How to Host a Virtual Step Challenge

A simple way to stay sane, healthy and connected

Whether your work life has changed or not, most all of us are under additional stress these days. Often, stepping away for a bit is the best way to refocus. Active SWV’s Workplace Wellness program has received several requests to help create Virtual Step Challenges as a way for co-workers to stay sane, healthy, and connected. So we decided to put together this little how-to guide to help workplaces anywhere create a successful virtual step challenge. Check out the pointers below.

Create a Leaderboard or Tracking System

The first thing you’ll need to do is determine how your participants will track and report their steps. There are two main ways to track your participants’ steps:

1. Manually Enter Self-Reported Steps

The oldest way to track a step challenge is to create a good old-fashioned spreadsheet. With this method, participants will need to self-report. That is to say, they will need to share their step counts periodically with whoever oversees managing the spreadsheet.

In non-socially distant times, workplaces may find it more fun to post a bulletin board in a common space for step challenge teams to update their own steps. This is a little more interactive and builds more of spirit of accountability or healthy competition.

One of these self-reporting methods may be best if employees will be using several different methods of tracking their steps, or if internet communication is not readily available to your participants.

2. Use an Existing Step Tracker Platform

Several free and subscription-based apps already exist for those who don’t want to recreate the wheel or can’t take on the extra time to collect everyone’s data for them.

FitBit has a free app that allows participants to create step challenge groups. Simply download the app, create your group, then invite your team to join. When you’re part of a group, you can share messages with each other, see immediately how others are doing You don’t need a FitBit device to use the app. You can enter your own data if you’re using another step tracking device, or turn on the app, and it will track your steps for you.

Some of the great benefits of using a platform like this are:

There’s an interactive space to build community around the challenge.

Step data is automatically logged for you. No checking emails or sending reminder texts to have participants send you their step count. No creating spreadsheets.

There are many other apps and platforms online similar to the free FitBit app. Look around and see what’s a fit for your group.

Before you invite your workplace to your virtual step challenge, you’ll want to answer a few questions:

  • When does the challenge start and when does it end?
  • Will there be teams, and how do I create a team?
  • How and when do I sign up?
  • Where do I log my steps, and what tracking devices or app can I use?
  • How often do I report my step count, and to whom?
  • Are there incentives or prizes?
  • Why does this matter, why will this be fun, why should I participate?

Once you’ve answered these, it’s time to share this information with the crew. Consider how your participants prefer to communicate. You may want to distribute this info through multiple avenues like email, social media, or sharing during virtual work meetings.

After your initial step challenge announcement, you’ll want to follow-up regularly. Consider scheduling regular messages as reminders. These may include shout outs to who’s currently in the lead, who’s been the most encouraging, and other ways to keep it fun. This leads us to an important element: Motivation.

Have you ever set a resolution for yourself only to ditch all efforts of sticking to it days later? Many of us can answer yes. Likewise, folks at your workplace may do just that if regular motivation isn’t injected into your virtual step challenge.

Really the best way to get your workplace to buy in, is to have managers, supervisors, and challenge coordinators set the tone. Workaholic mentality is an unfortunate part of work culture in the U.S. Too many base their worth on how hard they work, how many times they skip lunch, or stay late. So even when a supervisor says, “You should take walk breaks during the day,” it can be intimidating for employees to buy in. For instance, they may fear they will look unproductive for taking a 10 minute walk. In reality, a brisk walk can increase energy and boost your mood, helping you focus.

For this reason, it’s crucial for your workplace leaders to show that they really do care about workplace wellness. Not only by participating, but by encouraging and celebrating their co-workers’ efforts and successes.

Who doesn’t like to receive prizes, right? While it’s well and good to offer physical prizes for your step challenge, they’re certainly not necessary if you’re on a budget. There are many other ways to incentive your crew. The most important piece is that everyone feels recognized and has a space to celebrate!

Here’s a few other ways you can recognize your Step Challenge winners and participants:

  • End with an event – consider culminating your virtual step challenge in a virtual 5k, or a distance of participants’ choice. This also gives something to work towards during the challenge. Check out Active SWV’s free virtual 5k run/walk here!
  • Hold a virtual celebration – create a Zoom or other online meeting space. Invite everyone to dress up for the celebration, bring a healthy treat and drink, and congratulate all on their success from afar.
  • Let the winning individual or team pick the next wellness challenge, or help design and name a walking route around your workplace when it’s safe to do so.
  • Post pictures of your winners or all participants – Consider having everyone send a photo of them getting their steps and make a photo collage to display virtually or at your workplace when it’s safe to do so.
  • Offer an extra day off, or flex time to winners if your workplace can allow for it.
Can you make your step challenge part of a longer lasting change to create a culture of wellness?

Now the real challenge begins. One and done events are a great way to spark interest in wellness at the workplace. But if that’s where it ends, you’re not likely to see long lasting changes. How can you make wellness a part of your work culture?

Is there a way to encourage employees to continue taking walk breaks each day? Can you get a supervisor to openly commit to their own wellness by taking a walk break at a certain time each day? Perhaps coworkers could be invited to join.

Of course, walking is just one tool to create a culture of wellness. To learn more about how your workplace can establish a wellness program, contact Active SWV’s Workplace Wellness Director Veronica Crosier at [email protected].