Gamifying Physical Wellness: Enhancing Fitness Goals through Interactive Games and Challenges

“Increasing employees’ physical activity can create a healthier workforce, increase employees’ productivity, and decrease employees’ risk of developing costly and debilitating chronic diseases,” states a guide to Physical Activity in the Workplace by The Institute for Health and Productivity Studies and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. For library employees, getting fit and active doesn’t have to be any less of a priority. From the variety of options out there to the benefits and considerations of implementing a bit of friendly competition at the library, here’s how gamified wellness can present a fantastic option for the workplace.

The benefits of friendly competition

Implementing a positive culture surrounding health and wellness among employees not only creates a healthier workplace and promotes engagement, but can boost morale and motivation — particularly when a bit of friendly competition or challenges are introduced. Regarding competition in the workplace, a 2017 Harvard Business Review post notes that some research studies suggest that competition “can motivate employees, make them put in more effort, and achieve results.” Working towards a goal together is a great way to keep everyone active, interested, and engaged — whether the goal is to eat healthier, drink a certain amount of water, or to simply get moving. 

Gamifying physical wellness can make a challenge more engaging and fun, and involves injecting typical elements of game play into said challenge. This includes aspects such as competition, rules, points, scoring, and rewards, to name a few. Silent, individual challenges are a great consideration, not only due to the quiet nature of the library, but it can be practical for those who are sitting for long periods of time, too. This can be helpful in addressing issues such as poor posture or even chronic pain. In fact, approximately 20.4% of adults in the U.S. experience chronic pain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Chronic pain in the workplace can stem from a variety of issues, including poor posture when sitting at a desk, sitting in the same position for extended time frames, and not moving around enough throughout the day. 

When looking for solutions to address chronic pain among employees, ergonomically designed office furniture can be a great consideration. While such furniture (such as standing desks or supportive chairs) work to address posture, implementing challenges that keep the team moving can ensure that nobody is sitting or standing for extended periods of time. Employees who sit at a desk could do exercises that work to benefit posture — for instance, encouraging regular breaks throughout the day to do stretches such as isometric pulls or chest opener exercises. To gamify the experience, consider having employees keep track of how many times they exercise on their breaks throughout the day or week — at the end, reward those who did the most with a small prize (such as a new book). 

Other initiatives can involve challenging employees to bring healthy lunches to work, or even encouraging them to take part in an activity in their own time. However, organizing physical wellness activities can also be done as a group outside of the library, whether it’s through group yoga, meditation, walking, or biking to work. Keeping track of goals and activities via a point system can be done via a whiteboard in the office or another visible location, thus keeping motivation high throughout the course of a challenge.

Supplementing competition through group activities

Scheduled group activities can further work to enhance wellness, boost morale, and supplement friendly competition among employees in a library setting. For example, while encouraging everyone to pack a healthy lunch can help individual employees embrace healthy eating in the workspace, scheduling a healthy group lunch can be a great opportunity to bond as a team. Implementing regular group lunches in which each employee brings a healthy dish is just one idea. To gamify the event, try writing different food groups on pieces of paper, and asking each employee to choose one to determine what type of dish they should bring. This will ensure that nobody brings the same thing but will also inject some fun into the activity while promoting healthy eating. To further gamify the activity and create more of a challenge, consider choosing a theme for the lunch — whether it’s a theme from a popular book, a type of cuisine, color, or other creative idea.

Other group activities can further work to supplement physical wellness goals on a regular basis. Promoting hydration, for example, is just one group goal that’s worth working towards — especially when considering that an estimated 75% of Americans experience dehydration. That said, encouraging employees to drink more water can easily be gamified by providing water bottles to all library workers with markings to indicate water consumption. At the end of the week, the employee with the most amount of water drunk can receive a prize. 

Considerations for creating effective challenges

Introducing gamified physical wellness challenges in the workspace can provide a variety of benefits for the team, though there are a few considerations to keep in mind. For starters, it’s important to note that employees should never be forced to participate. BetterUp points out that making involvement compulsory will only result in stress in addition to breeding contempt for the challenge, and goes on to stress the importance of not penalizing employees for choosing to not take part. “Use positive reinforcement, recognizing effort and accomplishments but letting most of the motivation and enthusiasm come from the participants themselves,” states the post, written by Elizabeth Perry. “Focus on making the challenge attractive to employees rather than imposing penalties for lack of involvement.”

When looking to successfully introduce a wellness challenge, it’s imperative to consider the parameters of the goals. Ensuring that the goals are reasonable and can be achieved by everyone on the team should be first and foremost in order to create an inclusive challenge. Furthermore, it’s important to take employee needs into consideration, as you may need to modify or change the challenge altogether. For example, if it’s a known fact that an employee experiences a health condition like hypoglycemia, it may not be ideal to create a group wellness goal of cutting out sugary snacks.

Staying on top of physical wellness can be a daunting endeavor, especially if you’re trying to stay active while at work. Embracing a positive workplace culture surrounding physical wellness, however, can be beneficial in more ways than one — and gamified to make reaching goals both attainable and enjoyable for all.