The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

4 Creative, Inexpensive Ways to Boost Employee Wellness

wellness-blogFinding new ways to motivate employees to engage in wellness activities can be a challenge. Many large-scale workplace wellness programs start off with a bang, but participation tends to wane as time passes.

Here at the CUPA-HR national office, we’ve found a formula that works well for us. By implementing several smaller scale wellness activities and switching them up throughout the year, we’ve been able to keep things fresh and exciting. Most include monetary awards, and staff can choose to participate in any or all of the programs.

Any of these short-term, easy-to-implement, low-cost initiatives would be a great addition to a larger ongoing wellness program. Feel free to copy them – we won’t mind! Tracking form templates for each activity are linked.

1) Exercise tracking. In this year-long program, participants keep track in an Excel spreadsheet of the number of days each month that they exercise for at least 30 minutes. At the end of every month, those who recorded 10 or more days of physical activity are paid $1 for each day (we cap payouts at $25 per month, as most experts recommend taking at least one day off from exercise each week). Additionally, at the end of the year, participants that recorded 10 or more days every month are entered into a drawing to win $100 cash.

2) Maintain, Don’t Gain. This is a great challenge for the holidays. At the national office, this program starts on the Monday before Thanksgiving and runs through the Monday after New Year’s. Participants pick a buddy or a team and weigh in together once per week (we have scales in the office) and record their weight. At the end of the challenge, those who have gained no more than 2 lbs. based on their original weight receive an extra vacation day.

3) Fall Into Fitness. We began this challenge in September and it runs through the end of November. Participants chose from one of three options: number of minutes of exercise, number of steps, or percent of body weight lost. For three months, participants record their data in an Excel spreadsheet (number of minutes exercised each day, number of steps taken each day, or weight each week). At the end of the three months, there are three winners: the individual with the most minutes of exercise, the individual with the most number of steps, and the individual with the highest percent of body weight lost. Each receives $100 cash.

4) Wellness drawings. We use wellness drawings throughout the year to supplement our other three programs and to keep a sustained focus on physical activity and healthy living. These challenges typically run for one week, and we try to do at least one per month. Those who complete the challenge are entered into a drawing to win things like gift cards, water bottles, exercise gear and more – most of which are donated from local businesses, so there’s nominal cost involved. These challenges can take many forms. Some examples:

  • Drink 64 oz. of water every day AND exercise at least 30 minutes for three days this week.
  • Do one cardio workout, one strength workout and get a full eight hours of sleep each night for one week.
  • Eliminate all processed sugar for one week.
  • Do one workout or exercise activity this week that you’ve never tried before.

Although it may not be feasible to implement initiatives like these institution-wide, they can be used on a smaller scale within individual departments or teams to create more excitement around wellness, boost morale, foster a sense of camaraderie and highlight the importance of being active and staying healthy.

For workplace wellness resources, including sample policies, how-tos, readings and more, check out the new wellness toolkit in the CUPA-HR Knowledge Center. If you’d like to share your institution’s wellness policy or programs, e-mail and we’ll add them to the toolkit!