Workplace wellness: how can we include everyone?

2 min read

My coworkers would likely categorize me as obsessed with fitness and nutrition. And I’d be the first to acknowledge that health and wellness resonate differently across our employees at HWC. Varying ages, fitness levels, hobbies, and other commitments all coalesce to influence our ideas of health and wellness. To date, HWC’s health and wellness initiatives have purposely taken on different forms. We’ve planned social gatherings like company baseball outings and we’ve installed office infrastructure like a treadmill workstation, standing desk spaces, and lounge areas. But I always wondered if a single health and wellness initiative could be accessible to every employee. Then, HWC launched the Aqua April Challenge.

Aqua_April Challenge
HWCers with their Aqua April branded water bottles (from left to right): Parul Agarwal, Emily Robota, and Bryan Weissbach.

Successful health and wellness initiatives incorporate best practices from behavior change theory and social marketing. These help identify barriers to entry and give employees the tools they need to adopt or change a behavior. Aqua April was no exception. Our HR team challenged all HWC employees to drink 75 ounces of water every workday throughout the month of April. They provided a brand new 25-ounce, HWC-branded water bottle to help remove one immediate barrier to entry and to act as an initial incentive for employees to get involved. If you drank 75 ounces of water 4 out of the 5 workdays each week, the HR team entered your name into a raffle for a grand prize of $100 towards your choice of athletic/athleisure wear. So, if you met the challenge each week, the HR team would enter your name four times into the raffle.

It sounds like a simple challenge, but Aqua April was an instant hit at HWC. Here’s why:

The Behavior

HWC’s human capital team chose a behavior – drinking water – that we all acknowledge as an important part of our health. It’s also one we already do with varying frequency throughout the day. This made the challenge easy and accessible to every employee, no matter their fitness level, age, location, time constraints, or financial limitations.

The Water Bottle

The introduction of a branded water bottle was perhaps the most resourceful and creative element of the challenge. The water bottle served multiple purposes:

  • It was an initial incentive to join the challenge.Who would say no to a free, brand new, high-quality, temperature-preserving water bottle?
  • It was a company marketing tool. Friends and fitness classmates asked me at least twice per week about the logo on my water bottle. This naturally sparked conversations about HWC, the challenge, and similar topics. Many other HWC employees experienced similar interactions.
  • It was a corporate sustainability initiative. While the primary focus was on our physical health, we were also able to contribute to this increasingly important part of corporate culture by using fewer plastic cups.
  • It was nudge. Behavioral change theory calls for the use of nudges, which act as subtle reminders, to help successfully change behavior. The site of these water bottles on every desk was a constant reminder to drink water. The use of, and access to, water bottles contributed to the social norming of the behavior each day.

The Raffle

Weekly Raffle submissions were short-term motivators, or “quick-wins,” for our employees. This was a purposeful challenge construct. It acknowledged that any change in behavior is challenging. Had our HR team designed the raffle submission as a one-time opportunity, they would’ve risked losing participation to those who either forgot, were too busy, or were simply unable to drink as much water as they would have liked in any week prior. This construct meant that one, two, or even three missed weeks of the challenge didn’t exclude them from a shot at the grand prize. Then there’s the grand prize itself. The winner of the raffle received $100 towards their choice of athletic/athleisure wear – a prize that enables continued progress towards health and wellness.

Aqua April was a creative, impactful, and low-cost way for HWC to invest in its employees. It also proved that a health and wellness initiative could be truly accessible to everyone. Once again, HWC has demonstrated that play, purpose, and potential are in everything that we do. Have you or your company planned a successful and inclusive health and wellness initiative? If so, tell us about it in the comments below!

Bryan Weissbach Bryan Weissbach is a fitness fanatic and healthy eating aficionado. He focuses on stakeholder relations, behavior change, and client delivery at HWC. He has a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs from The George Washington University and holds a Social Marketing Certification accredited by the U.K. Chartered Institute of Marketing.