11 Wellness Challenges for a Healthier, Happier Workplace


The work environments of today often contribute to stress and fatigue, as well as more serious problems like obesity, chronic pain, and heart disease. Consequently, an unhealthy work environment costs companies money as a result of worker absenteeism and lost productivity.


Workplaces can be made healthier through wellness programs, but research shows that very few companies have successful programs for employees.1 One problem with typical wellness plans is that they fail to motivate employees to take positive actions for their health in and outside of work. This is where wellness challenges can help.


Wellness challenges can be more effective than standard wellness programs because there is added motivation to be rewarded. Rather than just promoting a wellness program, now there is a tangible prize for employees to strive for. The following are 11 such challenges that will motivate employees to be healthier both in and outside of the office.


Exercise at work


Modern work environments promote a sedentary lifestyle. The best way to combat this problem is to motivate employees to take short exercise breaks throughout the day. For this challenge, employees may be awarded points for taking the stairs instead of the elevator, doing push-ups or crunches, taking a brief walk, or engaging in another type of exercise every day.


Stretching at work


An often-forgotten component of wellness, stretching offers a number of benefits, including increasing circulation and energy, improving posture and flexibility, reducing muscle tension, and calming the mind. Points for stretching can be added to points for exercising at work and then rewarded at the end of a certain period of time.


Thank You cards


Studies show that gratitude can make a profound impact on our overall health.2 One way to promote gratitude around the office is by encouraging employees to write Thank You cards to each other. Each card could be worth one entry into a prize raffle at the end of the month. Employees will typically find that the more Thank You cards they send out, the more they receive, which is an exercise in how powerful having an attitude of gratitude can be.


Company sports team


softball team high fiving after score


Competing in sports with a team not only makes you more active, but also has the added benefit of building team comradery and morale. Being on a sports team is often more motivating than simply exercising, especially if you really enjoy the sport. In addition to not having to pay to set up a team, employees are also rewarded by the social interaction and possibility of taking home a trophy at the end of the year!


In-office games


Another way to help employees be more active is to have games they can participate in around the office. Things like ping-pong tables and basketball hoops can be great stress relievers, so long as they don’t get in the way of people getting their jobs done. You can also get more people involved by putting on a tournament—for example, a ping-pong tournament or basketball shooting competition.


Sleep challenge


Recent research indicates that more than a third of adults in the US don’t get enough sleep.3 Implementing a sleep wellness challenge can help push this number up within your organization, leading to increased health and wellness. Employees can be rewarded for getting at least 7 hours per night. The amount of sleep can be tracked with a fitness band or other sleep-monitoring device.


Company 5K run


Similar to a company sports team, asking employees to participate in a 5K run allows them to interact outside the office while also getting some good exercise. Employees may be awarded for their participation to motivate them further. At ZYTO, we participate in a yearly 5K that awards prizes for winners and has other perks like a free T-shirt and finisher’s metal. Another thing to consider is signing up for a 5K that promotes a health-related cause.


Fitness challenge


As we mentioned, it can be difficult to stay motivated to work out regularly. A fitness challenge can inspire people to take their exercise routine to a higher level. With challenges such as this, it’s often better to stay away from the term “weight-loss,” as health and wellness encompasses so much more than just losing weight. Instead, the focus should be on rewarding employees for the frequency and duration of their exercise, as well as improvements they have made in their overall fitness.


Outdoor challenge


man hiking in mountains


It’s estimated that people spend 90% of their day indoors.4 Some days, you may not even go outside for more than a couple minutes. Being inside all day is bad for your health for many reasons. An outdoor challenge can help employees get outside and experience the benefits that sunlight and nature have to offer. At ZYTO, we have outdoor challenges in which employees are rewarded for going on hikes, riding bike trails, skiing, and doing other outdoor activities.


Nutrition challenge


Along with exercise, nutrition is a key component of our health. Also like exercise, diet habits can be extremely difficult to change. A food challenge with an awesome prize may be just the motivation an employee needs to make those changes. A nutrition challenge doesn’t have to be extreme; it can be as simple as rewarding employees for eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day, or cutting back on the amount of sugar or carbonated drinks they eat.


Health assessment & goals


As effective as the previous wellness challenges can be, the best approach to maximizing wellness may involve first assessing each employee’s health. Health screening assessments give employees a chance to set wellness goals that are unique to them, which they can then be rewarded for achieving. In addition to an assessment, research shows that planning a wellness program, implementing it, and then determining its impact are also critical to success.5




1. Katsnelson, Alla. “Do ‘workplace wellness’ programs really work?” Annual Reviews Inc. Knowablemagazine.org.

2. Morin, Amy. “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round.” Forbes. Forbes.com.

3. Rettner, Rachael. “Here’s How Many Americans Actually Sleep 7 Hours.” Live Science. Livescience.com.

4. “How Much Of Your Life Do You Spend Indoors? The Average Person Says 66%… It’s Actually More Like 90%.” Alpha Media LLC. Kwiq.com.

5. “Workplace Health Model.” US Department of Health and Human Services. Cdc.gov.