Wellness Competitions

One of the things we think we’re really good at when it comes to implementing wellness programs is actually implementing wellness competitions. We hate to call them competitions because everybody immediately thinks that it’s a start line and the finish line, and you have to be a super athlete to compete. Nothing could be further from the truth. The whole idea of the wellness programs that we try to implement is employee engagement. We’re trying to get people involved that want to get healthier and fitter and make better use of their insurance dollars by actually getting them to understand what this whole thing is about. A typical wellness competition that we might have includes very simple stuff. One of the simplest ones is a calendar.

Every day of the month there are two spots on the calendar. In one spot is a box that you can check off and get a point if you exercise that day. We define exercise as basically moving for 15 minutes, and it can be walking the dog, it can be raking the yard, it can be taking a hike with your kids, it can be anything that gets you active. It can even be going to the gym, or it can be working out for two hours, but you get credit if you just do 15 minutes. In that way, we can take somebody who is very athletic, very active, very fit and they would still only get one point as the couch potato does by taking the dog for a 15-minute walk. The whole idea is to make it equal enough so that everybody can compete. You don’t have to be a super athlete. The second checkbox, again, is something that everybody can do and do quite easily: drink eight glasses of water, eat three servings of fruits, eat three servings of vegetables, sleep eight hours, encourage a friend who smokes to quit smoking. Again, that’s something that anybody can do and the whole idea of that competition is really to get people to understand what wellness is all about. It is all about making people healthier overall: body, mind, and spirit. A lot of the things that are on there have little to do with them actually getting physically better. It has more to do with alerting them to the things that they can do to make them get healthier and fitter.

We have more hearty competitions that go down the road. One of the ones that we had here ourselves was very successful during January several years ago. We had an Iditarod challenge competition. We put a map of Alaska up on the board, we drafted all of our employees onto a team, and we had sleds on the map of Alaska that were all color coded. Every team member had the chance to get four points a day, and the four points came through 15 minutes of exercise, three servings of fruits, three servings of vegetables, and eight hours of sleep. So we had employees actually bringing in bags of apples, grapes, and carrots trying to basically get their team members to eat all this stuff just for the sake of getting points. We actually had a hundred percent competition. At the time we had about 55 employees and had everybody competing. Every Monday morning when everybody would turn in their scorecards, they’d all go stand by the map and wait to move the sleds around to see who was going to come in first place. We gave out a $100 gift card to each member of the team who came in first place, $50, and then $25. It was a competition that didn’t cost a lot of money, but, it engaged a lot of people and got them to think about what they eat and how they exercise.

It doesn’t have to be something that is rocket science. We’re working on a whole bunch of sports based themed competitions. We tend to find that men get more engaged if you’ve got a sports-based competition and women get more involved if it’s the kind of competitions that I just mentioned. The whole idea is to get them to do something that’s different and unusual, that’s still based around some of these very basic concepts of trying to become healthier, eat healthier, and get in better shape.