Lessons From A Drinking Water Challenge

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Scientists agree: The health benefits of drinking water are endless! Drinking water can relieve fatigue, increase energy, promote weight loss, flush out toxins in your body, improve skin complexion, boost your immune system, naturally relieve headaches, and prevent muscle cramps.

But as advantageous as it is, it can be difficult to make sure you’re drinking enough water in a day. If you’re feeling thirsty, that means you're already getting dehydrated. Even mild dehydration can have some negative effects on your body - starting with sore, chapped lips and bad breath, for example. 

Last month, we held a “Drinking Water Challenge” to incentivize staying hydrated. For this activity, we simply challenged staff to drink eight cups of water a day, Monday through Friday (20 days), with prizes for everyone who managed to complete the challenge by accumulating a minimum number of points.

When I announced the challenge, reactions from staff ran the gamut from unbridled enthusiasm to overly cautious. A few were sure they were going to dominate and ‘win’, a few were concerned that a water drinking challenge was not safe for their particular diet or individual circumstance; most were receptive and eager to start. 

It is easy to recreate this kind of challenge in your own workplace.

Here is how we did it. 

Challenge Details

  • The goal was for an individual to consume eight cups of water over each 24 hr period (at home or at work) over the weekdays in November.
  • One cup = 8 ounces = one point.
  • Each person tracked their own water consumption on individual charts. We are a tech company but we used good ol’ pen and paper for this!  We simply asked everyone to print out and use this tracker poster (PDF).
  • Each cup on the tracker was worth one point; a person got a point for each cup of water they drank. They successfully completed the challenge if they accumulated a minimum of 100 out of 160 total points.
  • Beverages such as soda, alcohol, iced tea, coffee, and sports drinks did not count in this challenge. Neither did sugary beverages.
  • Fruit-infused water was acceptable!
  • Water ingested outside of work, counted. 
  • The challenge was optional.
  • Each week, I posted a motivational quote or benefit of drinking water, in our company Slack messaging channel. 


Of 80 staff, 53 people downloaded the tracker. 21 officially 'completed' the challenge by turning in their water tracker cards to me at the end of the month. 

Collectively, we had 21 Echidnas drink 2,776 glasses of water.

Web Developer Haley O. came in first place after drinking 389 glasses of water over the four-week challenge. 

All in all, it was a great way to promote a healthy habit and unite staff around a common goal. I wish I had thought to ask people to track their water consumption prior to the challenge so that I could prove that we raised the bar. Anecdotally, I can tell you that participants reported consuming more water in a day than they typically did and were more aware of their personal drinking habits, often giving up a sugary drink or that second cup of coffee, in favour of water. 


If you decide to run this challenge at your place of employment, here are three lessons we learned from ours:

  1. Survey participants prior to starting the challenge and establish a baseline metric of how much water they drink. 
  2. Expect that a few people will decide that this challenge is not for them, that it is not safe for a particular diet or individual circumstance. 
  3. If you track results on paper, give yourself some time to tally the results.

To my fellow echidnas who may be reading this - thank you for being open to participating in this challenge with me and congratulations again to the 21 of you who stuck with it through to the end. You make me proud.  

That is it! Let me know if you try your own water drinking challenge and how it went.


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Questions Answered

Why stay hydrated?

What is a good, easy to do, activity to engage staff?

How can I run a drinking water challenge at work?

How can I encourage better employee health?



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