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Corporate fitness challenges have proven time and time again to improve productivity, morale and camaraderie among employees. Fitness challenges are a great way to keep your team happy, healthy and engaged with one another. But how do you implement a fitness challenge that works for remote individuals, teams and entire companies?

Unless actively engaged, remote employees can easily begin to feel less part of the team and overall morale and cohesiveness can deplete. Independence is a great quality to cultivate, but not so much when you’re trying to get a large group of people on the same page about working cohesively toward the same goal with minimal friction and hiccups. 

Even though many people understand why fitness and wellness challenges are valuable, they may not know where to start when it comes to engaging a remote team. Although accommodating remote work overall has had it’s challenges, facilitating a fitness challenge for fully remote or hybrid employees isn’t much different from an in-person team.

What fitness challenges do:

1. Emphasize a sense of belonging to a team
Fitness challenges can serve as a fun and exciting way to make each person on the team feel like they have an equal role to play in the success of the team as a whole. For remote employees, it’s easy to feel separate or disconnected from everyone and everything going on in the office. A fitness challenge can give all employees, remote or in-person, a reason to chat, stay connected and feel included.

2. Effective vehicle for idea-sharing and innovation
Fitness challenges give employees more reasons and opportunities to connect, share ideas and cultivate relationships within the company. Interteam discussion and relationship-building is extremely valuable to the success and innovation of a company. This helps build a positive environment, cohesive team and encourages people to brainstorm and share ideas that help propel the company forward.

3. Make people healthier
Healthier people means happier and more productive people. A team full of happier, more productive people creates a more positive and efficient work environment. For remote workers this could mean better focus, more willingness to reach out and connect with coworkers and more energy and motivation to contribute more to their team.

Why they work:
We know that fitness challenges have the obvious benefit of motivating people to make healthier choices, but how does that benefit your company? Research shows that healthy decisions like getting a good night’s sleep, nutritious diet and consistent exercise can lead to better performance at work. In addition to results such as sharper focus, increased energy and better flow of creativity, it’s no surprise that healthier people are also happier people. Happier people are more likely to make friendly conversation, 

How You Can Implement A Fitness Challenge For A Remote or Hybrid Team?
There are many approaches you can take to conducting fitness challenges, in or outside of the office. Regardless of your team’s size, the best way to implement any program for a remote or hybrid team is by finding a tech-based solution that will automate as much as possible.

For example, a creative way to encourage communication and interaction throughout your fitness challenge could be a team-based challenge. Creating teams composed of people from different departments is a great way to encourage interteam conversation and relationship-building (i.e. one team would have one person from sales, one person from customer service, one person from marketing, one person from operations, etc.). Teams could compete to walk the furthest distance in one month or go to the gym the most times in one month.

Participation is key
When facilitating a fitness challenge, it’s important to make sure as many people in the company as possible are highly engaged. Without high engagement, you’re not really accomplishing the goal of the challenge. So how do you ensure high engagement? Offer incentives. Some companies offer solutions that make it easy for teams of any size to create custom challenges, automate and simplify tracking activity and offering rewards.

Roadblocks you may face and how to get around them:

How do you get remote employees to participate in your challenge?
Yes, fitness challenges are a great proven way to engage team members, increase productivity and boost overall morale, but they don’t really work unless people actually participate. So how do you ensure you get the highest participation possible? Incentives. Everyone wants to be healthier, but that alone isn’t quite enough to get people to take action. So what really motivates people? Money.

How can you verify the activities that employees are claiming they do?
So how can you ensure that people are actually doing the activities they’re saying they do? For some activities, it’s not impossible, but it’s definitely more difficult. For example, if an employee says they did 30 minutes of yoga at home? How would you verify that claim? The employee could record themselves doing the yoga, but that would get a little excessive for the employee and the admin recording the activity.

Some examples of apps and gadgets that can help track and verify employees’ activity include smart watches, FitBits, and health tracking apps like Apple Health, Strava, etc. You can also have employees bring in receipts from gym visits, but all of these methods can get to be time consuming on both ends. Additionally, there are some companies that offer services that will automatically track employee activity for admins.

In the end, it’s up to you to assess the size, budget and needs of your team to determine what method of verification is best for you.

In conclusion
So when you’re thinking about implementing a fitness challenge for your remote or hybrid employees, remember to…

  • Focus on the goal of the challenge: What you’re ultimately trying to achieve is creating connection and camaraderie among your employees, so keep that goal in mind when designing the activities and incentives.
  • Create teams of people who don’t normally interact with each other on a regular basis. This gives people a chance to connect during the challenge and if your challenge is successful, beyond the challenge.
  • Offer enticing incentives. Think about your people and what really motivates them. If what motivates your employees is money, offer a monetary reward. If what motivates your employees is personal times, offer extra vacation days as a reward. Incentives will ensure higher engagement and higher reward for both you and your employees.

    Kelsey McKee is a Content Marketer at IncentFit, a health and wellness benefits company that makes it easy for employers to pay their people to do healthy things. Additionally, Kelsey is the founder of a tech-based social media advertising platform for small brands and businesses. She is a cultivator of connection and creativity, bringing people together through strategic storytelling.

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