How can Employers Include Handicapped Employees in Wellness Challenges?

Starting an employee wellness challenge is a great way to improve the overall health of workers, encourage team bonding, and boost productivity. However, what happens to the employees that have a handicap? A wheelchair-bound, deaf, or blind worker should not have to miss out on improving their wellness, bonding with their coworkers, or feeling the effects of an increase in productivity. 


So, how can employers include handicapped employees in wellness challenges? Including handicapped employees in workplace wellness challenges start with the understanding that wellness is not strictly physical. Employers must then develop programs and challenges that are inclusive and possible for all workers. 


Developing a wellness challenge for the workplace is an extensive project. Creating one that includes people of all capabilities requires just a bit of extra thought. It is a necessary step to be able to have a fully inclusive workplace. To be fully inclusive means to consider the limitations of all employees. 

Wellness Challenges for All

Building a wellness challenge that allows for handicapped participation is not as difficult as it might seem. This is because wellness is not only related to an individual’s physical health. Wellness includes the health of body and mind, which can extend to a number of topics and challenges. This might mean having less strict physical fitness challenges and more nutrition, financial, and stress relief challenges. 

Inclusive Physical Fitness Challenges

A physical fitness challenge does not have to leave handicapped individuals out. There are a number of physical fitness activities that people of all types can participate in. The key to an inclusive physical fitness challenge is to consider the abilities of everyone.


While a 30-day running challenge or a group marathon might make for a great wellness activity for non-handicapped workers, it isolates those that are unable to participate. In place of these challenges, a company might look into other options. A wheelchair-bound employee cannot run, but he or she can still burn calories. 


A challenge that encourages employees to burn an extra 300 calories a day is one that all people can engage in. A company can ensure more teamwork by setting a team goal for the week. For example, use departments as teams and attempt to burn a collective million calories over a specified period of time. This creates a sense of teamwork and simultaneously encourages participation with a certain level of competition. Offering the winning department a prize is a great way to get all employees involved. 


Another great physical challenge for all employees is to simply encourage movement throughout the workday. Staying stationary at a desk all day is a productivity killer for both mobile and handicapped employees. Challenge workers to get active during their lunch break, do a lap or two around the office every other hour, or go for a swim as a group before the workday begins. 


Developing physical fitness challenges that allow complete participation is not any more complicated than developing those for non-handicapped individuals. It simply requires some consideration for the capabilities of everyone on the team. Ensuring that all handicapped individuals have access to the challenge and wellness program is equally important. This means providing the deaf or blind with the necessary materials to be aware of and included in the challenges and programs available to them. 

Nutrition Challenges

Developing a company-wide nutrition challenge is a great way to make sure that all individuals can participate. There isn’t a disability or handicap that prevents anyone from eating better. The question that arises is: How does a nutrition challenge work? 


There are so many options for nutrition challenges in the workplace. It can be as simple as a no soda or fast food challenge or even something more involved. Inviting a dietician to speak to all employees and coordinating a way for them to learn how to cook several healthy meals is a great way to introduce a nutrition challenge. 


A great challenge to introduce to your workplace is a photo challenge. Have employees take a picture of their meal every evening and share it with their coworkers. By having photographic evidence along with the recipe used to make the meal, employees can be held accountable for what they eat and share delicious, healthy meal ideas with others. By setting a time period for the challenge, such as 30 days, employees can interact with one another in a different way than they might be used to and eat better in the process. 


Another great nutrition challenge might include getting a few medical tests done as a starting point. Good things to check might be cholesterol or vitamin levels. Once the baseline has been established, encourage a more nutritious diet. After the challenge has ended, check cholesterol or vitamin levels once more and calculate the change. Employees might be surprised at how much their diet can change their health. 


With a nutrition challenge, how do you keep employees honest? There is the chance that employees will fudge what they actually ate when their co-workers are not around, but while those employees might be awarded prizes, they will not experience the full effects of completing the challenge. In the end, this is the real prize of a workplace wellness challenge. 

Stress Relief Challenges

Office environments can be a breeding ground for stress. What better what to combat the negative side effects of a stressful environment than to start a stress relief challenge? People with all kinds of disabilities or those without a handicap can find benefits to stress relief. Understanding the effects of stress is a good starting point for a stress relief-based challenge. 


Stress has a number of effects on an individual’s health. In fact, there are more health problems related to stress than most people think. Heart disease, obesity, depression, and even Alzheimer’s can be caused by high levels of stress. By reducing stress in the workplace, employees have the ability to live longer lives, have a higher quality of life, and work longer. The productivity levels are great for companies, but the overall effects of lessened stress can benefit employees outside of their work lives.


What kind of stress relief challenge is possible in the workplace? Perusing Pinterest will provide many individuals with a variety of ideas and challenges for self-care. While the self-care concept is a great way to reduce stress, many of these challenges are not conducive to a work environment. Having a way to measure the success of each individual’s challenge or how much change they have experienced is a crucial aspect of a workplace wellness challenge.


Reducing stress- or even managing it – is a challenge that an employer can support in a number of forms. For a stress-relief or management challenge in the workplace, it is imperative that employees are able to track their own stress levels. This might be possible with an app, Google document, or even old fashioned pen and paper. While they might consent to the monitoring of a physical response to stress like their pulse, there are a variety of ways that stress makes itself known that only the individual will feel. 


A great stress-relieving challenge is to invite employees to take part in meditation courses. By bringing in a meditation professional that is capable of teaching the skill to employees, they can then put those newly learned skills to work. An employer might ask its employees to meditate three times a day and that they make note of their mental state before and after a short meditation session. An app might even have the ability to time meditation sessions and keep track of the notes. 


By awarding participants as they achieve goals – three meditation sessions per day for a week, successful in reducing stress throughout the workday, etc. – companies can inspire employees to keep up with the challenge and discover its merits along the way. Since all people get stressed at times, this challenge is one that everyone can participate in. 


If meditation is not a route that you or the company would like to take, you might look into a similar challenge that utilizes other stress-management tools. Every employee might use a different method, but the important thing is that they find what works for them. Instead of meditation, an employee might take a 10-minute break a couple of times a day to listen to calming music. Another worker might find stress relief in experiencing some sunlight across the street from the office for a few minutes. By encouraging stress-relief and monitoring it, employees will see the benefits of taking part in the challenge. 


While there is no sense of competition in a stress-relief challenge, it is a good way to see the effects on each individual. They might find themselves doing better work in addition to feeling better physically. A stress-relief challenge is one that can be done by all people – and most will feel the effects when they make the effort to unwind. 

Other Challenges

While an individual in a wheelchair is unable to run in a 5k marathon, they can still roll. There are a variety of events that allow all kinds of people – disabled and not – to participate in their marathons. A popular one is called Run, Walk, Roll and allows anyone to do the course in their own way. In fact, a manual wheelchair that is self-propelled at 3 mph for 30 minutes burns 250 caloriesOpens in a new tab.. An individual walking at the same rate burns nearly half of that. 


This fact allows us to grasp the fact that disabled people are not necessarily living a sedentary lifestyle. Even though some employees will run, some will walk, and some will roll, they are all participating in moving. Training for a 5k as a team can do great things for teamwork within the office. A wheelchair-bound IT professional might find that they enjoy the pace set by a jogger in the finance department. Training together allows them to get to know one another and make the communication between the two departments smoother than it might have been in the past.


Another challenge that all people can partake in is for financial wellbeing. A lot of people do not consider the effects of one’s financial wellbeing on the rest of their lives. However, financial strain makes a huge impact on stress, work, and physical health. If you find yourself behind on bills, you might be stressing about keeping the lights on. That stress affects your work performance and your physical health. You might even get a second job to help pay overdue bills, but are running yourself ragged.


Learning how to manage your money is a great skill to have. Some great financial challenges that an employer can start might be a no-spend month, saving a specified amount of money, or completing a financial literacy course.  Doing these kinds of challenges show employees that spending money on unimportant or material items is not as imperative as they once thought. 


Introducing a no-spend month can be a challenge for everyone to take part in. It is a challenge that will require a lot of preparation from both the employer and the employees. Imagine not spending a dime on anything except for bills for an entire month. No coffee from the shop on the corner, no eating dinner out with friends, and no grocery shopping. While skipping out on grocery shopping for an entire month seems impossible, with the proper preparation and meal planning it is very do-able. Educating employees in the best way to do these kinds of things is a great way to teach them how to spend less frivolously. 

Continuing Inclusivity in Workplace Wellness

As you can see, including everyone in workplace wellness is not as hard as you might have imagined at first. There is no reason to leave anyone out or to develop a special program for one or two individuals. Doing so would likely make the disabled employee feel isolated and will cost more than the company had initially planned on spending on the wellness program. By simply developing all-inclusive challenges for employees, these problems can be avoided. 


When developing your workplace wellness challenge you should create a team to head things. The team should be made up of diverse people with a range of experience and interest in wellness. With a diverse board chosen to develop the wellness challenge, you are sure to get a variety of ideas to include all workers in the company. Diversity is crucial to the creation of a quality and inclusive program. 


Check out other Topics:

CoworkingOpens in a new tab.TechnologyOpens in a new tab.StressWellnessSustainabilityWorkplace ProductivityEmployee ExperienceHot Desking

Related Questions

How much do companies spend on wellness programs and challenges? The cost of a corporate wellness program varies based on the quality of the program and the options that are included. The cost can range from $150 to $1200 annually per employee, but averages around $750. (Read our review of 30 Corporate Wellness providersOpens in a new tab.)


Do all employers offer wellness programs? Although it can be difficult to measure, surveys indicate that 69% of employers that have more than 50 workers offer wellness programs. It is believed that this number will be on the rise in the years to come.


What is the most common workplace wellness challenge? One of the most common and popular workplace wellness challenges that companies have is a weight loss challenge. This is a popular option because it is easy to measure and has visible results.


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