It’s been a long and trying two years. As we round out 2021 and look with hope towards 2022 – I’m eager to share some insights and optimism from the Walker Tracker team!
In March of 2020 we shut down Walker Tracker’s physical office in Portland, OR, and began working 100% remotely. We weren’t new to the idea – for the previous 10 years we had a hybrid model – a couple days in office and a couple days at home (if employees preferred). So, we set out on our new remote mission with fierce goals in our minds and freedom in our hearts.
Enter: Long Term Pandemic Issues
Here’s what we’re facing as a remote team and what we’re hearing from our customers:
Mental health support is crucial. 1 out of 3 workers in the U.S. reports that their work performance has been negatively affected by their personal mental health according to the 2021-2022 Aflac Workforce Report.
Video call burnout is a real thing. Staring at a screen all day is exhausting. We’re exposing our home life in a new and vulnerable way (and 48% of people are more concerned about how they look than what they will talk about on the call according to a Highfive study).
Physical activity is in decline. Employees report being 5 times less active when working from home.
“I miss my bike commute! I used to ride my bike 40 minutes a day just getting to and from work.”
Motivation can be hard to muster. We’ve been in this pandemic for a while. We’re tired, it’s monotonous, we miss the “Old” Normal.
Uncertainty is paralyzing. Our brains are pattern masters and routine creators. We save energy (the brain uses 20% of the body’s energy) by turning these routines into activities done on autopilot, saving our brain power for survival (running from a lion, or a surprise meeting with your boss). Right now we have little reliable information regarding what the future holds and that threat of uncertainty makes us less capable. Simply put, “the human brain simply was not built for this” (Harvard Business Review).
Loneliness has set in. We weren’t meant to work and live in isolation from one another. Between social distancing, mask wearing, and quarantine stints – we’re now seeing the effects as a loneliness epidemic sets in.
“I miss small talk and feeling connected to my coworkers though those little interactions!”
So, what did we do?
We ran a Walker Tracker challenge, of course! As Ben (CTO, Founder of Walker Tracker) and I set off to build a virtual map and design the challenge we had three goals in mind:
1. Motivate the team
2. Connect everyone in one space (that isn’t Slack, email, or Zoom)
3. Have fun
Inclusion is our first core value, so we allowed manual entry as well as activity conversions. This means more people can participate – if they can’t walk or prefer other activities.
We also opened the challenge up to +1’s: friends, family, and partners to encourage participation. Having someone participate with you who is outside your work environment improves accountability.
Incentives along the way
This is where it starts to get fun. Rewarding and motiving the Walker Tracker Challenge participants along the way took creativity and the use of many of our platform features.
We had weekly challenges, pop-up challenges, and hidden challenges (think: scavenger hunts). Gift card incentives and big time recognition went out to participants for various goals.
Team Feedback and Takeaways:
Challenges provide motivation for a remote workforce. “An internal challenge gives me that extra push to focus on my daily movement habits. It reminds me I need to get out and be active and makes me much more aware of my steps. In turn driving up my activity by over 3,000+ steps per day than prior.”
A little competition can be very healthy. “The internal challenge has brought out my competitive side, which I haven’t really engaged with in a while! It drives me to push myself!”
The event inspired other positive behaviors. “It made me think ahead to schedule getting a walk into my day. It also inspired me to clean up my podcast and audio book apps.”
It connected our employees. “Since I was hired post-covid and haven’t gotten the chance to connect with coworkers through the daily small talk that comes with working together in an office, it has been really fun to get a glimpse what everyone is up to, photos of family and pets, silly jokes – those personal get-to-know-you interactions that would normally happen each day in an office, but that we can feel a bit removed from behind screens!”
Productivity went up. “I didn’t realize how much I was missing out on by not taking regular breaks to move. This challenge has taught me that prioritizing exercise throughout the day actually makes me much more productive when I’m working.”