Corporate wellness challenges aren’t a new thing, but when your team is spread across the world, you need to get more creative.

We don’t have a parking lot for a 5K or a break room for healthy snacks, but we do have a Wellness channel in Microsoft Teams where our team members share their activities, workout successes and favorite recipes.

Halfway through September, “Steptober” was announced. The premise was simple: Create a team, set your personal daily step goal and results would be tabulated weekly and tracked as a percentage to goal.

About 15 minutes later, teams were forming and the gloves were coming off as playful rivalries formed.

From “Cirque Du Sore Legs” to “Bad Assets”

We greeted Day 1 with 11 teams and 7 individual contributors representing 54 team members – nearly 60% of the company!

Our leadership team had adopted “The Boss Babies” personas, another honored a team member’s 82-year-old mother’s walking group with their team name, “Happy Hoofers.”

“Mel Assured Us We’d Win” seemed like a formidable threat from the very beginning, with “Step-a-sauras Rex” close behind.

Stories, pictures and motivational videos soon filled the group chat.

Seeing Mid-Month Benefits

On Day 16 of the challenge, Martin Grasdal, Content Development and Quality Assurance Lead, shared some early benefits.

“I am not a big exerciser, but I do try to get some walking in every day. With the Steptober challenge, I have tried to up my game in two ways: More hills or stairs, and increased steps. Yesterday, I checked the V02 max stats that are provided by my Garmin Vivoactive watch and was happy to find that they have improved since starting the step challenge, after months of being stuck or even decreasing. I now, according to the stats, have a fitness level of someone 11 years younger than my physical age and am now in the top 30 percent for my age. I was headed in a very different direction a year ago and have managed to turn things around. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by this finding, which actually corresponds to what I am feeling when I do stairs.”

On Day 19, Katie O’Zey, Lead Instructional Designer, shared her activity levels from the last week of September compared to her steps in that week.

“I thought I would share a little before and mid-month progress. In terms of percentage gains, I’m quite pleased. Plus, I am excited that I stuck with it! Even on the busy days. I definitely feel a sense of accomplishment and I’m happy I’m doing something that’s benefiting my health, even in a small way. Thinking next month, I might make a personal goal to hit the next threshold!”

And, as part of an official, one-year wellness journey, October 2020 marked twelve months from the challenge that Robert Lisiecki, Senior Software Engineer, received in October 2019 while completing his quarterly goals.

“About a year ago, I started getting into running and being more active, which started as a personal goal. Corey gave me a time-line and distance to train to (a 10k),” shared Robert. “Having a goal and even minor reason to get out and on my feet – one step at a time – was enough. I have received my results after one year of work and improvement and have data to determine if it was worth the effort.”

Curious about his results? It’s so much more incredible than can be shared in a paragraph. Watch our interview with Robert.

Creating Healthy Habits

In addition to the reporting from Corey Hynes, CEO, in his weekly update, our Wellbeing team organized webinars on managing stress and nutrition, as well as mailed boxes containing healthy snacks for each team member to enjoy.

As shared by Melanie Hynes, Steptober Lead and Executive Assistant, “Approaching the end of week 3…..change doesn’t happen overnight. New habits are not created overnight but we have to remind ourselves that getting started is the hardest part. I’ve been truly amazed by level of commitment to our wellness challenge. Please keep the stories coming, share your successes, thoughts and your struggles. Keep encouraging one another, keep encouraging me. I can’t thank you all enough for giving me a pep in my step and a much needed refocus for not only physical but mental well-being.”

The Home Stretch

The final days of Steptober were a surge to the finish, with team members getting in their steps with no less creativity than on Day 1. Stephanie Clark, Instructional Designer, got her steps in with her mother on Day 23  as they participated in “Light the Night” to raise money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Day 26 of the challenge (and a reprieve from the rain) found Laura Hansson, System Administrator, on a 11.43 mile hike – racking up enough steps for three days! – as she explored the Mount Si Trail near her home in the Pacific Northwest.

Kristen Lui, Technical Readiness Coordinator, logged her steps most nights while her daughters were at soccer practice, looping back and forth around the parks.

Kyle Rosenthal, Account Executive, shared, “The last 2 nights, I have gotten to about 11:00 pm and realized that I am down on my goal. Last night I walked 2,500 steps in the living room and got finished at 11:54 pm. #committed #TeamMAUWW”

Ben Watson, Chief Product Officer and member of “The Boss Babies,” shared that he did his first 2020 in-person, chip-timed 5K. “Eight friends committed to doing a 5K on Halloween, and two of us were able to do the in-person race,” said Ben. “It was a beautiful day for a run/jog/walk/crawl.”

Cue the Drumroll….

A well-timed All Hands meeting on Monday, November 2, featured the results for the month’s efforts. Corey asked us to use the chat to log our ideas on the number of steps we had taken as a company. The numbers rolled in from one to six million. “Too low, try again,” said Corey.

We dreamed a little bigger, but there was still a great reaction for the results.

54 members of our team took almost 12,900,000 steps, resulting in almost 6,600 miles walked and a fantastic 89% of steps to goal as a company average.

If our results were a roadtrip, we would have made it across the country, through 10 national parks and along the famed Route 66. Check out Corey’s blog on LinkedIn for a bit more color commentary on this truly epic adventure.

Incredible, right? The only thing more incredible than that are the individual stats:

  • 54 members – almost 60% of our company – participated throughout the month.
  • Steve Penn, Lab Services Administrator, literally walked away with the “Biggest Day” category, logging 52,673 steps in one day! Steve also personally logged 670,032 steps, which is approximately 303 miles.
  • Since Steve’s incredibly worn soles counted toward his team’s effort, First Place in the Individual category went to Evan  Janssen, Senior Systems Administrator, who walked his way to 108% of his 12,500 daily step goal, logging 210.62 miles.
  • And in a shocking (definitely not fixed) turn of events, Steve’s team was surmounted by our executive team, “The Boss Babies,” and their amazing 123,95% of goal effort and a combined 868 miles.

In addition to bragging rights, our Steptober winners received an additional $50 reimbursement allowance on top of the company-wide, $50 wellness reimbursement allowance, which can be used on a monthly basis to purchase gear, subscriptions to healthy meal plans and exercise-related activities.

“One Step at a Time”

Steptober has given way to Move-ember, where new teams will be formed around weekly mileage goals. Look for more stories about achieving goals (and Steve’s recommendation for sturdy shoes!) along the way.

Lots of companies have wellness challenges, but fostering a team through that challenge and enabling them with the motivation, tools, resources and platform to succeed? That’s the hallmark of a true employer of choice.

Thirty-one days passed quickly, but the camaraderie, motivation and challenge live on.

We’re coming for you, Move-ember.