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How To Keep Motivation Up After A Challenge

By Stacy Senick | June 9, 2018 | Employee Well-Being

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Your company just did a step challenge. Now what? Are you worried your employees will revert to their old ways? Your employees have achieved great success during the challenge and you want to support them as they maintain their new healthy behavior.

First, build a strong challenge

Challenges have the biggest impact on behavior change when they are complemented by things like health education, accessibility, consistent communication, environmental supports, incentives and evaluation. Because of this, wellness challenges should only be one component of your overall worksite wellness strategy. 

Set yourself up for success

Most challenges last at least six weeks, and for good reason! It takes time to establish healthy behaviors and the first six weeks is a critical time when many employees drop off without the proper motivation and reinforcement.[i][ii]

Include accountability and support

Help build a social support system by coordinating group walks or workouts during the challenge.[iii][iv][v][vi][vii] And, help remove barriers—like time, money or knowledge[viii][ix][x]—by ensuring your challenge is open to all employees, supported by managers[xi][xii], and employees are provided education on the impact that this challenge may have on their health and well-being.[xiii]

Consider incentives

Although incentives do not result in long-term behavior change, they can help raise initial engagement[xiv][xv], and an employee who can commit for at least six weeks is already a huge success.[xvi][xvii]

And, then…

Even those that commit to the first six weeks can get bored or distracted after the challenge ends. But, those who maintain their new healthy behavior for at least six months are well on their way to making their new behavior permanent.[xviii] Consider implementing these suggestions within six months of a group challenge ending:

Continue to support them

Social support can make or break an employee’s new behavior. Find ways to connect employees who participated in the challenge or have similar goals (maintaining weight, working out more, eating healthier, etc.). Encourage small groups of employees to come together or start a buddy system, where employees can meet for lunch or walk together to discuss how they can stay motivated, overcome barriers and continue to track their progress.[xix][xx][xxi][xxii][xxiii] This is also a great environment to share tips and tricks for staying on track, like healthy meal recipes and snacks[xxiv]. If employees just ran a step or 5K challenge, consider creating a walking or running club[xxv].

Promote your other benefits 

After a group challenge is a perfect time to promote the other wellness benefits you offer, like gym discounts, walking trails, an employee assistance program (EAP) and healthy food. Even if you don’t have an on-site cafeteria dishing up healthy meals, you can promote healthy restaurant options[xxvi] that are within walking distance.[xxvii] 

Continue to educate

Reinforce the healthy habits formed during a challenge by providing ongoing education and reminders. If you just completed a 5K training challenge, consider promoting upcoming 5K races and paying the registration fee for employees. If you just completed a step challenge, post reminders that reinforce the importance of moving more often throughout the day.[xxviii]

But, don’t forget…

Employees that maintain their new behavior beyond six months have made a huge lifestyle change! Don’t forget to celebrate those successes and provide opportunities for continued success.

Identify your wellness champions

Celebrate an employee’s new healthy behavior by asking them to be a wellness champion. Wellness champions are advocates for healthy behavior change and can help increase wellness program engagement.[xxix]

Give staff something to look forward to

If a particular challenge was popular, consider running it annually. An employee who increased their steps from 3,000 to 8,000 per day and then joined a walking club will be thrilled for the challenge to come back around.

Consistency is key

Consider running 2-3 complementary challenges each year. We know weight management is easier when your employees are managing their stress well. Leverage the engagement you garnered in one challenge to keep the momentum going into another challenge.[xxx]

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Real, lasting behavior change is hard. And, let’s be honest, some employees just aren’t ready to change when a challenge rolls around.[xxxi] It is important to offer a variety of wellness programming options to employees and consistently seek their feedback[xxxii] on what is working. Consider surveying employees who participated in a challenge 6-12 months after the challenge ends to gain feedback on these things:

  • Who maintained their healthy behavior? And, what helped them maintain the new behavior?
  • Who did not maintain their healthy behavior? And, what prevented them from maintaining the new behavior?

Use this information to help plan for future challenges and ensure employees stay motivated long after a challenge ends.[xxxiii]

[Sources] [i] [ii] [iii] [iv] [v] [vi] [vii] [viii] [ix] [x] [xi] [xii] [xiii] [xiv] [xv] [xvi] [xvii] [xviii] [xix] [xx] [xxi] [xxii] [xxiii] [xxiv] [xxv] [xxvi] [xxvii] [xxviii] [xxix] [xxx] [xxxi] [xxxii] [xxxiii][[/learn_more]