Workplace Wellness Competition: Is It Healthy?

09.19.2017

Competition. Most people either love it or hate it. Do overly competitive people make others cringe? Sometimes. But that’s OK, because everyone is different. The majority of workplace wellness programs encourage competition among participants, which begs the question: Is competition healthy, even when it knowingly alienates a percentage of the member population?

While competition can deter some program members, it’s the way workplace wellness programs approach competition that is most important—more so than whether every member enjoys competition or not. You can’t please everyone, and workplace wellness competition has many benefits. Here are some things we’ve learned about implementing competition in our wellness programs. 

Keep It Lighthearted and Inclusive    

Successful workplace wellness competition is supportive, friendly, and focuses on improving the lifestyle, risk factors, and behaviors of each member—it doesn’t pit members against each other.  Competition options should be diverse and inclusive of those who shy away from competition. Having options like individual challenges gives members a chance to compete against themselves to better their health, without having to compete against others.  

Reward Progress, Not Perfection

Viverae® wellness programs center on the progress-based ideology: progress, not perfection—because well-being is personal. Whatever the challenge or activity, the end-goal should always be for the individual member to better themselves. Reward all members for achieving their own level of progress, not just the member who ended up as the winner of a challenge or activity.

Avoid Extremes

When creating a challenge or encouraging competition, ensure there are limits on the daily, weekly, and/or monthly amounts you allow members to achieve for points or rewards. For example, not putting a cap on a steps challenge could lead some members to compete to reach an extreme number of steps—which is unhealthy and potentially dangerous.

Friendly, supportive, diverse competition within workplace wellness programs is healthy. It creates a sense of community, rewards members for progress, holds members accountable, and motivates them to better their health. It can even get members out of their comfort zones, encouraging those who avoid competition to gain confidence when a support network is in place. 

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