If you’re waiting for the working world to return to the office, settle in. It’s going to be a while — possibly forever. Hybrid and remote work took off during the COVID pandemic, and once workers got a taste for the work-from-home lifestyle, they were hooked.
By the end of 2023, 51% of American knowledge workers will work hybrid, and 20% will work fully remote, according to a March 2023 Gartner analysis.
“Hybrid is no longer just an employee perk but an employee expectation,” said the lead analyst on the study. The statistics bear this out; according to another recent survey, 87% of workers considering a job change are interested in hybrid or fully remote positions.
Wellness in a Remote Working World
For HR teams, adapting to the new remote reality means overhauling all employee programs and initiatives to fit a workforce that rarely comes into the office — and never all at the same time. Among other things, the employee wellness challenges that used to serve your organization well no longer make sense.
For example, how can you organize a lunchtime walk when employees are out of the office and, due to their flexible schedules, their hours don’t align? You can’t host an after-work yoga class when, for most employees, “after work” means closing the laptop lid and walking away from the desk.
But your HR team doesn’t have to give up on wellness just because your workforce has gone hybrid. In fact, wellness may be even more critical for remote teams. Remote work can promote a sedentary lifestyle and deprive people of human interaction, which is essential for mental health.
Here are three fun and beneficial wellness challenge ideas that don’t require gathering in person. Your employees can complete them from home while still enjoying their colleagues’ camaraderie and support:
1. Virtual Steps Challenges (or Other Virtual Fitness Challenges)
Steps challenges are workplace wellness classics for good reasons. They’re not intimidating, they are easy to do, and they work. (There’s scientific proof!)
Typically, in a steps challenge, employees will set individual goals (such as 10,000 steps per day), work toward group goals (a certain number of steps per month for the entire office), or both. Employees will walk together before work, after work, or during breaks, discuss their progress, and cheer each other on. There are often rewards when individuals and teams attain their goals.
The traditional steps challenge translates well to a virtual format. Employees may be unable to walk together, but they can track their steps individually, log them on a shared platform, and discuss their progress on your company’s chat app. You can kick off the challenge by sending your employees fitness trackers to keep (although many may prefer to use their own smartwatches).
To keep employees motivated during their virtual steps challenge, you can send inspirational group text messages or digital postcards. You might also launch a microsite dedicated to the fitness challenge, where you can share motivational content and employee stories.
Keep in mind: Virtual fitness challenges can be about more than steps. The same basic approach works for all kinds of fitness activities. Similar challenge ideas include:
- Number of push-ups or sit-ups
- Minutes of exercise
- Miles logged walking, jogging, or biking
2. Virtual Healthy Eating Challenges
People who work from home often get careless about what and when they eat. Remote workers may skip meals and graze on processed snacks throughout the day or give into temptation and order takeout — just a few clicks away with a food delivery app.
Virtual challenges can help your hybrid or remote workers develop healthier eating habits. Similar to virtual fitness challenges, virtual healthy eating challenges can involve tracking healthy choices and sharing them with others.
Healthy eating challenges might include:
- Cooking a certain number of nutritious meals per week
- Going a certain amount of time without sugar or processed food
- Skipping alcohol for a month (a popular challenge during “Dry January”)
- Drinking eight glasses of water per day
As with a fitness challenge, building a supportive community is the key to a successful virtual healthy eating challenge.
Here, too, you can encourage employees via text message, email, or virtual postcards, and you can launch a microsite for sharing healthy recipe ideas. You can also bring participating employees together for virtual meetings where, if they choose, they can share their wellness journeys and keep each other accountable.
3. Virtual Wellness Classes
Some people are content to work out independently, but others prefer the support and motivation of a professionally led fitness class.
Fortunately, you don’t have to look very far to find qualified instructors willing to lead virtual wellness classes. Many, if not all, instructors learned to conduct virtual classes during the pandemic. Just contact your local yoga, aerobics, or spin studio, or search for virtual fitness instructors online.
If you choose to offer virtual wellness classes to your employees, plan on catering to a range of skill levels. Slot classes in the mornings, afternoons, and throughout the week to accommodate different schedules and preferences. (You can also record classes and post the videos to your HR portal.)
If you’re not sure what type of wellness classes your employees would enjoy, poll them by email, text, or chat. You might also suggest offering classes that support holistic wellness in other ways:
- Healthy cooking classes with a nutritional expert
- Mindfulness meditation courses. (Meditation also makes an excellent daily wellness challenge.)
- Classes on investing, saving, or budgeting
- Seminars on tidying up, organizing, or designing a home office
To turn virtual wellness classes into wellness challenges, have employees set attendance goals and track their participation.
Virtual Wellness Works
As these three virtual wellness challenge ideas demonstrate, there are plenty of ways to help your employees get and stay healthy, strengthen their relationships, and manage stress while working remotely.
All it takes is a willingness to experiment with new technologies and a well-planned outreach strategy to spread the word about your company’s virtual wellness offerings. Get help with your next HR communications campaign here.