Competitions can be the shot in the arm your corporate wellness solution needs. They can revive interest in a program when participation lags. With the right incentives, employees who were on the fence about getting fit or losing weight might decide it’s worth it to hit the gym. Contests give employees a goal, plus a structure and a time frame for achieving it. They let employees bond over shared successes and frustrations, and prompt teams from different departments to engage in playful rivalry.
But there’s an art to running a wellness competition. Here are six tips for making yours a success:
Make sure the time frame is appropriate.
To maximize habit formation - the true goal of any wellness challenge - a competition has to last for several weeks. Beyond that, the time frame will depend on the goal participants are trying to reach. Walking or steps contests, for instance, should be no more than eight weeks in length or contestants will get bored. But if participants are trying to lose weight, make the challenge eight to 12 weeks long to give them enough time to make significant progress.
Keep the rules simple.
Center the contest around only one wellness goal, such as weight loss, healthy eating or increasing physical activity. Have different competitions for different goals, and space them out throughout the year. Use only one metric, such as miles run, steps walked, days exercised or pounds lost, to measure progress and award prizes. Single metrics are easy for participants to report and for you to track and use in your communications. (That’s why we based Rival Fusion around a single metric called the Rival Rating: a number that lets you see at a glance how fit a person is.
Give everyone the chance to win.
Reward the most-improved participants as well as the top performers. Give small prizes for participation, such as a water bottle for signing up or a t-shirt at completion.
Harness the power of teamwork.
Teams amp up the fun factor in any competition. They’re also a great way to keep everyone motivated and accountable. (You’re much less likely to skip workouts if you know your teammates are counting on you.) Create teams from the natural groups that already exist in your workplace, like departments or floors. You can allow employees to assemble their own teams, but don’t require them to do so, lest recruiting teammates become a barrier to participation.
Keep enthusiasm high throughout the contest.
The excitement of a new competition often flags around the four-week mark. Anticipate this lag in enthusiasm and take steps to turn it around. Send out reminder communications, reach out to employees whose participation has dropped off and offer incentives midway through a program, such as prize drawings that all active participants can enter.
If a competition’s popular, keep it on your calendar.
If everyone loves the 5K relay or the New Year’s resolution-themed weight loss contest, make it an annual event so they can look forward to it next time around.