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Supporting employee health through wellness challenges.

Read Time: 5 Mins

It goes without saying that these last 18 months have been rough on everyone in many different ways. For those of us who work in an office, the pandemic has forced us all to take a hard look at how we work—and more specifically, how we strive to keep work and home life separate (even as our desks remain in our kitchen or bedrooms). At Iron Horse, the health of our employees is a top priority. The work challenges brought on by the pandemic have pushed us to find more explicit ways to support the mental and physical well-being of our team members. Focusing on wellness has not only allowed all of us to remember to step back from work to take care of ourselves and develop healthy habits, but has created unity and opportunities to connect for our employees. Here are some highlights from our wellness program this year.

Pumping Iron Fitness Challenge.

For our first Iron Horse fitness challenge, we went with a tried and true classic—a step challenge. Little did we know at the start how intense this competition would get!

The fine print.

Pumping Iron was a 30-day step challenge meant to incentivize our team members to get outside and move every day. All participants tracked their steps through a fitness app connected to their fitness watch or phone to sync incremental steps throughout the day. To sweeten this competition and incentivize participants, everyone who signed up for the challenge received a wellness box, along with the allure of a grand prize if they finished among the top three steppers.



The challenge.

Once apps were downloaded, and wellness boxes received, participants were off to the races! Halfway through the challenge, we took a moment to ask our top three steppers a series of questions to find out where they got the pep in their steps.

For Terran, becoming a first-time dad was his motivation. He commented, “The most challenging part is the first 20 minutes of a workout. I feel bored or tired, but once I hit 20 minutes, I think to myself, ‘I can go to 30,’ and when I hit that, I say 40, and so on.” All of Terran’s minutes spent walking garnered him points both on and off the leaderboard. He added, “since introducing a lot more cardio into my life, I’ve noticed I have more energy, a more positive attitude, I snack less, and I’ve lost several pounds on top of it all. It takes three weeks to build a new habit, and I’m using this challenge as my way of building a daily cardio habit.”

Terran’s new habits also affected the practices of other Iron Horse employees. Steven said the most challenging part of “Pumping Iron” was unequivocally “Terran Benedict.” Luckily, Steven didn’t shy away from the challenge, saying, “I aim for 7,000 steps a day and find that I want to do more once I get there.” As a result, he found he was “sleeping better and maybe even losing some weight.”

Darren is another participant who felt the push from Terran. He claims that his motivation was “beating Terran like the Warriors do the Blazers in the playoffs.” This healthy dose of competition is what Darren needed to “get over the hump” of being sedentary during the pandemic and “start getting active again with rec sports currently not happening.”



The results.

Once our 30 days were up, it was time to crown the winners of our step competition.

To nab third place, Darren completed a total of 314,462 steps, equivalent to approximately 157 miles. Looking at a map starting from Iron Horse headquarters in San Ramon, California, this distance would have put Darren in Fresno! Darren earned a Target gift card for his hard work and many late-night walks around his neighborhood.

Coming in second place was Ezra, with 340,378 steps. That converts to roughly 170 miles––the same distance from Iron Horse to Lake Tahoe. Although everyone at Iron Horse suspects Ezra attached his phone to his dog to track extra steps, he still earned a FitBit for a job well done.

Last but certainly not least, Iron Horse’s top stepper was Terran! Terran blew away the competition and accumulated 358,551 steps over 30 days. That means that Terran walked about 180 miles, which would place Terran in Yosemite National Park, earning him our top prize of a Sonos speaker.


The Iron Horse Wellness Project.

Our second challenge occurred during Mental Health Awareness month, so we focused on our team’s emotional wellbeing with wellness and self-care at the center of each activity.

The fine print.

The Iron Horse Wellness Project was a 30-day challenge meant to institute healthy, mindful activities. Twice a week, one-off challenges were posted on our fitness tracking app, along with additional resources and studies that demonstrated the benefit of these activities.

These challenges included:

  • Staying off social media for the entire day
  • Organizing your workspace
  • Meditating for 10 minutes
  • Taking a yoga class
  • Doing an act of kindness for someone else

Daily, recurring challenges were also posed, which encouraged habit-forming activities, including:

  • Drinking 8 cups of water
  • Walking 5,000 steps
  • Journaling about what you are grateful for

Participants were able to mark off in the same fitness app when they completed a task and earned points for doing so. At the end of the month, we tallied up the points and awarded prizes through a raffle.

The challenge.

To increase engagement throughout the month, we utilized a Wellness Slack Channel to post about progress during the challenge. Every Tuesday and Thursday, when one-off challenges were published, participants were encouraged to post photos for extra points towards the raffle. These pictures created a fantastic sharing opportunity for our employees to glimpse into their coworkers’ lives and helped foster connectedness in our dispersed workforce.

Here are a couple of things we learned through our Wellness Slack Channel:

  • We’re full of readers. The challenge to read for 30 minutes drove the team to share what they were currently reading. Here are a few of their recommendations: Limitless by Jim Kwik, How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, A to Z by Kevin Garnett, Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, You are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen, Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell and Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney.
  • The team’s culinary skills vary drastically. While the task of trying a new restaurant or recipe spurred some to try their hand at a gourmet meal (looking at you, Aubrie), it encouraged others to try that $14 breakfast scramble from a local cafe they’d been eyeing.
  • We all strive to have a green thumb. For participating, everyone received a hand-potted succulent lovingly shipped by our intern-extraordinaire, Corinne. Some have tended to their little succulent with a tender hand, while others have let theirs wither away almost immediately.



The results.

Our three raffle winners won prizes related to wellness after our month’s activity. We gave out a relaxation gift basket, a grocery store gift card, and a weighted blanket to the lucky winners. More importantly, we hope we encouraged our workforce to continue healthy habits throughout the year.



Wellness helps to foster support, connectedness, and healthy habits for our employees throughout the year. We’re excited to keep offering wellness challenges quarterly. An added bonus – our team loves doing them! In the words of one team member the day our step challenge ended, “Let’s start the next competition on Monday!”

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