Taking a brisk walk in the middle of the workday can have a lot of great outcomes. Employees will be healthier, since increased physical activity can help people maintain and even lose weight, as well as lower their risk of high blood pressure. Not to mention the fact that a walk can restore alertness and make employees more creative.
You can help the whole office get these benefits by organizing a Walktober challenge for your workplace. October is a great time to help employees get fired up about exercise, since many of us become less active as fall turns to winter. A walking challenge in the fall can help workers create a good habit that will last through the holiday season.
With just a few resources and a little planning, you can create a popular program that could turn into an annual tradition. Here are six tips to make it easy and successful:
- Get Buy-In at the Top. Before you start, sell your walking challenge to upper management. For one thing, you’ll want their blessing to have the challenge in the first place. But even more importantly, securing their participation can go a long way toward inspiring others to join the challenge. It boosts the challenge’s visibility and creates a sense of camaraderie between workers and management.
- Create a Focus Group. During the early planning stages, you’ll want to speak with as many people as you can to help inform the contours of your challenge. Will you have group walks where people earn points for how many miles they go, or how many walks they take? Will you distribute pedometers and have people count their steps? Or will employees track minutes of walking instead? Will weekend walks count, or only walks taken before, during, or after the workday? Do people want to compete individually or in teams? You can set up a simple Excel spreadsheet to keep track of how many miles/steps/days each participant walks, or look into more robust software that tracks employee fitness, like ChallengeRunner.
- Make It Fun. Whether you choose to count steps or minutes of walking, make sure to schedule in at least a few group walks. Being able to socialize while getting in some exercise is a powerful stress reducer. Group walks are also opportunities for employees to make friends in different departments, which helps teams bond. If your office is in an urban area, plan a fun destination for your group walk. Encourage employees to bring their lunch and lead the group to a good place to picnic, or plan a group walk to a park, vista, or frozen yogurt shop.
- Make It Competitive. Introduce an element of competition. Start a leaderboard on your company’s internal network so people can check their progress (and their coworkers’ progress as well). Get approval to buy gift cards or other small prizes to give as incentives to the winners.
- Communicate. Make sure everyone knows the Walktober challenge is coming. Write a kickoff email that explains the challenge and all the rules. Be thorough. It’s also nice to have your CEO or other member of upper management write an email encouraging participation. Make some nice posters for the break room and put group walks on a shared office calendar. And nothing makes a bigger impression than approaching individuals and encouraging them to sign up for the challenge.
- Participate. Last but not least, don’t forget to participate yourself! That way you’ll reap the health and well-being benefits, too.
Miriam Wolf is the editor of The FruitGuys Magazine newsletter. She is a certified personal trainer and health coach.