Team Wellness Challenges: 10 Keys to Success

An effective team component can boost wellness program participation and completion rates by 50% or more. Here are the keys to getting it right every time.

  • Keep it clear and simple. Team wellness challenges should be easy to understand and participate in. Too many competition elements or rules are a turnoff and complicate communication.
  • Make all elements real. While online tools make administration and support easier, team challenges should have a heavy dose of on-the-ground, face- to-face elements. Live kickoff events, weekly group activities, and celebratory wrap-up gatherings create memorable moments teammates can share for years — something you just can’t achieve virtually, no matter how many badges you give out.
  • Set challenging, yet achievable team wellness goals as the measure of success. Objectives should be entirely group focused, with each participant having a meaningful role in contributing to the team’s overall success.
  • Limit wellness challenge team size. Social loafing occurs when members slack off and feel less responsible for team results — usually because the team is too big. It’s a phenomenon that occurs in all types of teams, and it undermines success. Limiting teams to 3-8 members (4 or 5 typically work best) keeps everyone more accountable and prevents social loafing.
  • Put team progress front and center. Update data in real time as much as possible so teams can view their progress in relation to others. Focus on improvement to keep the emphasis on health rather than winning/losing.
  • Encourage sustainable wellness habits. Emphasize consistency over super-human (and ultimately unsustainable) achievements. Keep in mind that health is a journey, not a destination, and you’re trying to reinforce habits that can be maintained over the long term.
  • Be cautious with inter-department challenges. You want team participation to be voluntary so motivation bubbles up naturally. Overbearing department managers trying to “win” the wellness challenge can turn off the very people you’re trying to help most and blunt intrinsic motivation.
  • Highlight achievements of the average participant. While the exploits of an uber- competitive VP of Finance may have interest to the rest of your organization’s triathletes, more people will be able to relate to the 15-year employee on the line who finally turned a corner through the support of teammates and coworkers.
  • Keep recognition simple, team-oriented. Pride swells when individuals feel they’ve made a significant contribution to the team, and it increases the chances of long-term personal health improvement. And don’t cheapen the accomplishments with cash rewards or lavish incentives.
  • Evaluate, rinse, repeat.You’ll learn something new each time you evaluate a wellness team challenge. Ask 2 simple, open-ended questions:

a. What did you like most about the wellness campaign?

b. What did you like least?

Then categorize the comments so you can focus on the things you want to build on and those you need to fix.