We are a crew of developers, graphic designers, and marketing savvies based in the beautiful city of Montreal, Canada- and we happen to spend a LOT of time in the office. Here at Osedea, we like to think of ourselves as critical thinkers, so to speak—we can debate about the must mundane topics such as, “can a hot dog be considered a sandwich?”, to more serious topics like, would future machines be able to fully code or will a human aspect always be vitally needed.

We did the math. Considering each of us spends AT LEAST 40 hours a week at our office, it works out to 2088 hours a year per employee!

The nature of what we do everyday forces us to spend hour after hour in front of a computer, which means the vast majority of those 2088 hours are spent in “sedentary” mode.

Our work is also based on time-sensitive deliverables, and there’s stress that comes along with that. Plus, we operate in a saturated industry. We have to keep up to date on technologies that change on a daily basis. Customer experience is one of the things we do best, making it crucial that we maintain speed and flexibility across all our projects.

In short, our work environment is in a constant state of flux. We’re great at keeping up with it, but it’s all too easy to let health fall by the wayside.

Under these circumstances, greasy fast food for lunch often sounds like a good idea. Cookies and chips make welcome companions during stressful moments. The crunchy sound is almost therapeutic.

Sounds familiar? I’m sure many of you can relate.

In a nutshell, we embrace the nature of the industry we work in, but we also know how vital it is that we prioritize a balanced office environment, both as individuals, and as a team. It’s become not just part of our company culture, but a core priority at Osedea. As a result, we’ve implemented several initiatives to help curtail unhealthy habits in the workplace. We installed a standing desk and introduced a comprehensive health plan for everyone, but what we’re most proud of is the idea behind our Wellness Challenge, which I’m about to explain to you.

This is the inspirational story of how the Wellness Challenge came to be and the importance it continues to have for Osedea.

It’s a story about a competition involving lots of fruits and veggies, laughters, movement, and ultimately, some pretty impressive results.

The Wellness Challenge: the backstory

Our journey started last year after we conducted an Officevibe survey that revealed a common pain point among our team members: health and wellbeing. The majority of the team wanted to develop healthier habits in terms of nutrition and physical health, so, after a few brainstorming sessions, we created the first edition of what we decided to call- the Wellness Challenge.

The challenge was based on the rule of thumb which states that to get a new habit to “stick”, you’ve got to perform it for 21 days in a row.

We adapted Slack, our internal communication tool, with a bot to allow it to handle challenge entries and score-keeping. To learn how we constructed the challenge (and to get some inspiration in case you want to do something similar with your own team) you can read the blog post located here

After the first time we ran the Wellness Challenge, we did a fresh round of research which told us that developing new positive habits would be easier if we took advantage of our existing routines at work, instead of trying to fight them.

We wanted to incorporate various aspects of health into the challenges (physical, mental, and social), so the main elements of the challenge turned out to be as follows:

1. Stretching once every hour. According to research, stretching relaxes your muscles, increases oxygen levels in the brain, gives you an opportunity to fix your posture, and encourages movement.

2. Eating fruits and veggies once a day. We wanted our team to substitute unhealthy snacks with a better option for their bodies.

3. Play at work. A fun, team-based activity, once a week for 10 minutes. Studies show that laughing and developing social connections relaxes your brain, improves creativity, reduces stress, and strengthens team productivity.

4. Meditation once a week for 10 minutes. According to Michael Mamas , a leader in personal development, meditation relaxes the brain, improves mental health, reduces stress, and even improves your immune system!

All activities had to be done during working hours in order to get team points, but, we also encouraged our staff to continue these activities outside the office.

160hr later we’re feeling slightly healthier.

We asked our team to weigh in on what they liked most about the Wellness Challenge. Here’s what they had to say:

  • “It allows you to try different health related initiatives.”- Ivana, Marketing. This type of activity offers many different options for exploring healthy habits.

  • The challenge creates a venue for brainstorming ways we can improve, start, and/or develop a healthy lifestyle- even at work.

  • Being part of a team is a major motivator. Group motivation is key for a lot of people when it comes to being persistent in performing healthy activities.

  • “ Meditation is something I‘d been wanting to do for a while, but until we did the first Wellness Challenge, I never managed to start practicing.”- Adrien, Developer. A wellness challenge can be the push your team members needed to kick off a healthier lifestyle.

  • “Some of the Wellness Challenge activities were great for calming the mind. I feel like most of our team members would never tried them otherwise, so it was a great opportunity.”— Ezequiel, Developer. We’re all different, with different preferences and needs. If by the end of the challenge you know what works for you individually, you’ll be more likely to continue with your new health regime!

Yet, not everything was a bed of roses.

We realized there are a few things we can probably improve on as we begin planning for the next edition of our Wellness Challenge:

  • Make sure the activities you’re encouraging employees to participate in don’t distract your team negatively from their priorities. Adapt the challenges to your team’s dynamic and job descriptions. The last thing you want to do is create more stress.

  • Explain, teach, and share your research. This was the most important lesson for us. Make sure that before starting the challenge, you explain to the team how each activity and habit will benefit their health. Make sure to mention these are habits you will continue to encourage in the workplace moving forward- even after the challenge is over. The more your team is aware of why the activities will improve their health, the more motivated they’ll be to participate, the better their performance will be, and the more likely they’ll be to keep their new habits as part of their routine — which is the end goal!

Time is money, and the Wellness Challenge is a worthwhile investment.

This initiative required a lot planning and dedication of various resources. We needed to allocate a budget for the winning prize, and assign team members to organize and develop the bot and the activities. So, why do we keep investing in this challenge?

  • We clearly saw how it resulted in a healthier team and a healthier work environment. We know 30 days of focusing on wellness won’t have a permanent or significant affect on everyone’s health. However, the Wellness Challenge has certainly proven to be a step in the right direction. Today, we drink more water, bring fruit to the office more often, are more aware of our posture, and use humour as a stress reliever. Now, you see people walking and stretching around the office.

  • Team spirit. We connected even further as a team. We base our work on teamwork and collaboration, and the competition and team elements of the challenge enhance these values. After the first edition of the challenge, the team wanted to do another one and now we are ready for our third attempt!

  • Team engagement The Wellness Challenge is fundamentally based on feedback, encouragement, and acknowledgement of team and individual efforts. These are key aspects of developing team engagement. By addressing areas such as the team’s health and wellbeing, we’ve noticed that our employees have a new level of commitment to Osedea. For a full month, the challenges add a dash of excitement to each workday, giving our employees yet another reason to feel good about showing up to work. We continuously invest in our people, and the Wellness Challenge is a perfect example of how this approach pays off in the form of increased team engagement.

“In general, I think wellness initiatives are awesome and should definitely be encouraged. I certainly think any organization can implement a wellness initiative of some kind.” — Nate, Developer

Ana Collantes