How to Implement a Successful Company Wellness Challenge

Posted by Happy Chan, Client Manager II, CWWPM on August 24, 2015 at 10:00 AM

On Your Mark, Get Set, Motivate!  

Savvy employers recognize the benefit of a healthy workforce. Study after study has demonstrated the increased productivity, improved morale and the health insurance savings that come with a healthy and physically active group of employees. As John F. Kennedy said, “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”

Yet knowing that something is important to the wellbeing of an organization is not the same as knowing how to implement an effective employee wellness program. The question remains: What can employers do to introduce healthy habits and keep employees motivated to stay active?

SF_Kickoff_2Marsh & McLennan Agency decided to test the effectiveness of our own wellness program Total Health by challenging our associates.  In June, the MMA West San Francisco and Walnut Creek offices took part in the Get Up and Go Challenge, modeled after one of the basic challenge events from our Total Health wellness program. Using this model, we measured the number of steps people took, with the goal of 10,000 per day. This might sound like a lot, but using a conversion sheet, our associates were able to log steps taken doing everyday activities such as gardening, grocery shopping, and even housework.

The program turned out to be a great success, with 50 percent of our associates participating and many seeing results after only six weeks. We found that our participants thoroughly enjoyed the program, with some reporting weight loss and others feeling motivated to continue incorporating more physical activity into their daily routine.

Here’s our guide to implementing a wellness competition of your own:

On Your Mark

  • Form a fitness challenge planning committee. We created a team of two members that were interested in being champions of the program and agreed to meet weekly. Giving ourselves four weeks to plan allowed us to designate roles and decide on communication tactics.
  • Create a competition. Who doesn’t love inner-office competition? Between our two offices, we ended up with nine teams totaling around 40 people. Each team volunteered a captain who gathered everyone’s weekly steps and sent them to the committee.
  • Define the challenge parameters. We had an uneven number of participants on each team, so we took the average number of steps per team. This way, there was an even playing field for all teams.  The planning committee also agreed to a six-week program. 
  • Get executives to buy in. With our executives’ support, associates felt encouraged to participate.

Get Set

  • Inform your associates in a timely manner. Provide details early on so your employees have time to sign up and prepare for the challenge.
  • Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.  Getting the word out with a well-planned and consistent messaging campaign is key to getting a wellness program up and running.
  • Be inclusive.  Not everyone is at the same place in their fitness and everyone needs encouragement no matter where they are starting from.  Providing a step conversion list with everyday activities allows everyone to participate.


  • Host a kickoff event. It’s important to get everyone rallied together and excited to begin. During our kickoff event, one of our principals spoke about the program and how it works, which was very important in showing support from upper management. Afterwards, we took a group walk over one and a half miles in San Francisco as the official start to the Get Up and Go Challenge.
  • Generate incentives. To keep everyone motivated and on track, we offered smaller prizes throughout the competition as well as larger prizes for the final winners.
  • Send updates: Each week, we sent out the standings by team name, top five steppers, and the most improved steppers from the previous week.

Crossing the Finish Line

  • Celebrate accomplishments.  At the end of the program, the top team and top two individual steppers were granted prizes.
  • Evaluate your results.  Of course, we learned some things along the way, including what worked well and what we can improve on. 
    • We decided the six-week length of time recommended for the challenge through Total Health worked great for our offices.  Four weeks may have been too short to see results and eight weeks would have resulted in more drop-offs. However, this type of program can be structured to be longer or shorter based on your company preference.
    • We allowed associates to use digital tracking devices as well as the conversion chart. The conversion chart was more generous with steps than digital trackers, so we would recommend using one system for consistency.

In the end, we had a great time with our Total Health Get Up and Go Challenge. Not only was this a great way to get our associates to stay active and be mindful of everyday exercise, it also created a team building environment where associates got to know one another better.

Consider how you might use a challenge like Get Up and Go to encourage associates at your organization. By implementing steps that are consistent with your organization’s culture, we are confident that you will have a successful outcome too.

The MMA Total Health program offers a three-track solution, each designed for companies looking for budget-friendly and easy-to-implement programs aimed at driving down medical trends, boosting company morale and creating quantifiable ROI. Contact us for a complimentary company wellness assessment.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Wellness, Human Resources

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