How to Start a Workplace Wellness Challenge Using Fitness Trackers

Have you been inspired by amazing stories of Workplace Wellness Programs (WWPs)? Many have shown results like employees achieving thousands of steps and losing hundreds of pounds. You can start a WWP at your company, and fitness trackers can help.

Fitness tracking is becoming increasingly popular overall, and it’s making its way into the workplace. An estimated 13 million wearable activity-tracking devices will be integrated into WWPs in 2018. This dramatic increase is up from 200,000 wearable devices used in WWPs just a few years ago.

A successful WWP includes more than just buying a lot of activity trackers, handing them out to your employees, and telling them to start tracking their activity. To launch your program and increase its chance of success, think about incorporating these key components.

Make a Plan

Before you involve your employees, get a solid plan in place. Here are some things to think about:

  • Establish the goals for the program. Determine what you’re hoping to achieve in terms of health indicators in the workplace (such as number of sick days taken), participation level and end results (such as pounds lost or miles run). Developing a culture of wellness is a worthy goal, but many participants will need measurable objectives.
  • Determine who will administer the program. Think about whether it would be better to outsource the program or have someone within your company run it.
  • Think about motivation strategies. Incentives, like an extra day off, and friendly competitions among teams can help increase participation.
  • Consider your budget per employee. Will you give activity trackers to employees free of charge or at a discount, or will employees have to pay for them in full? Buying activity trackers can get expensive even if you get a discount for buying in bulk. Include any rewards or incentives in your budget plan.
  • Establish the length of the program. A short-term program can last anywhere from six weeks to three months, while a longer-term program could go on for a full year.

Make the program fully voluntary and set attainable goals to boost your chance of success.

Communicate Effectively

The good news is, about four in every five of companies have WWPs. They usually start in January, when motivation is high, thanks to New Year’s resolutions. The bad news is, research shows that only half of employees know about their WWPs. Getting the word out about your program is key.

Make sure the details of your fitness-tracking program are clear. Share the company’s goals as well as the benefits of the program for the employees. Clearly outline any incentives or challenges between departments. (Just be sure to consider privacy issues and communicate how the personal-tracking information will be used.)

If your fitness-tracking program includes health risk assessments and biometric screenings, share the schedule of assessments and screenings. Also, be sure to communicate any other fitness-related benefits that are available to employees to help them reach their goals, such as gym membership discounts.

Implement Inclusively

Keep in mind that all employees are different and may wish to reach the goals in varying ways. Consider offering more advanced activity trackers that go beyond tracking steps. For example, some devices track active minutes and can measure various activities, such as biking or swimming. Try to integrate multiple types of trackers into your program. This way, employees who already have a tracker can continue to use their own devices.

Address any technical difficulties with apps or devices. Test out your data collection to make sure it is accurate on supporting devices such as smartphones or computers, so there is no barrier to participation.

Measure Outcomes

How will you define the success of your fitness-tracking program? Measure outcomes at different points during the program to generate excitement. Gather data from trackers and share steps completed, miles biked, pounds lost and more, from the beginning of the program through the end. Create weekly challenges and share results often to keep motivation up.

At the end of the program, compare the results against the goals. WWPs have a 20-35 percent participation rate among employees, on average. Take note of how your results compare to that average, and use it to inform your goals for the next round. No matter what your results are, make sure you celebrate. Wellness at the workplace is work in progress, and it can take several years to develop.

Want to learn more about how to build your company’s wellness program to be a sound investment for cost savings, facilitating recruiting efforts, and increasing employee engagement and retention? Download Glassdoor’s Employee Wellness Playbook.

Jean Cherry holds a BSN, WCC, MBA and is a writer for the content team at Walgreens, where you can find an array of vitamins to support a healthy lifestyle. Jean enjoys sharing wellness tips for both home and work life.