What Is The Global Challenge?

The worldwide pedometer program rewards wellness in the workplace

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From offering discounts on gym memberships to hosting in-office meditation sessions, employers are beginning to understand the value of implementing wellness programs in the workplace—and the results can be significant. A 2013 study found that offering these kinds of programs boost healthy behaviors like exercise, reduce negative habits like smoking, and reduce company healthcare costs overall.

To streamline the planning for employers, The Global Challenge (TGC)—previously called the Global Corporate Challenge—has created a fun, engaging way to incorporate wellness into the workplace. The annual virtual race around the world encourages participants to walk 10,000 steps every day over the course of 100 days. There's a competitive angle, with teams seeing how they rank via a leaderboard, but the overarching goal is to build healthy fitness habits and motivate people to move.

Formed in 2003, the Global Corporate Challenge joined forces with Virgin Pulse and Shape Up in 2016 to form TGC and reach a broader audience and offer more advanced fitness technology. Since its inception, the wellness initiative has spanned more than 5 million participants across 25 languages and 185 countries, counting global clients like Swarovski and Siemens.

How The Global Challenge Works

TGC provides employers with all of the tools, including an account manager, registration website, promotional materials, real-time reports, and post-event statistics. If you want to implement TGC in your office, here's what you need to know:

  • Teams: Employees form teams of seven, which solidifies accountability, a support system to keep each other motivated, and a team bonding experience.
  • Cost: The total depends on the number of teams or employees registered. A 2013 estimate for a company with 10 teams in the U.S. cost $99 per participant or $693 per team. Most companies cover it as an employee wellness program instead of passing the cost onto participants. You can request a quote on their website.
  • Gear: Each participant gets a Pulse pedometer (and a spare). They can be worn anywhere on the body, in a pocket, pack, or purse. Syncing your smartphone to your pedometer will automatically upload your steps for each day. If you're getting in your fitness a different way, there are ways to track steps for activities like basketball or yoga.
  • Rewards and perks: During the program, participants get trophies, certificates, and personal coaching advice, as well as weekly prize giveaways and fun weekly emails. Even after the challenge, you'll get 12-month access to TGC website and app to continue logging steps after the 100 days. Employees can continue to get nutritional assessment and advice, participate in individual challenges, and create routes with an online mapping tool.

A Global Challenge Success Story

Software company Sage North America began implementing TGC in 2012. We spoke with Steve Reid, a captain for the winning team and Stephen Brantley, their former benefits analyst who managed Sage's walking challenge.

Why a Global Walking Challenge Worked

Brantley needed a quick initiative they could host over the summer that would fill a void in their wellness offerings. The length of the program seemed just right, enough to engage the employees through the summer. "From the get-go, it looked different from other corporate wellness efforts," he said. They liked the turnkey aspect of the program, with healthy motivation built-in.

Sage began with 50 teams, but when the registrations "sold out" in 24 hours, they added 30 more teams. With their second walking challenge in 2013, interest grew tremendously.

Handling Competition

While TGC's leaderboard presents a dose of competition, the program is committed to building confidence in employees of every fitness level. Brantley agreed. "Our philosophy is to meet you where you are," he said. "This program is 100 days of attempting 10,000 steps per day. It's not our position to force them to do it, but to promote the team environment." Sage also offers a wide variety of wellness opportunities for those who don't form a team.

Positive Health Benefits

Team captain Reid lost 20 pounds in 16 weeks (the length of the program in 2012). He said the program was fun from the beginning, with forming teams and coming up with fun names, like Holy Walkamole or the Red Hot Chili Steppers. Once the program got going, he saw an increase in the number of employees who walked at lunchtime and kept up the habit even after TGC ended.

Higher Engagement in the Workplace

During the weeks of the challenge, Reid and Brantley noted there was a lot of camaraderie within and across teams. TGC became an everyday water cooler discussion. Team members would wait until the end of the day to enter their steps to keep them secret. Inspecting the weekly leaderboard was an event itself, with team members refreshing the website to be the first to see the results.

"Anything that can drive participation is a win for us," Brantley said. "We've seen an uptick in participation in our wellness programs since doing the Global Corporate Challenge."

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