The Fitness Challenge Handbook

Launching The Challenge

Incorporating employee teams into your challenge can increase participation and motivation

Fitness Challenge Teams

Allowing teams in your challenge can add an important motivational factor. Instead of having each participant compete against everyone else, why not have groups of participants compete as teams against other groups. By doing this, you add a little constructive peer pressure to continue competing even after the newness of the challenge wears off and the pounds are not dropping as easily.
Team size is a key consideration as well. You do not want the number to be too high as this can be unmanageable and negatively impacts motivation. You also don’t want the teams to be too small as this encourages the creation of “dream-teams” of runners or other highly motivated individuals that ruin the competition for everyone else. A good goal is to have teams with around ten participants each. Then, simply average out the data to allow for team of varying sizes.
As far as team organization and administration, you have a few choices here as well: structural, self-organized and random.

Structural Teams

Structurally-oriented teams are the easiest to create since they are comprised of a single department, shift, team, etc. out of the organizational structure chart. The important consideration with this team type is to keep the team size down to around ten individuals which may involve splitting up a department or shift into multiple teams.
The upside to structural teams is that it can promote camaraderie and increase motivation. However, it can also seem too much like work and may make employees uncomfortable that their normal supervisor is now also trying to get them to lose weight and work out more often.

Self-Organized Teams

While most preferred by participants themselves, self-organized teams bring their own challenges. On the positive side, self-organized teams can be very motivating since they consist of friends and close colleagues who might be willing to apply more peer pressure. More importantly, self-organized teams have a strong impact on participation since your employees are now actively recruiting one another. Always keep in mind that return on investment from your challenge is directly proportional to participation rates.
On the negative side, self-organized teams tend to be uneven and some people may be excluded all together à la last picked in gym class. Self-organized teams can also lead to the aforementioned “dream-teams” of workers who are already fitness enthusiasts. While that in itself is fine, it can deaden the challenge for other teams and be a disincentive to trying hard after the challenge is no longer winnable. If you do have an overachieving team that is running away with the competition, try adding incentives to other finishers. Adding a $10 or $20 gift card to first, second and third place finishers mid-challenge will be proportionately higher to second and third place. You may also want to separate the team somehow in subsequent challenges using structural or random teams.

Random Teams

Random teams also make creation relatively simple since participants are selected at random and placed into teams. One benefit with this structure is that you can make team sizes whatever you wish and they will all be roughly the same size. Another benefit is that you can introduce many workers to others with whom they might not normally socialize. The down side is that this could also reduce motivation since peer pressure would generally be lower between employees who barely know each other.

Team Leader

You may consider assigning a leader for each team in your challenge. A team leader can be used to build the team itself, motivate team members, and handle some of the administrative tasks. These tasks might include: data collection, data submission, communication, and team participant administration.
Structurally based teams may simply have the supervisor in charge of the group as the team leader but that does not have to be true. In fact, it may be better that a manager not be the team leader just to keep the fitness challenge separate from daily work.
Self-organized teams generally always will have at least an informal leader; someone who organized the team from the start and convinced friends to join. These leaders will prove valuable as the challenge progresses and motivation wears thin.
Randomly-organized teams are the least likely to have or need a team leader. While a leader could certainly be assigned to each team, they would not provide much of a motivational factor and might not appreciate the extra administrative tasks a leader could be expected to perform.
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