Employee engagement is a hot topic for HR departments across the U.S.
According to Gallup only 15% of employees are engaged in their jobs. That leaves a sobering 85% of the workforce who are functioning below their potential, which affects both their value to their employers and the sense of fulfillment they derive from their jobs.
Digging deeper, the cost of disengaged workers is approximately $1 trillion (yes, with a T) a year.
So what can employers and leaders do to counteract this situation? The first step is to work towards creating a strong company culture. The changing nature of modern work and employees’ evolving needs calls for leadership not to just be “the boss,” but to adopt the role of “coach.” Employees are looking for ongoing validation, a deep sense of purpose, and continuous personal and professional feedback, starting right now.
At the same time, HR professionals are charged with improving employee health (and limiting healthcare costs), stepping up employee engagement and improving productivity.
Research shows that highly inclusive companies are correlated to better business decisions. One of the major strategies to build a diverse and inclusion-oriented culture is to embed this kind of thinking into all activities, both in and out of the office. So mailroom to boardroom, tie on your shoes and get ready to rock the office walking challenge together.
Here are 8 reasons your company should do a walking challenge.
Reason #1: Turn Groups of Individuals Into Teams
A healthy spirit of competition can bring out grit and determination. Individuals with these traits are valuable to a business, but an entire team with these traits can change the bottom line. In complex business environments, great teams don’t just materialize out of thin air by putting a group of individuals together; there has to be coalescence, where all members are working together toward the same goal as one.
Getting teams to this point is key, because once a group of contributors learn how to tackle problems as a team, it can be the “secret sauce” to meet goals. A team-based step challenge at work provides an ideal event that helps teams learn to work together toward a goal. “Today, we conquer the office step challenge, but tomorrow we’re going to crush the competition!”
Reason #2: Setting Goals in a Low Stakes Situation Prepares for Higher Stakes Later
People are more likely to follow through on objectives that they set for themselves. The office walking challenge isn’t your annual performance plan, but it’s a good exercise in setting SMART goals.
Reason #3: They Help Employees Develop Healthy Habits
Using The Outbreak as an example, it’s a walking challenge designed using the psychological “tricks” that the video game industry uses to get people addicted (yes, gaming addiction is now classified as a disorder by the World Health Organization).
It’s also carefully timed, at 6 weeks, to be just long enough to engage people and develop habits, but not long enough for people to get burned out. Getting into the routine of walking and building new patterns takes a couple of weeks. At first you dread the interruption of your day, you flail through the motions, then a placeholder gets put in your schedule, then you find yourself regularly participating or even anticipating your next move.
Corporate gamification has been identified as a key developing area for engagement of millennials, who now make up the biggest portion of the workforce, making a game-based step challenge at work a “kill two birds with one stone” solution.
Reason #4: Support From Teammates Fosters Success
When you join the office walking challenge, you do so with other people, forming teams and competing against other teams. Research shows that people who have workout partners succeed in their fitness and weight-loss goals MUCH more often than those who go it alone. People don’t want to let down the team, right?
Reason #5: Positive Feedback Loops Help Engage
Goal setting is an innate benefit of any company walking challenge because it gives milestones to celebrate along the way. Employee research indicates that meaningful and frequent feedback is necessary to employee engagement. So, celebrate the wins!
Reason #6: An Opportunity for Education
As we outlined above, a game-based challenge can be addictive and habit forming. This provides an ideal opportunity to “strike while the iron’s hot” with supplemental healthy education. Consider tips on eating healthy, new ideas for extending workouts, or challenges like hiking, in-line skating or cross country your employees haven’t looked at before. For many, the biggest obstacle to exercise and healthy diet is simply getting started, and a walking challenge provides a great way to get the ball rolling.
Reason #7: Fun!
Regardless of background, walking is a given for most people, and everybody enjoys having fun, so mixing the two in a team-based competition makes sense as a starting point for common ground.
You can ramp up the fun with a game-based solution like The Outbreak, where in addition to walking there are elements of being chased by a zombie horde, scoring points for zombie kills, and strategy for staying human (or trying to convert the rest of the humans if one is turned into a zombie).
There’s a certain sense of excitement as you and your fellow competitors escape a close call with a zombie obstacle. In addition to the obvious health benefits, it builds camaraderie with people and forms a new matrix of relationships. There’s something about infecting the boss that can bring out a sense of humor. Join in, infect a few people, and enjoy the company!
Reason #8: Save Money
Studies show that for every dollar you spend on health intervention, you’ll see $6 in healthcare savings. A healthier employee base reduces absenteeism and healthcare utilization, costing less.
It’s not just health, coming full circle, well engaged employees outperform disengaged employees, to the tune of 12% better, according to this study.
If you’d like to read more about the financial benefits of a walking challenge to your company, check out this wellness ROI case study.
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