You're thinking of running a company step challenge but aren't ready to commit to a dedicated step challenge platform. To get started, you're looking for a free, simple solution, so you go old school: a manual spreadsheet.
While hosting a step challenge with a spreadsheet is not ideal (we'll share more on that later), it certainly gets the job done. We've outlined our experience using a spreadsheet to host a step challenge below so you can know what to expect for your upcoming event.
Why run a step challenge in the first place?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of running a step challenge using a spreadsheet, here are a few reasons why you might want to run a step challenge at your company.
1. Step challenges are fun and engaging!
One of the best reasons to consider a step challenge at your organization is simply to have some fun with your colleagues. Step challenges are a great way to connect and enjoy some friendly competition. The lighthearted nature of a step challenge allows everyone to get involved and enjoy a fun group activity.
2. Step challenges connect your employees and boost company morale.
Hosting a step challenge at your company shows you care about your employees and their overall wellbeing. Step challenges foster camaraderie and allow fellow colleagues to get to know one another, particularly if you're part of a remote team. They can also be a source of accountability to help you set and meet your fitness goals.
3. Step challenges get your employees moving.
At their most basic form, a step challenge gets you moving! When your steps are counting toward a challenge, you'll be more likely to say yes to the stairs, take a morning or evening stroll, or even take a few stepping breaks during the workday to boost that total count and catch up to your competition! Plus, all that exercise will help to increase both your mental and physical wellbeing. A win-win!
Choosing & setting up a spreadsheet tool
To host a free step challenge for your company using a spreadsheet, we'd suggest a tool like Google Sheets. Google Sheets or a similar online spreadsheet tool offers a few key advantages over tools like Excel and Numbers. For the challenge we hosted, the main advantage we found was that we could link a Google Form to our Google Sheet.
This was helpful because it eliminated the need for a middleman to collect participant data and input it into a collective spreadsheet. Instead, participants could submit a daily Google Form to input their step totals directly into the spreadsheet.
This form asked for the participant's email, the step date, and their step total. Once a response was submitted, this information was collected into Sheet 1, called "Form Responses". The participant who submitted the form would also get an email as a record of what they had logged.
Formulas & spreadsheet set up details
To help make management of the challenge easier, we also set up a few formulas in 2 additional Sheets. These formulas accomplished 2 goals: (1) combining each participant's daily steps together and (2) sorting each participant's step totals from high to low in a leaderboard fashion.
In Sheet 2 called "Participants", we set up the following formulas:
In cell A1:
In cell B1: :
=SUMIF('Form Responses'!B$2:B,A1,'Form Responses'!D$2:D)
Then, in Sheet 3 called "Leaderboard", we set up the following formula:
In cell A1:
After this initial set up, each entry submitted would automatically get scored in the "Leaderboard" sheet shown below.
We referred to this Leaderboard sheet throughout the challenge to communicate current scores.
Recapping our 2-week, 10-person step challenge using a spreadsheet
Our step challenge had its ups and its downs. We've recapped our highlights, limitations, and what we'd do differently below so that you can make an informed decision for your own company step challenge.
While we encountered several limitations during our step challenge using a spreadsheet, we would say it was still worth it overall!
It was fun to connect with fellow participants and to see who you could pass on the leaderboard before the next update came out. We also enjoyed celebrating at the end of our challenge with a couple of rewards and a few superlatives, so even participants who weren't number one on the leaderboard could be acknowledged.
Our challenge also helped to foster a sense of community with our group, as we all pushed ourselves to keep moving during the challenge and encouraged one another to keep up the great work. With that in mind, here are a few highlights of what went well during our challenge.
1. Our step challenge was fun!
We had a lot of fun over the challenge, especially as we eagerly waited for score updates to see who was going to come out on top! We noticed that we were all moving a bit more than we normally did to make sure we kept our spot on the leaderboard. We also had fun teasing the top steppers as we attempted to out-step them.
Although not required, we also enjoyed raising the stakes with a couple of simple prizes. We awarded the participant who completed the most steps with a Starbucks gift card, and we also included a random raffle drawing for a second gift card so everyone had a chance to win. This made for an exciting wrap-up to our challenge as everyone hoped for their name to come up as the raffle winner! If you plan to include prizes for your challenge, check out our best prize ideas here.
2. Our step challenge kept us motivated and competitive.
Similar to what we shared above, hosting this step challenge helped us stay motivated to keep moving throughout the 2-week period. Some of us even set personal goals during the challenge period, such as reaching 200,000 steps total by the end, to help us stay on track and try to beat out the competition.
3. Our step challenge helped us stay connected.
We communicated with participants throughout our challenge, which helped us all stay connected. Here is a sample message we shared for one of our ranking updates to give you an idea of what we were sharing:
Daily update sample:
"As promised, here’s the update for totals through 9/29! Drumroll please. 🥁
[INDIVIDUAL EMAILS & STEP TOTALS HERE]
Looks like someone’s gotta beat Scotty!! Let’s get moving this weekend! 🏃♀️ The last day for steps to count towards the leaderboard is this Sunday! 😱"
We kept our communications lighthearted and fun by including some friendly banter and fun emojis, and participants joined in on the fun too!
4. Our step challenge was inclusive.
We wanted our challenge to be inclusive for participants who prefer other activities over walking/running, as well as for participants who prefer not to run with a fitness tracker or their phone. To accommodate these participants, we allowed everyone to convert their time spent performing an activity into steps using this chart. This helped to keep things inclusive regardless of how you like to stay active.
In addition to our random raffle that gave everyone a chance to win, we also announced superlatives so that we could recognize more than just our prize winners:
📅 Daytripper (most steps in a single day)
🐢 Biggest Procrastinator (most days logged at once)
🦥 Sloth Award (least steps in a single day)
✅ Mr./Ms. Consistent (longest log streak)
🕵️ Is Anybody Out There? (fewest days logged)
🦉 Night Owl (latest log)
These superlatives were a fun way to sum up our challenge in an engaging way, and we hope you'll use them in your step challenge as well!
1. It was time consuming.
The first drawback to using a spreadsheet for a company step challenge is the large time commitment required.
For the initial set up, we spent time thinking through various spreadsheet options before landing on the Google Sheets and Google Forms solution. We weighed the pros and cons of basic tools like Excel or Numbers versus an online platform like Google Sheets, and settled on Google Sheets since we knew the Google Form would help us reduce our management time. The formulas we set up in Google Sheets also helped to reduce the amount of manual work we needed to do. Otherwise, we would have needed to manually combine participant totals and then rank them from high-to-low. Once we settled on a tool, we also spent time testing and troubleshooting our set up to make sure everything worked as expected. If you choose to follow the same format we chose, this blog post should hopefully reduce your initial set up time.
However, there was still a fair amount of manual effort required to host this challenge. Participants had to manually log their totals through the form, and we had to make sure that the spreadsheet was functioning correctly throughout the challenge and watch out for any errors. Since participants couldn't see the live scores, we also had to share leaderboard updates manually during the challenge so participants could know where they ranked. One more manual task we encountered was that a few participants asked us for a reminder of what days they had logged. This was manageable for a group of 10 participants, but would be much harder on a larger scale of 100 participants or more.
It's also important to note that any step challenge will require some time commitment regardless of what method you use to run it, but the manual elements of using a spreadsheet made it particularly difficult and time consuming.
2. There was a high risk of user error.
A significant hurdle we encountered during this challenge was managing the risk of user error. Before the challenge started, we considered a few drawbacks of using the participant's emails as our unique identifier for each form submission. The first issue we foresaw was participants forgetting the email they entered. Our challenge only included personal emails of friends and family, but a work challenge could lead to participant confusion due to their juggling of multiple email accounts. This did not occur during our challenge, but if it had, additional time troubleshooting the spreadsheet would have been required to resolve any logging mistakes.
Another issue we foresaw was participants submitting duplicate data, since there was no limit on the number of Google Forms you could submit for any given day. Because participants would sometimes bulk-log their step totals before a step update, they'd often forget which days they'd already recorded. Even those of us hosting the challenge were guilty of forgetting on several occasions! We did set up our Google Form to send an email confirmation that allowed you to double-check what you'd already submitted. However, we still received questions on this and did have a user double-log one day. To resolve this, we had to manually remove their extra day directly from the spreadsheet.
Finally, we realized that even simple typos either in a user's email or in their step count could be detrimental to our set up. We didn't experience any typos in the emails during our challenge, but we did have a user accidentally submit one day as "1108" steps instead of "10108" steps. We caught the mistake and updated their totals from the spreadsheet, but if this was missed, it could have impacted the challenge results.
3. It was not scaleable.
During this experience, we quickly realized that our spreadsheet set up for a step challenge was not a scaleable solution. It worked well with our small group of 10 participants for 2 weeks, but if you were to invite even 50 participants, management could get much more difficult. Increasing the length of the step challenge would have a similar impact, so we'd suggest sticking to shorter challenges only if using a spreadsheet.
4. It was easy to forget.
The old adage, "Out of sight, out of mind!" rang true for our spreadsheet step challenge. Without the manual reminders to log your steps into the spreadsheet and subsequent score updates, it was easy to entirely forget we were hosting a challenge.
To help ensure a spreadsheet step challenge runs successfully, the burden falls on whoever is hosting to maintain frequent communication. In our experience, we learned that even if you intend to send an update at 8pm on Thursday, it's not so easy to follow-through with that commitment. (We ended up sending a few messages much later than we had initially anticipated--oops!)
To help combat this, we'd suggest setting up a schedule for communication up front with reminders to help ensure that messages are sent promptly.
5. We were limited in terms of metrics and our goal.
For our step challenge, we decided our winner would be the person with the most steps. This set up kept things simple, but what if we wanted to find out the person with the most distance logged, or the group's total active minutes logged? Asking for additional metrics from participants would require additional work from the end user, as well as on the management end.
We also considered that it might be neat to try out a group goal sometime, such as reaching 1 million steps together. This does seem possible with a similar set up to what we used, but it could be difficult to keep engagement high without the ability to regularly check scores.
6. We couldn't see live scores.
One of the most difficult parts of our spreadsheet step challenge was that participants couldn't see live scores. We did consider sharing the Google Sheet with all participants instead and allowing them to keep track themselves. This would have allowed everyone to see all data at all times.
However, we ultimately chose not to move forward with this idea for a couple of reasons. Our first concern was that we were nervous some of our less tech-savvy participants would accidentally change or delete data of other participants. While we didn't expect any cheating, we also realized that giving this kind of access to all participant data could lead to intentional altering of data. While this could all be resolved by undoing any changes made, we thought this would end up being a worse user-experience overall and decided against it.
What we'd do differently
1. Share more frequent updates.
Although more frequent updates would take more work from a management perspective, the challenge would have been even more engaging with a daily update instead of an update every few days. A daily update would have also encouraged users to try to log more consistently versus batch-logging their steps.
2. Consider a step challenge platform.
While Google Sheets and the Google Form served its purpose, there was a lot of work involved in the set up and management of the challenge. To help solve for most of the limitations we encountered (the large time commitment, likelihood of user error, lack of scalability, and lack of live scores to name a few), we would look into a platform that would:
- Aggregate and score participant data automatically
- Allow participants to connect their fitness trackers directly
- Show live scores as participants sync their trackers
- Share reminders to sync automatically
- Provide a better, all-inclusive user experience
- Offer end-user support for device and syncing questions
Looking for a step challenge platform?
Try Stridekick for friends and family
If you're looking for a free step challenge platform for friends and family, Stridekick is a great option. You can host challenges for up to 10 participants on Stridekick for free. Stridekick allows users to connect to a variety of fitness tracking devices directly, including Apple Watch, Garmin, Fitbit, and more to sync their data into your challenges. Stridekick also offers several challenge modes so you can mix up your challenge goals.
Beyond the automation of your step challenge, you'll also get to enjoy a dedicated challenge chat where you can share friendly banter and photos of how you're getting in your steps.
Try MoveSpring for an organization-wide step challenge
If you're looking for a step challenge platform for companies and organizations, check out MoveSpring. MoveSpring allows you to host challenges with various goals so that there's something for everyone in your challenge. You can also host a Team Leaderboard challenge on MoveSpring, which is always a fan favorite.
Just like Stridekick, MoveSpring also allows users to connect their fitness tracking devices directly to eliminate the need for manual logging. There are also built-in sync reminders so that you don't have to remind your participants to sync. Chat, friends, and more help to make your step challenge a great user experience from end to end.
On the management side of things, MoveSpring also offers additional functionality. MoveSpring includes a dedicated Admin Center where you can create your challenges, manage user accounts, pull reports, and even schedule announcements to your participants ahead of time.
Enjoy your step challenge!
Regardless of how you decide to host your step challenge, we hope that this article helps you make a more informed decision. Good luck, and happy stepping!