7 Ideas to Keep Employees Active During the Holiday Season

As the holidays approach, your people are starting to wind down, mentally check out, exercise less, go home early, and take shortcuts to get their work done because all they want to do is compare Yelp reviews for the 20 different restaurants people are saying “you gotta go there!” during their holiday vacation. It’s nearly impossible to prevent this drop-off in workplace productivity when people are so close to a much needed break.

But is it impossible to incorporate a few extra opportunities to keep your people active and healthy during this time, so you know that when the New Year hits, you’ll have a workforce that’s looking good, feeling good, and ready to shine?

You can even do this in such a clever way that it creates some extra buzz around the office, helps cultivate new peer-to-peer relationships, and maybe even gets people to put a little extra “oomph” into their final project. Oh and of course, these will help stir up New Years resolution thoughts around what your people will do to stick with their exercise or diet plans for longer than the first week of January.

Here are 7 fun ways to promote healthy employee activity this holiday season that your employees will love. And no, unfortunately, one of them is not “The 12 Ounce Curl Party.”

The Office Squat Challenge

Here’s an easy one you can get employees to do without ever leaving their desk.

Here’s what to do:

  • Create a shared spreadsheet and make each column a new day (track M-F, through 12/31)
  • Throughout the day, employees will enter their total squat count next to their name for that day
  • Use your internal messaging software (i.e. Slack) to remind employees to get up and squat throughout the day
  • At the end of the challenge, the people with the highest squat count win!

You should probably come up with some sort of prize for the winner(s) to create some fiery competition. We always think competing for a charitable prize is a good idea 😉 You can also do a DPS (donation-per-squat) incentive, such as $0.10 per squat, to motivate everyone to keep going throughout the entire challenge.

The “Lunch-Time” Walking Challenge

Another easy one to set up that incorporates opportunity for new connections and relationships to develop.

Here’s what to do:

  • Create a shared spreadsheet and make each column a new day (track M-F, through 12/31)
  • Throughout the day, employees will enter their total walking distance next to their name for that day
  • Encourage employees to get their miles in at lunch while connecting with their colleagues
  • Use your internal messaging software (i.e. Slack) to remind employees to get up and walk throughout the day
  • How to Track:
    • Everyone has a smartphone. Tell people to track their distance with Apple Health, Samsung Health, Google Fit, or another one of their favorite trackers (e.g. Garmin, fitbit, MapMyWalk, Strava)
    • Have them copy over their distance into your spreadsheet
  • Prize Ideas:
    • Free fitbit or other device for the winning employee
    • Charitable prizes (again, we think this is powerful). Similar to above, you can offer a DPM (Donation-Per-Mile) incentive!

The Stair Master Challenge

Another in-office challenge? What? Yeah, it really can be that easy to get employees to get up and moving. In this one, repeat the above steps except you’ll have your employees track the number of flights of stairs they climb during the day.

The prize ideas remain the same. If you’re crazy generous, you could literally offer a StairMaster for the winner…but don’t forget to think about a DPF (Donation-Per-Flight) incentive too!

Reimbursable Fitness Passes

Maybe a bit more expensive, but if you’re looking for ways to use that little bit of extra budget at the end of the year, it’s a great option.

There’s a new fitness studio on every block today offering everything from yoga to cycling to crossfit classes. I bet you that employees would LOVE it if you told them you’d reimburse them if they took advantage of 1 drop in class per week through the end of the year.

Bonus points if they go with a group of colleagues.

Family Rock Climbing Outing

Do you have an indoor rock climbing gym nearby? You probably do, they’re all the hype right now. Rightfully so, though, because they bring a fun and unique atmosphere to a sport that isn’t so scary for those who are afraid of heights (*cough cough*, ME).

Rent out your local rock climbing gym for a couple hours and get employees together for an evening of fun upper body exercise.

Who knows, some of your employees might find their new addiction that they’ll want to continue in the new year.

The “Triathalon” Challenge

A little bit more involved, but this challenge is an incredible way to encourage employees to diversify their activities in a cool way. The premise is that employees will earn points for completing at least 1 running, swimming, and biking activity in a given week.

Here’s What to Do:

  • Create a shared spreadsheet and create a new column for each week through the end of the year. Within each week, create a Run, Bike, and Swim column.
  • Throughout the week, employees will enter the day they completed each of the activities
  • Employees will earn a point for each activity completed plus a bonus for completing all three different activities (i.e. the “Triathalon” bonus)
  • At the end of the challenge, the employee(s) with the highest point totals win (same prize ideas as above)!
  • How to Track:
    • Manual entries are accepted since not everyone owns a device, but if they do, it’s pretty easy to track any of these activities with devices like Garmin, Fitbit, or Apple Watch.

idea credit: Laura Taylor, Senior Product Marketing Specialist at NeuGen, a Shared Services organization based out of Madison, Wisconsin.

The “Touchdown” Challenge

Finally, the most involved, but most relevant idea we’ve come up with yet. It’s football season and for those NFL and/or College Football junkies in your office, a great opportunity to tie a fitness challenge to the sport they love.

Here’s what to do:

  • Have employees team up with 2-3 colleagues and choose a team to represent (made up names are allowed).
  • Come up with your own clever way for teams to score points. Here’s an easy example:
    • If all team members complete an exercise activity on the same day, it’s a Touchdown, worth 7 POINTS (we assume the kicker didn’t botch the extra point).
    • If some (any number) of team members completed an exercise activity on the same day, that’s a Field Goal, worth 3 POINTS.
    • If no-one completed an activity, that’s a turnover, worth -2 POINTS (sorry, but your running back needs to work on ball security..)

But how should I know what an “approved exercise activity” should look like? Good question. Here’s what we use as our standard:

  • 2 Miles Walking or Running
  • 5 Miles Biking
  • 500 Meters Swimming
  • 30 Minute Gym Workout

A team member who completes one of the above will count for the day.

Go for the two-point conversion!

If you have a tight competition and teams need opportunities to catch up or pull ahead, you can introduce some bonus point opportunities.

The best way to do that is to offer up bonus points for completing a higher level of activity in the day. Another idea is to grant bonus points for employees who report “verified” activities, which are activities that can be proven (a gym report, screenshot from the fitness tracking device, etc.)


If you’re located near a team, offer to buy the winning team tickets to a game of their choice!

DPT (Donation-Per-Touchdown) incentive for each team is encouraged, of course.

idea credit: Laura Taylor, Senior Product Marketing Specialist at NeuGen, a Shared Services organization based out of Madison, Wisconsin.

If you like and/or end up implementing one of these ideas, we’d love to know how it turns out! Send us a note at friends@kilterrewards.com.

I’m also going to host a couple FREE 45 Minute Webinars to talk through these ideas in more detail. If you’re interested in joining, click the links to sign up below at the date and time that works for you. I’ll spend a short 15-20 minutes giving an overview of these ideas and then open it up to questions to help you think through what could work for your group!

Friday, October 11 – 12:30-1:00 PM EST

Thursday, October 31 – 12:30-1:00 PM EST

No matter what you do, we think it’s critical you find some way to encourage employees to stay active and healthy this holiday season. It’s not just good for your employees. It’s good for business.

Article written by Seth Braddock, CEO and Founder at Kilter Rewards.

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