Are Team Challenges the Secret to Corporate Wellness?
When Sal Alvarez’s doctor told him he needed to be put on more medications to improve his wellbeing, he was discouraged. Alvarez’s wellness was affected by high cholesterol and blood pressure, but this made him newly determined to get his health on a better track. But what helped him get there? A corporate wellness programme offered by his employer, Discovery Communications.
The Silver Spring-based company holds a voluntary, 16-week competition every year, in which participants divide into teams and try to walk the most steps. Using an online platform called Global Corporate Challenge, the employees log their progress and compare it to their rivals’. The system will also add on the calculated worth of any other workouts the competitors do, such as swimming or biking. According to Alvarez, a service desk analyst, the format is highly motivating from an early stage. ‘There’s sort of like a peer pressure and a competitive edge to it,’ he said.
More and more companies are, like Discovery, turning to competitions and socially-based activities as a way to compel their workers to get fit. Thanks to a surge in online platforms that make it easy to track one’s performance and see how it stacks up against a co-worker’s, the trend in the “gamification” of wellness has increased, becoming a central component of many corporate wellness strategies. Employees enjoy the challenge of healthy competition, and the programme helps employers to curb employers’ the rising costs of health care.
According to Adria Alpert Romm, the company’s senior executive vice president of human resources, Discovery’s most recent challenge drew 369 teams comprised of nearly 2,600 workers. The cable television programming giant tried to keep the competitive spirit running high throughout the programme. They did this by providing employees with teasing, pre-written e-cards that they could send one other. One such email chided, ‘16 weeks too much of a commitment? What are you, a Kardashian?’
On average, participants lost eight pounds each, and Alvarez continues to attend the boot camp-style fitness classes at Discovery, five months after the challenge has ended. Alvarez noted that he’s so committed to the classes, ‘I’ve had to push my wife’s birthday [celebration] to another day or later in the evening, because it’s that important.’ He added that the class ‘isn’t something that you dread. I look forward to it because the guy keeps you motivated.’