The SickKids Foundation, a Toronto-based charity, is encouraging its employees to skip the elevator and use the stairs, beginning with a wellness challenge piloting the Carrot Rewards’ mobile app.

Earlier this year, the organization opened new meeting space on the eighth floor of its office location. Previously, the foundation had only been on the 12th, 13th and 14th floors. For the first time, the organization allowed employees to use the stairwell. “Believe it or not, before that, no one was able to use the stairwell to go up and down, even between the floors,” says Mark Jordan, director of digital projects at SickKids Foundation.

Read: Carrot Rewards adds peer-to-peer platform to wellness app

The change prompted the organization to introduce a new wellness program related to the Carrot Rewards app, which connects to the pedometer in people’s smartphones or to an external device like a Fitbit. The foundation had already worked with Carrot Rewards in a number of different ways, including through its annual five-kilometre walk-and-run event in Toronto.

“We announced it at an all-staff town hall meeting,” says Jordan. “The rallying cry was, ‘Walk the Stairs.’ There’s a stat we found where walking the stairs reduces your risk of heart attack by something like 50 per cent over five years.”

Among SickKids Foundation’s 220 employees, 70 participated in the challenge. In the first week, they walked 2,500 kilometres, with the distance almost quadrupling by the fourth week. The organization offered weekly challenges as well, with random draws awarding gift certificates and small prizes to participants.

“Interestingly, the culture of just walking the stairs has continued since,” says Jordan. “It really created this behaviour that now people, when they’re standing at the elevator on the 8th floor, they think, ‘Maybe I should be taking the stairs.’ Doing that for the month of February got people engaged beyond that.”

Read: Why employers should promote workplace walking

The wellness challenge is part of the organization’s wider health and wellness programs, which it rolls out throughout the year. “This was just a way to do something a little bit different, change it up . . .. The interesting thing will be to see how long the behaviour continues,” says Jordan. “I keep bumping into people in the stairwell. There are little informal conversations, almost meetings, on the stairs, which is kind of funny.”

Based on the results so far, Jordan says it may look to make the walking challenge an ongoing activity by tying it into other events throughout the year. “We have this walk coming up again in September, and it might be an interesting way to engage staff,” he says. “We are 220 people at the foundation, but across the street, our hospital partners are about 10,000 people.

“So there’s a huge opportunity to take our learnings and potentially expand it out to an even bigger employee base and use it to engage them in that walk. Certainly, we’re thinking about other ways we can use it internally or tie it into other programs.”

Read: Employer encourages workplace walking with Fitbits for all staff

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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