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21 Fun Wellness Challenges for a Healthy Workplace

Workplace wellness challenges can help employers foster healthier habits and encourage positive lifestyle changes.

Establishing an employee wellness program that inspires both overall well-being and employee utilization can be tricky. Running a variety of workplace wellness challenges can help employers foster healthier habits, boost participation among team members and gain the organizational benefits of building a solid employee wellness program.

What is a wellness challenge?

A wellness challenge is an event or activity that encourages beneficial and positive behaviors by way of fun, healthy competition.

Whether it’s a physical activity that promotes movement or a mindfulness activity that supports stress reduction, participating in a wellness challenge can be a great way for team members to achieve better overall health.

Offering a wide variety of wellness challenges in the workplace provides a unique opportunity to engage team members with different interests, be more inclusive, and increase participation.

Benefits of employee wellness programs

A corporate wellness program that addresses both the physical and mental aspects of employee health helps people reach wellness goals by supporting healthy habits and cultivating a healthy lifestyle.

Having a comprehensive workplace wellness program can help to:

  • Reduces stress – high stress levels can negatively impact your health. Focusing on activities that promote stress reduction may help to reduce blood pressure, improve mental health, and support better sleep. This can lead to more productive employees.
  • Decrease costsresearch shows programs with good employee participation can result in measurable healthcare cost savings for both the employer and the team member. Improving the health of the workplace decreases healthcare utilization and ultimately saves everyone money.
  • Elevate workplace culture – Team members who feel valued by their employer are more invested in their work and motivated to contribute to the overall success of the company.   
  • Improve overall well-being – a well rounded employee wellness program that includes supportive activities for both physical health and mental health can help employees avoid health complications and live a more fulfilling life.
  • Build employee morale – adding workplace wellness challenges to your employee wellness program brings a healthy level of competition and camaraderie to the team. Offering a wide variety of wellness challenges including educational, physical, and social activities can generate enthusiasm and team building.
  • Promote healthy behaviors – Behaviors can be difficult to change but using the workplace as a platform to encourage a healthier lifestyle can be a great way to promote better choices! Wellness programs offer an opportunity to create greater awareness, education, and motivation in an environment where many people spend most of their time.
  • Increase employee engagement – Focusing on a culture of well-being cultivates a greater level of engagement and sense of ownership among employees.

Making employee wellness challenges successful

While there are many different ways to run a successful employee wellness challenge, here are some helpful tips to engage your team members and maximize participation.

  • Keep it simple – be clear and concise with instructions.
  • Set a time limit – challenges that are short in duration, one month or less, often draw higher levels of participation and engagement.
  • Offer rewards or small prizes – rewards and incentives are great ways to drive participation and affect behavior. Prizes can range from things like small gift cards to a coveted parking space or even just bragging rights.
  • Incorporate wellness into team building activities – consider participating in a wellness activity outside of the workplace as a team, such as a fun run to support a local cause.
  • Add wellness as a standing meeting agenda item – create a culture of wellness by adding a wellness tip or brief activity to team meetings.
  • Conduct employee surveys – Consider evaluating the interests and health needs of your team by surveying them in advance of starting wellness challenges. Ask your employees for feedback after each wellness challenge to assess what they enjoyed or what they didn’t find helpful.
  • Start a wellness committee – one of the best ways to cultivate and sustain a culture of wellness is to establish a wellness committee that includes volunteers from different departments. Wellness committees help to evaluate the success of wellness activities as well as plan for upcoming events.
  • Communicate! – If you want to run successful wellness challenges with high levels of participation and engagement, effective communication is key. Message employees by way of email, intranet, blast texts, flyers, and other postings with details of the wellness challenge including, the background, duration, incentive, and tracking. Keep team members engaged throughout the challenge by providing regular updates to the leader board!

21 Workplace Wellness Challenge Ideas

1. Mindfulness Challenge

Now more than ever, mental health has become an important topic for employers to address with their employees. Supporting your team with mindfulness activities to help manage stress and burnout can be a great way to help improve their overall mental well-being and encourage discussion around mental health awareness.

Some ideas for a Mindfulness Challenge include:

  • Meditation Challenge. Encourage team members to practice meditative exercises, such as deep breathing, and log their minutes per day. Use a mindfulness app to track time spent.
  • Journaling Challenge. Provide a daily journal prompt that inspires them to reflect. Employees track participation via the honor system.
  • Yoga Challenge. Post a list of local yoga classes offered or recommended apps with yoga instruction. Have a friendly competition to see who attends the most classes during the month.

2. Walking Challenges

Walking challenges are the most common type of fitness challenge or movement challenge when it comes to workplace wellness. These types of challenges are easy to track and are a straightforward way to encourage physical activity with proven health benefits.

Some ideas for a Walking Challenge include:

  • Walking Meetings Challenge. Replace a traditional sit-down meeting with a walking meeting. Turn it in to a departmental competition for more fun and see which department “walked” the most meetings each month.
  • Step Challenge. Challenge team members to achieve 10,000 steps per day.
  • Distance “Traveled” Challenge. Translate steps taken or miles walked into a “Climb Mt. Everest” or “Walk 100 miles” type of challenge. Create teams of multiple people to make it a “Cross country” challenge for more fun!

3. Hydration Challenge

The importance of getting enough water and maintaining proper hydration levels not be underestimated. Health benefits such as improved sleep quality, mood and cognition are just a few of the known advantages!

Some ideas for a Hydration Challenge include:

  • Half-gallon Challenge. Drink 32oz of water during the workday.
  • Water Before Meals Challenge. Drink an 8oz glass of water before lunch every day.
  • Eat your Water Challenge. Fill your diet with foods high in water! Incorporate foods high in water such as cucumbers, celery, lettuce, broth, watermelon, and apples. Aim to incorporate two foods daily.

4. Financial Wellness Challenge

Strong levels of mental fitness include a positive outlook of your overall financial well-being. According to a 2023 survey performed by Bankrate, 52% of adults in the United States said that money has had a negative impact on their mental health, including causing stress. Encouraging your team members to take charge of their financial health is an important step in supporting their peace of mind and overall health.

Some ideas for a Financial Wellness Challenge include:

  • Financial Education Challenge. Attend an on-site, or virtual, financial education seminar. This could be a monthly series that gets tracked quarterly, for example.
  • Lunch Packing Challenge. Pack lunch for one month. Ask team members to calculate their savings at the end of the month.
  • Skip the Starbucks Challenge. Bring coffee from home or make it at work. Ask employees to calculate how much they saved at the end of the month.
  • Retirement Challenge. Increase your 401k contribution by 1% or more.

5. Social Wellness Challenge

Running a social wellness challenge is an easy way to encourage team members to step away from work and connect with others. Socialization among employees can help to boost morale, cultivate a sense of belonging, and foster team building. There are even unique ways to include remote employees as well.

Some ideas for a Social Wellness Challenge include:

  • Office Trivia Challenge. Divide into teams or pairs and compete for bragging rights! Remote teams can easily participate easily with gaming apps like Quizlet or Kahoot.
  • Scavenger Hunt Challenge. Create a scavenger hunt that involves finding items both indoor and outdoor items – require picture proof! Divide up into groups or pairs and let the fun begin.
  • Healthy potluck Lunch Challenge. Step away from your desks and organize a monthly lunchtime get together where each team member brings their favorite healthy meal or snack. Those who participate get to take home copies of all the shared recipes!

6. Sleep Challenge

Getting enough sleep is crucial to your overall health. Participating in a sleep challenge can be a great way to establish, or realign, better sleep habits for your employees.

Some ideas for a Sleep Challenge include:

  • Hours of Sleep Per Night Challenge. Ask team members to track their hours of sleep each night for a month and run a friendly competition to see who is the most well-rested of the bunch. To make things easier, try some user-friendly sleep tracker apps.
  • Sleep Hygiene Challenge. Create a list of ways to promote sleep and have team members track how many they achieve each night. Some ideas include no screen time an hour before bed, cooling the thermostat by 5 degrees, and going to bed at the same time each night.

7. Healthy Eating Challenge

Good nutrition has a direct and positive impact on your physical health as well as your mental health. Offer team members a variety of nutritional wellness activities to engage them in healthy behaviors and increase their knowledge and nutritional awareness.

Some ideas for a Healthy Eating Challenge include:

  • Meet the Dietician Challenge. Schedule on-site and virtual educational seminars with a local dietician or nutritionist. Those who attend a certain number of sessions per quarter receive a small gift related to healthy eating such as reusable water bottle or small gift card to the local smoothie shop.
  • Slow Eating Challenge. Eating too fast is common in the workplace, especially during lunch time. This can lead to poor digestion, overeating and lower satisfaction with what is eaten. Challenge team members to eat their lunch over an entire 30 minutes for one week straight and have them report back on the positive changes they felt!
  • Eating Clean Challenge. Although this challenge may prove to be the toughest, it also provides a great opportunity for team members to support and encourage one another. Organize a 30-day eating clean challenge by providing a list of clean eating recipes that include ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Participants should also be encouraged to share their favorite clean eating recipes along the way!
  • No Takeout Challenge. Ditch the fast food! Encourage team members to pack lunches and make meals at home for one week.

8. Fitness Challenge

A workplace fitness challenge is a fun way to drum up healthy competition while promoting an active lifestyle. Be sure to offer a variety of physical activity challenges at different fitness levels to attract as many participants as possible.

Some ideas for Fitness Challenges include:

  • The Daily 30 Challenge. Dedicate 30 minutes of physical activity on a daily basis and track progress.
  • The 1,000 Reps Challenge. Rack up 1,000 reps of an assigned exercise, such as crunches or push-ups, over a certain amount of time.
  • Try a New Work Out Challenge. Participate in a new exercise or activity each week for one month.

9. Reading Challenge

Encourage team members to relax and stimulate their minds with a good book or some of their favorite reading material!

Some ideas for a Reading Challenge include:

  • Daily 30-minute Reading Challenge. Set aside 30 minutes a day to read a book, magazine, or favorite industry related journal. Scrolling through social media does not count towards reading minutes!
  • A Book a Month Challenge. Have employees vote on the books that get picked for each month and have a friendly competition to see who can finish the most books in a certain time. Bonus points if you also run a book club session over lunch at the end of each month!
  • Industry Related Reads Challenge. Post one industry related article to the intranet each business day for a week and ask team members to comment on what they read.

10. Screen Time Challenge

Many employees spend long hours in front of their computer during the workday. Challenge them with creative ways to break up their daily screen time or lessen it altogether.

Some ideas for a Screen Time Challenge include:

  • Physical Over Digital Challenge. Swap a task that is typically done on the computer and switch it over to paper. Ideas include brainstorming on a white board instead of typing notes, opt to review the paper copy of the report instead of looking at the monitor or meeting in person instead of Zoom if you are near each other.
  • Screen Free Saturday and/or Sunday Challenge. Unplug from work emails and work-related computer tasks over the weekend.
  • The 20-20-20 Challenge. Every 20 minutes of continuous screen time, stop and look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This is a great technique to help reduce eye strain as well.

11. Self-Care Challenge

Promoting self-care in the workplace can help deter burnout and reduce stress. Establishing a good self-care routine is a key component to better overall health and work-life balance.

Some ideas for a Self-Care Challenge include:

  • Use Your PTO Challenge. Encourage employees to utilize their vacation days so they don’t lose them at the end of the year.
  • Unplug Challenge. If your workplace culture includes emailing after hours and on the weekends, then consider challenging all team members to unplug during those times. Regroup after a week and share feedback about the experience of unplugging from work and setting boundaries.

12. Declutter Your Desk Challenge

Keeping your office space organized and free from clutter also helps to reduce stress and increase productivity. Regularly cleaning your work area will also help keep you and your colleagues free from germs and less likely to get sick.

Some ideas for a Declutter Your Desk Challenge include:

  • Sanitization Challenge. Wipe down your desk daily, including any electronic devices such as phones and keyboards, with a sanitizing wipe or spray.
  • Whiteboard Challenge. If your desk is cluttered with lists and post-it notes, replace those haphazard scribbles with organized, legible notes on a whiteboard.
  • Scan Challenge. Is your desk covered by piles of papers? Organize your piles into “digital folders” by scanning them and storing them electronically.

13. Positive Affirmation Challenge

Positive self-talk is one of the best ways to build confidence and self-efficacy. Using daily affirmations can promote a growth mindset in the workplace and help elevate your work performance as well as your mental wellness.

Some ideas for a Positive Affirmation Challenge include:

  • Daily Affirmation Challenge. Team members pick one positive affirmation to write down and keep at their desk each day.
  • Lock Screen Challenge. Pick your favorite positive affirmation and make it your lock screen on your phone or computer for the week.

14. Community Engagement Challenge

Participating in volunteer work or joining together for a charitable cause as a group is a perfect team building activity that also promotes overall well-being.

Some ideas for a Community Engagement Challenge include:

  • Office Food Drive Challenge. Organize an office food drive for your local food pantry and turn it into a friendly competition to see who brings in the most items.
  • Group Volunteering Challenge. Pick a local organization or event and sign up as a team to help.
  • Community Clean Up Challenge. Gather a group of employees and pick a local park or community space to clean up as a team.

15. Gratitude Challenge

An attitude of gratitude does wonders to boost your mental health and can even help to elevate your physical health.

Some ideas for a Gratitude Challenge include:

  • Gratitude Journal Challenge. Encourage employees to record 3 things they are thankful for each day for one month. They can choose to share their grateful journal statements on a shared drive or log their participation without detail.
  • Positive Feedback Challenge. Ask employees to share one piece of positive feedback with a fellow team member daily for a set duration of time.

16. Benefits Challenge

Encouraging employees to utilize their benefits has multiple upsides. Organizations elevate workplace culture by making their team members feel valued with specialized benefit offerings and employees have access to improve or maintain good health. And healthier, happier employees are more productive and less likely to miss work.

Some ideas for Benefit Challenges include:

  • Extended Benefit Challenge. Encourage employees to utilize any extended benefit offerings such as massage, acupuncture, sessions with a wellness coach or other gym membership reimbursement.
  • Health Awareness Month Challenges. Give your challenge a theme that matches your company’s benefit offerings. For example, during “Healthy Vision Month” in May, give your employees a small reward or recognition for booking their annual eye exam.
  • Benefit Seminar Challenge. Arrange for benefit seminars with representatives from human resources or benefit vendors and offer a small reward for attendance.

17. Fresh Air Challenge

Recent research showed that spending 29 minutes outdoors resulted in a 45% increase in work productivity. A dose of fresh air can increase energy levels, refresh your mindset, and elevate your mood as well.

Some ideas for Fresh Air Challenges include:

  • Replace an Indoor Meeting Challenge. Take one meeting per week for an entire month and move it outdoors! Invite your remote team to do the same.
  • Walk the Perimeter Challenge. If moving an entire meeting outside isn’t feasible due to cold temperatures, then save a few minutes for the beginning or end of the meeting to put on a coat and walk the perimeter of the building. Even 5 minutes of fresh air during the workday will help to cultivate a healthier mindset.
  • 100 Outdoor Hours. For a more competitive challenge, have employees track their non-working outdoor hours. See who can hit 100 hours of outdoor time first during the month!

18. Brain Teaser Challenge

An excellent way to cultivate a growth mindset is to learn something new.

Some ideas for a Brain Teaser Challenge include:

  • New Language Challenge. Run a one-month challenge where everyone must learn a word or phrase in a new language every day.  Create a google sheet or use a bulletin board where team members can share their daily learnings.
  • Jeopardy Challenge. Create a monthly jeopardy game where all employees can participate over lunch.
  • Continuing Education Challenge. Share a list of certifications or courses offered locally, or online, that employees can take advantage of for career development purposes. Provide a reward or recognition for those that complete any programs.

19. Sustainability Challenge

Ready to help make the world a better place? Consider running a sustainability challenge that contributes to less air pollution or waste!

Some ideas for a Sustainability Challenge include:

  • Carpool Challenge. Run a one-month challenge where team members are encouraged to carpool with at least one other colleague for 10 days throughout the month. Bonus points for those that carpool with more than one person or exceed 10 days in the month.
  • Reusable Water Bottle Challenge. A one-month challenge that encourages employees to bring in reusable water bottles from home instead of drinking bottled water during the workday. Participants with a perfect month of no plastic get a new reusable water bottle with the company logo!
  • Green Team Challenge. Recruit employees to create a Green Team in the workplace. The Green Team is responsible for setting up and communicating out their own quarterly green challenges.

20. Peer Recognition Challenge

Peer-to-peer recognition is a helpful driver of employee engagement and productivity. Receiving a shout out from a colleague builds workplace inclusion, camaraderie, and overall confidence.

Some ideas for a Peer Recognition Challenge include:

  • Shout Out Challenge. Leave 5 minutes at the end of each meeting for peer-to-peer appreciation. Challenge employees to shout out a fellow employee in at least one meeting per week.
  • Wall of Fame Challenge. Set up a whiteboard or bulletin board in a highly trafficked staff area. Leave supplies, such as dry erase markers or post-it notes, for team members to write a note of positive recognition about a fellow employee and post it for all to see. Challenge staff to post at least one recognition per week for the month.
  • A Note of Thanks Challenge. Gather a basket or box of blank note cards in a common area and encourage staff to write a note of thanks to a fellow team member. Challenge employees to write at least one note card per week.

21. Out to Lunch Challenge

Stepping away from your desk to eat lunch provides numerous mental and physical health benefits. Add in some socialization to that time away from your desk to take those benefits to the next level!

Some ideas for an Out to Lunch Challenge include:

  • Lunch Buddy Challenge. Ask employees to pick 6 different people to have lunch with over the course of one month. Enjoy learning about someone new and sharing some of your interests too.
  • Outdoor Lunch Challenge. Encourage team members to get fresh air and have their lunch outside. If your work environment is not feasible to eat outdoors, then take a 10-minute walk outside before or after eating lunch away from your desk.

Making employee wellbeing an organizational priority

While there are a variety of ways to promote wellness initiatives within your organization, workplace wellness challenges remain to be one of most effective methods to engage team members in making healthy lifestyle changes.

The positive effects of these fun challenges are far-reaching. In addition to improving the company’s culture of wellness, you also have happier, healthier employees, making these workplace activities a big win-win for all!

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