Corporate wellness challenges:  What are they, and what SHOULD they be?

by Nov 27, 2018

The most over-used and abused word in wellness for the decade surely is “challenges” (right in front of “engagement,” but that’s for another blog).  What IS a challenge, and more importantly, what SHOULD it be? What IS a challenge? In many programs, a challenge is, “Did you brush your teeth?  If so, proceed to the incentives page and collect your goodies.”  For others, it’s a templated contest of sorts, typically with little or no configurability and customization.  Vendors are boasting 200+ challenges, but many times they’re pre-packaged and simplistic. Picture going to a buffet where it’s all kale and lima beans. Sure, you can add some dressing or prepare it a little differently, but at the end of the day you’re still limited to kale and lima beans. Some people might be all over that buffet, but not everyone. What should a challenge be? A challenge should be – well – challenging.  It should be stimulating, relevant, and interesting for the individual(s) taking part.  The only way to create relevance is to allow the client/individual to make the rules.  Forcing people to pick from a menu of activities with little or no configurability is going to attract:
  • People who happen to love that activity and want to do it on those days
  • People who are just in it for the goodies
How to make an interesting challenge … Simplistic challenges get old really fast. There are lots of “Most steps wins contests” out there – and sure, you can dress them up and have people pretend they’re walking around the Eiffel Tower or something – that’s a condiment.  But we’re still back to lima beans, if you catch my drift.  Furthermore, the same three people are going to win every time, because they’re your marathon runners – and that gets old real fast, too. To make an interesting challenge, it has to be stimulating – and customized.  By stimulating, I mean it has to have interesting mechanics to it.  Maybe it’s a “Survivor”-style competition where people are kicked off the island if they don’t hit a certain milestone by a certain date.  Or a teams-based contest where individuals or the entire team has to meet a goal or be dropped.  What about a participation-based contest in which the rules dictate that 80% of contestants must meet a particular minimum goal in order for the entire group to win a prize (so the team can’t simply lean on its top marathon runner to carry it to victory)?  Or most improved … The possibilities are endless – literally – if your challenges are customizable, and if there are interesting mechanics behind them.  And who says it has to be based on steps?  An employee may want to challenge people to avoid fast food for an entire month, or to have the most screen-free hours with their kiddos this week, or to collect food donations for the poor.  Wellbeing means different things to different people, and wellness challenges should support them all. This stuff’s our jam …. Innovating awesome challenges is what floats our boat – I guess that’s why we spend so much time and energy automating customized challenges with cool mechanics.  Got some ideas for interesting contests?  BRING ‘em!  What, you think we think of all this stuff ourselves?!?