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The world is rapidly changing. Life can often feel complicated and overwhelming. That’s why workplace wellness challenges are important to include in any office space.

Wellness promotes employee engagement in the workplace and fosters healthy habits, human connection, and worksite wellness.

Investing time and energy into a workplace wellness initiative or a workplace wellness program creates a happier, healthier team that can perform on a higher level.

Here's our pick of some wellness challenges focused on mindfulness, self-care, nutrition, and sustainability, your employees will feel appreciated and empowered. And this will lead to employee wellness of all kinds. 

Related Read: 2023 HR Statistics, Trends & Data: Ultimate List

Mindfulness challenges

One of the best ways to promote mindfulness practice in the workplace is through mindfulness challenges. Mindfulness challenges provide an opportunity to improve physical and mental health, as well as emotional wellness. 

First off, what is mindfulness? Mindfulness is a straightforward word that suggests the mind being fully attentive to what’s happening around it. When you’re practicing mindfulness, you’re in tune with your body, which helps reduce anxiety while promoting healthy and effective communication and better mental health. Mindfulness also promotes proper reactivity and helps you remain stress-free and in control of what’s going on around you. 

Stress has a major impact on the workforce. According to a survey done by in 2020, 34 percent of workers said their job negatively affected their mental health, and 42 percent said they left a position because of stress. Luckily, you and your employees already possess the ability to practice that healthy habit and be mindful. If you don’t already practice mindfulness, there are steps you can take to learn how to become a mindful leader.


Why is mindfulness in the workplace important? 

Practicing mindfulness has many wellness benefits. Mindfulness in the workplace fosters workplace wellness by helping increase flexibility, improve empathy, and improve self-determination and memory. Mindfulness improves social relationships. If you and your employees have a healthy relationship, you can buffer stressors, communicate, and work better as a team. 

In addition, mindfulness promotes resilience. Mindfulness promotes two processes that are likely to foster resilience: regulation and persistence. Regulation of emotions is critical to a professional environment. And resilience is beneficial in the workplace because when an employee is resilient, they can persist through stress in a healthy way. 

Finally, mindfulness is important in the workplace because of chronic stress. According to the American Institute of Stress, 83 percent of workers suffer from work-related stress. But when mindfulness is being practiced in the workplace, job satisfaction and motivation will increase because mindfulness fosters adaptive assessments of stressors. So if something challenging happens to you or your employees at work, those practicing mindfulness will consider the stressor first instead of reacting and responding immediately. 

Related Read: Why You Feel Unmotivated At Work And How To Feel Inspired Again

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Examples of mindfulness exercises in the workplace

Most of these examples are self-explanatory and simple:

  • Be consciously present. When you’re in conversation with another person, it’s important to show them that you’re present and actively listening to them. This involves making eye contact, nodding or smiling in reaction to what they’ve said, and asking questions about what they’ve told you.  
  • Perform short mindfulness exercises. This could be as simple as yawning and stretching for ten seconds every hour. You could also practice mindful breathing for one minute. Breathe in and out slowly. Focus on each inhale and each exhale, and then let the stress dissipate. 
  • Think before you speak. Always consider what you’re going to say before saying it. When you are conscious of what words you are going to use, you can remain respectful in a difficult or tense situation. 
  • Practice meditation. Meditation helps employees relax and has also been found to reduce pain. A 2016 study done by the American Journal of Medicine found that postmeditation pain scores experienced a significant reduction. Consider choosing a specific meditation or wellness app, asking all the employees to download it, and giving them time during the day to use it.

Self-care challenges

When you think of self-care, you may visualize a bubble bath or sipping a cup of tea while sitting by the fire. But how do you promote self-care or incorporate it into a workplace wellness challenge?

It’s become increasingly clear that work intertwines with daily life. We spend most of our time there, after all. Employee burnout is a huge problem. But self-care can lead to more sustainable employee health and wellbeing. Check out these self-care wellness challenge ideas.

  • Encourage employees to take breaks. Don’t eat lunch at the desk. Take time to enjoy that break. Offer meditation and mindful breathing pauses. Take a mental break by going on a walk.
  • Respect employees’ time. Help employees set boundaries. Make sure your employees know they can stop when the workday is over or that they can limit meetings, phone calls, and emails to a sustainable frequency and duration.
  • Create a flexible workday. Give employees the freedom to step out for an errand, perform parental duties, walk their dog, or tend to other personal matters without feeling guilty.
  • Perform employee check-ins. Do one-on-one check-ins with employees to take their wellness temperature. Ask them for feedback, suggestions, criticism, and praise for what works. Listen with intention and mindfulness and be prepared to take action steps to help when possible.

Health habit challenges

Encouraging overall healthy habits is another way you may improve employee health and productivity. You can encourage wellness by providing equipment like standing desks, implementing fun activities like walkathons, and promoting healthy potlucks into your workplace. By encouraging these healthy habits, you show your employees that you care about them. However, according to Walker Tracker, make sure that you’re engaging employees of all ability levels. Though it may be easy to get lost in the spirit of competition in an employee wellness program, make sure that you’re focusing on inclusion as well.

Another example of a health habit wellness challenge is to encourage employees to quit smoking by offering them resources toward that end. Or you might ask employees to take on a sleep challenge. When employees get more than seven hours of sleep per night, they have improved judgment, reaction time, and even a better mood. 

Nutrition challenges

No one disputes that healthy eating is crucial. Some examples of nutritional workplace wellness challenges include packing a lunch and drinking more water. By encouraging employees to pack their lunch, you’re encouraging not only eating a healthy meal but also healthy spending. After all, health comes in many forms, including financial.

Furthermore, by making sure that your employees drink more water—and have access to safe, clean water—you’re promoting getting better sleep and improving organ function. Finally, consider promoting another healthy eating habit by providing healthy snacks. (This is another way those standing desks could come in handy as well.)

Ultimately, no matter which health habits you choose to challenge your employees to tackle, as an employer, ensure that you are not shaming your employees. Instead of a weight loss challenge, shoot for a nutrition challenge that’s achievable for everyone.

Physical challenges

In a country beset by rising healthcare costs, physical wellness is clearly critical. Especially now, in the age of remote employees! Luckily, the popularity of physical fitness is on the rise, so a workplace fitness challenge could be just the thing to offer. And you can provide physical fitness challenges while still being inclusive and ensuring no member of your team is left out. Fitness challenges often provide a number of benefits:

  • Higher-energy employees
  • Boosted employee morale
  • Better overall health
  • Less absenteeism
  • Increased social engagement and social wellness
  • Better community engagement

Here are a few ideas of challenges that you can create for your employees: 

  • Walkathon 
  • Cycle to work 
  • Stair climbing 
  • Fitness challenge for charity 

Keep in mind that while running or walking challenges may be fun, these could exclude employees with physical disabilities. An alternative option suggested by Best Money Moves is to consider reimbursing employees for a gym membership. You could also offer free biometric screenings.

Sustainability challenges

Today, having a sustainable workplace is vital for the health of the planet. By encouraging sustainability through sustainability challenges in the workplace, you and your team can do your part in taking care of the planet. There are many ways that you can encourage your employees to be more sustainable. For example: 

  • Implement a carpool challenge. This will increase camaraderie among your employees while reducing emissions on their commute.
  • Incentivize them to reduce their paper use. Create a goal, and sponsor a team lunch when they hit that benchmark.
  • Encourage recycling by providing different bins for each recyclable material. You can even host recycling days each month where employees can bring hard to recycle items like batteries or old electronics to your office for recycling. 

Finally, you may also consider challenging employees to use less plastic or to even eliminate it altogether. This could look like employees tracking the amount of plastic they use and you rewarding the employee with the least amount of plastic used at the end of the week. Consider making a calendar available to all employees with one challenge per week, or even one challenge per day. 

Financial challenges

Workplace financial wellness gives employees the knowledge and skills they need to improve their financial wellness. Financial wellness starts by increasing awareness of an individual’s current financial state and then taking mindful, healthy steps to achieve financial wellbeing. 

When an employee is financially well, they are happier and healthier and have less stress. Employers provide workplace financial wellness programs to educate their employees and foster a finance-savvy workplace. 

Why is employee financial wellness important? 

Financial wellness is critical because it helps lower stress. When employees are worried about their finances, it’s hard to work to the best of their ability. Money-related stress affects not only work but also every aspect of your employees’ lives. Furthermore, financial stress can affect concentration levels and reduce productivity. However, when employees are working on their finances and their long-term goals, they’re able to be more present and enjoy their day-to-day lives. 

Workplace financial wellness challenge ideas to try at the office 

When you implement a financial wellness initiative for employees, you demonstrate that you care about more than just their productivity—you care about their mental wellness and overall employee wellbeing. Financial wellness programs could help. You can start small and work your way up: 

  • Challenge your employees to bring coffee from home instead of buying it on their way to work. Daily coffee, while often necessary, can really add up. 
  • Hire a financial professional to deliver a financial wellness talk to your team members, and incentivize them to attend the event. 
  • Educate your staff on how to establish an emergency fund, and check in with them periodically to see how they’re progressing.

You may also choose to launch your own workplace financial wellness program or even a financial wellness committee. If you do, assess your workforce’s needs, gather data, and evaluate the current wellness employee benefit and compensation. Then select an approach: basic financial literacy, retirement planning, or planning for children’s education are all options.

Employee wellness of all kinds 

Looking after your employees is selfish in some respects as ultimately, it means they'll be more productive.

To help with your new challenges, check out our list of the best employee wellness platforms on the market today.

Further resources:

By Finn Bartram

Finn is an editor at People Managing People. He's passionate about growing organizations where people are empowered to continuously improve and genuinely enjoy coming to work. If not at his desk, you can find him playing sports or enjoying the great outdoors.