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3 Workplace Wellness Challenges That Aren’t Healthy For Everyone

Workplace wellness challenges are a great way to encourage encourage employees to be healthy, which in turn makes them more efficient workers and saves the company money in the long run by reducing insurance claims.

However, some workplace health challenges should be carefully monitored and tailored to your workers. Employers might mean well, but it is imperative to only encourage workers and let them decide for themselves whether or not their bodies are ready for the challenge. To make sure you keep your workplace healthy, avoid these three common workplace wellness challenges.

The Challenge: Participate in a marathon or race

It sounds like a great idea. The company is associated with an upcoming marathon to benefit a worthwhile charity, so it is tempting to make participation in the event mandatory for employees. Not only does it help to boost the efforts of the company’s wellness plan, but it renders employees more involved in the philanthropic efforts of the organization. On paper, it sounds like everyone wins.

Why It’s Not So Healthy: For the vast majority of your employees, participating in a marathon is a great way to be active while also supporting a great cause. However, mandatory participation in a race can be a nightmare for employees who struggle with disabilities or who are out of shape and embarrassed about it. Mandatory marathon participation can cause a lot of anxiety for people in these situations and there’s nothing healthy about harming your employees’ mental well-being.

What To Do Instead: Strongly encourage your employees to participate in these events, but don’t make it mandatory. For employees who choose to opt out, invite them to volunteer to staff the event, with the promise that they won’t be judged for sitting the race out due to their physical limitations.

The Challenge: Eat a diet rich in specific foods or under a certain amount of calories

Many wellness programs have a nutrition component. Typically, companies encourage their employees to eat more fruits and vegetables or to stay under a specific calorie count. Since we all know that fresh fruits are important and that too many calories are bad for our health, it sounds like a great idea.

Why It’s Not So Healthy: Nutrition is deeply personal. What’s an ideal diet for one may not be ideal for another. For employees who struggle with diabetes or who’ve been placed on a ketogenic diet, eating certain fruits might not be an option. Employees who’ve dealt with a history of eating disorders can have an adverse reaction to being told to eat less than a specific amount of calories.

What To Do Instead: Encourage healthy eating but avoid making your company’s guidelines specific as to what a “healthy” diet entails. Remain cognizant of employees who have special dietary restrictions or who might not be able to participate in a healthy nutrition initiative.

The Challenge: Encourage “positive thinking” and positive affirmations

As more companies realize that comprehensive health includes mental well-being, more wellness challenges are incorporating initiatives that focus on mental health. A popular choice is a positivity challenge, where employees are encourages to recite positive affirmations and approach each task and challenge with a positive outlook.

Why It’s Not So Healthy: Positive thinking can be a great way to stay motivated and to approach life’s difficult realities with a good outlook. However, some psychologists question if it’s appropriate for all situations and personality types. “Pretending or dressing them up won’t make tough realities any easier to swallow, breaking it down bite-by-bite will,” writes Therese J. Borchard for Psych Central.

What To Do Instead: Guide your employees towards thoughtful problem-solving, which entails eschewing panic and worry in favor of approaching difficult situations with thoughtful analysis. Encourage a positive atmosphere, but don’t force your employees towards an outlook that they might find phony or forced.


When it comes to workplace wellness, be aware of the limitations and special needs that many of your employees may have. The perfect wellness challenge is one that everyone can participate in and that can be easily modified to suit a wide array of employees and their needs.

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