cultivating over several years. We're at the point now that we've done enough of these to see some patterns emerging, and we've been working to respond in a meaningful way. Thinking about starting your own challenge and wondering what we've learned from ours? Here are our four big takeaways.
We've discovered that the earlier in the spring we start, the better. That way it doesn't conflict with summer vacations—and it also helps everyone break out of the winter blahs sooner. The motivation the shed a winter layer paired with the excitement of getting out and moving helps us garner a lot of interest and participation.
. This will be our first year that we move from ten to eight weeks. Year over year, we've watched the passion fizzle as our challenge wore on. While we don't want a healthy lifestyle to be a temporary change, we also know that it can be difficult to maintain the high level of engagement that our challenges require. The goal is to create habits and behavior changes, and, while we haven't officially tested it, we feel confident that we can achieve the same or better results in a shorter time.
. Picking up from the last point, what we've often seen is a backlash once the challenge is over. We think this is in part because it was too long, and many people have felt a bit of relief that it's over. But, also because there is a sudden absence of support, accountability, and incentive. What we've done this year is enlist a wellness partner—an online platform that will not only help us during this year's challenge, but also provide a year-round way for our team members to engage, learn, and, most importantly, keep up their efforts in-between our structured events.
When we started our overall wellness initiative and embarked on our first fitness challenge, we had a little bit of guidance, but mostly it was an experiment in trial and error. The important part is that, after every challenge, we've examined what worked and what didn't, and adjusted accordingly. Because we weren't afraid to challenge our own ideas, we've improved the overall experience.
• Mix it up. You might think: if it ain't broken, don't fix it, but it's regular tune-ups that keep things from breaking in the first place. Add in new elements or change the rules—anything you can do to keep things fresh and exciting.
• Ask Questions First. If you want to start your own challenge, try surveying your staff first to find out their wellness issues, concerns, and objectives. To make it the most beneficial to your workplace, create your challenge guidelines around those needs and desires.
• Evaluate Later. Send out another survey after your challenge is complete, to get honest and useful feedback on how it went. Your most valuable intel will come from those who experienced it first hand.