Why Every Pharmacy Should Have a Step Challenge

AUGUST 02, 2018
Who knew that something we do on a daily basis could be put to use to increase productivity, strengthen camaraderie among colleagues, and motivate an even sharper focus on serving our patients. Sounds like a win-win-win, and it is!

I recently participated in a 'just for fun' 5-day workweek step challenge, and I started to notice some unintended side effects (the positive perk kind, like getting free samples from going to Costco or experiencing weight loss from Victoza®). I saw the positive effects they were having on the pharmacy techs (and myself) that benefited patients, and the pharmacy in virtually every category imaginable, so I decided to host my own with some followers and friends from Instagram (you can find me ). 

Tracking our steps and creating an accountability group with a layer of support through the challenge created a level of positive impact that was noticeable before the first day of the challenge even ended. Literally, this simple solution can improve nearly everything in your pharmacy—and no, I’m not selling anything here!
 
Let’s start with a thought you may have had on the busiest of days from working in ClubPharmacy:  Man, I’ve been running around like a madman—I bet I’ve walked 5 miles!
 
You’re already getting in a good amount of steps just from work alone—why not use what you already are doing to foster an environment of support and drive with no extra effort required on your part? You already walk—why not track the steps from your action? You don’t just go through life not knowing how much money is in your bank account, what you have left to pay on your credit card, or how many days are left until vacation, right? It comes down to one simple concept: What gets measured, gets managed.

You look like the hero, everyone feels empowered, and along the way you become Did I mention that you can host this challenge for free? So let’s get to the specifics. Here’s what I noticed from hosting a step challenge in my pharmacy:

Everyone wanted to increase their pace so that they could get to the next task, which would allow them to get more steps; tasks like:
  • Walking customers to products in the aisle with more intent;
  • Consistent offers to restock pharmacy supplies (paper, labels, vials etc);
  • Emptying the trash and taking it to the back didn’t even need to be asked;
  • Stock bottles NEVER piling up at production: everyone returning them; 
  • Pulling stock bottles to fulfill prescription orders was a “golden ticket” act to really log those steps (everyone wanted that job!);
  • Rushing to any patient who asked for help so that YOU can be the one to walk them to the appropriate product, earning you more steps.
Do all of these things sound like they would benefit your pharmacy workflow, customer service, and level of accountability and productivity? The observed acts listed above directly translate to your pharmacy service, make no mistake about it! Here is what you can expect from implementing a step challenge in your pharmacy:
 
1.   Increased productivity
2.   Increased customer service
3.   Colleagues striving for self-improvement
4.   Accountability group for your co-workers
5.   Health benefits for your entire staff from increased activity 
6.   Support system and camaraderie to keep everyone engaged
7.   Creating a healthy habit that can lead to other healthy habits
8.   Increased levels of communication and collaboration
9.   Increased engagement in the workplace
10. Stress relief from all of the above benefits
 
Here is how to implement a step challenge in your pharmacy to step up your pharmacy game to the next level using 5 Factors for Focus:
 
1.    Set the stage.
Before you get this challenge started, you will find much more success if you first have buy-in from the participants. If you can explain how it will benefit them, and make it something fun rather than just another ‘thing on the to-do list’,  it’s game on: the competitive drive will come out, and provided that there is inclusion of all challenge members, it will build positive momentum from there. 

It’s not just an accountability group: it’s a safe place to push yourself to be better, to walk more steps that you walked yesterday, and encourage each other to do the same. Granted, some members may need a little more coaxing than others to really “get into it”, but if you have just 1 or 2 individuals from the beginning who are fully engaged and include everyone in on the excitement, it’ll spread like wildfire. That’s why this first step is so essential before your feet even hit the ground.
 

2.    Equip your staff.
I think it’s safe to say nearly everyone has a smartphone that tracks their steps- free tracking right there! Some may even have a FitBit®, or be interested in getting a specific tracking device to even further drive engagement. Technology with these has come a long way, and not only has the accuracy improved dramatically, but the features and capabilities are pretty phenomenal.

Personally, I myself fell in love with the –not only is it super sleek, but it automatically tracks my step count, distance, calories burned and active minutes with up to 7 days of battery life, displays my continuous heart rate, AND my favorite feature overall: it automatically tracks my sleeping patterns in light, deep, and REM sleep. What gets measured gets managed, and I love my pillow. I bought one 2 years ago, and still wear it to this day!

Creating your actual step challenge group can be set up with 2 taps on your screen from the FitBit® app on your smartphone. If your team doesn’t have a FitBit®, you can setup a challenge through other apps such as ; there is also or , although these 2 are not free options.
 

3.    State your goals and Intentions.
   You get what you focus on, so be sure to set clear expectations of a reasonable and realistic goal-this applies to each individual AND for the group! For the individual, it mostly will depend on where they are starting from (ie are they sedentary or highly active) and what their goals are with respect to their health and fitness. For most people, striving to get an average of 10,000 steps per day is both realistic and gives just enough of a push that they need to make an active effort to get more steps in their day, be it through walking or simple tricks like parking their car farther away.
   
   As a collective group, you can set an overall goal for the duration of the challenge. Be sure that the set goal is attainable, but will require some effort. 10,000 steps per day is an excellent goal that fits this category for most people. Always be mindful of any health conditions or limitations that people may have- please, common sense* applies when it comes to any physical activity!
*Always seek the guidance of a personal trainer for proper form and execution before performing any physical activity. Clearance from your physician to engage in any exercise routine is a must, especially if taking any medication or you have been diagnosed with any health condition. Safety always comes first!
 

4.    Consider incentives.
While hosting a step challenge can be completely free and still effective, offering some sort of incentive or prize for most steps can really ignite the competitive drive in people! When considering this option, be mindful of any policy/procedure your pharmacy or workplace may have regarding this as some are very specific on this topic. 

With that being said, be sure to offer something creative and that people will actually want.  You can also opt for a prize for reaching the group goal (again leveraging accountability and team work) by offering to bring in lunch for everyone or have a catered meal-or, take your staff out for dinner one night! This is a great idea even if you don’t have a challenge.
 

5.    Celebrate the wins.
In the apps that you and your team will be using for the step challenge (like FitBit® or Stridekick), there is a message board for you to communicate with your teammates. You can start off each day sharing a motivational quote, inspiring message, or photo of a walk you took to push others to do the same. A really nice feature in the FitBit® app is that once someone reaches their personal goal or steps ahead to first place, it’s displayed in the message board, and you can “cheer” the comment, just as you can “Like” a comment or status on Facebook®. Engagement with each other, cheering your victories, and sharing words of encouragement are effective methods you can use to keep the challenge going strong, from day 1 all the way to the end of the challenge. It’s so effective, it was built into FitBit’s program design, so be sure to use this strategy of engaging to keep your team engaged!

While there is a leaderboard in the app to show first place and team rankings, you can create a physical leaderboard in your workplace to really pull that competition out and help people to see that it’s on like DonkeyKong. Friendly competition can be a great tool to leverage!
 
Well, there you have it: how to get started in setting up your very own Step Challenge to step up your pharmacy’s game in health, service and beyond!

All it takes to get started is just one foot in front of the other.
 


Adam Martin, PharmD, ACSM-CPT
Dr. Martin is a licensed pharmacist, having earned his doctorate of pharmacy degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy in 2012. He is the founder of TheFitPharmacist movement, which strives to empower pharmacists and pharmacy students to thrive in their careers by overcoming stress and unhealthy habits using science-based principles and unmatched support. His passion for helping those in pharmacy led to TheFitPharmacist Podcast on the PharmacyPodcast network, where he provides practical tips for staying healthy while working at the pharmacy, along with interviewing professionals in the top of their respective fields to bring their knowledge right to your earbuds. He merges his passion of pharmacy with the experts in nutrition through being the owner and nutrition consultant at The Diet Doc Pittsburgh North, with the company having over 25 years of success. Learn more and join TheFitPharmacist movement at www.thefitpharmacist.com.
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