Why East Side Games chose to prioritize wellness for their team

December 08, 2021

By the Team at East Side Games and HEAL Wellness

This past January, our team decided to run a 4-week Wellness Challenge with HEAL Wellness. The holidays can push us out of our routines and January can be a hard month for a lot of folks so it’s a great time to kick start the year, put new goals in place and reform some habits. This year happened to be our first winter with pandemic restrictions in place and a fully virtual workforce, so we wanted to proactively address the growing mental health challenges of our employees. We also thought this would be a fun team building opportunity for our team to help everyone feel connected.

Details on the Wellness Challenges We Ran

We’ve been running a January Wellness Challenge with the HEAL team for the past few years. We were originally introduced to HEAL through TAP Network and our old benefits provider. What stood out to us about HEAL’s program is how it’s designed for absolutely anyone to take part in because it incorporates mental and physical health and is all about building good habits. We liked that we had a say in what challenges were provided and our input was listened to and incorporated. We had a lot of say in the challenge as a whole and how it would work with our company and we appreciated this approach to partner together. We loved that HEAL’s platform is easy to use - working in tech we are a very tech savvy business and so having this platform felt right for our people. An added benefit is that HEAL is Vancouver-based (but operates virtually), and as a born and bred Vancouver company ourselves, we try to support local businesses when we can.

At the end of the 4 week January challenge, participants were surveyed on the success of the program. When it came to reducing stress, boosting happiness, improving sleep, and being more active (all of which we know impact mental health), the results were overwhelmingly positive. What really stood out was that over 80% of participants felt more connected to their colleagues, over 93% felt the challenge made work more fun, and 100% felt the company cares about their health and well-being, demonstrating how this initiative has helped to positively reinforce our culture.

There were a few key factors that we felt really contributed to the success of the program. Leading up to the challenge start date, we worked to get people interested so they had time to form teams and get excited. We started a Slack channel so employees could find team buddies if they were struggling or if they were new to the company and didn't know others. This turned out to be a great forum for getting people included and excited, and during the challenge, it was an incredible avenue for people to share photos and inspiring stories, recipes, and so on. We also have two virtual workout classes per week that we run all the time and that we were able to incorporate into the challenge.

The initial challenge went so well that we even decided to run another Wellness Challenge with HEAL throughout the month of July, continuing to provide resources and structure for employees that were looking to build and maintain healthy habits, to support employees’ mental health, and to build connection and engagement. The second program dove even more into mental health than the first, with a mix of mindset, nutrition and exercise-based challenges to support this. In addition to our own workout classes, we added extra programming during the month, including one of HEAL’s live meditation sessions and their webinar on Eating for Energy.

Like before, the Wellness Challenge helped employees with their mental health, as well as their overall health and well-being. Here are some of the highlights from the second challenge:

“I’m really happy that I took part in this challenge as it gave me so much new information, resources, and ideas! I finally learned to drink 2L of water a day! I loved all the information about the media rationing and reframing, as these are the things I usually struggle with. Now I feel that I’m more “equipped” in this area.” ~ Summer 2021 participant

Why Results Like These Matter

What really stood out to us around these results is that people were made to feel that the company cared, and that they were better able to handle stress and anxiety. It’s even more meaningful when you compare this with a report by Headspace that found that only about 51-56% of employees in 2020 and 2021 felt that mental health and well-being are a priority in their organizations.

A pre-pandemic report by the American Psychological Association found that companies without systems to support the well-being of their employees have higher turnover, lower productivity, and higher healthcare costs. They also found that burnt-out employees are 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a different job, 63% more likely to take a sick day, and 23% more likely to visit the emergency room. Not to mention that burnout can hurt team dynamics.

In our experience, when people see that their employer cares about their health and their wellbeing - and actually put initiatives in place and allow space and time and resources for their people to utilize, then people feel valued at work. It seems like they are more able to bring their whole selves to work and be open and honest with their peers about who they are. And as we know, when people feel valued at work, they are more likely to be happier, more motivated, more engaged and perform more highly.

We also like the fact people want to see this challenge done 2-3 times a year. That says it all, doesn't it!


HEAL is a leading corporate wellness company providing programs to organizations that understand the value of their employees’ health and wellbeing in improving engagement, productivity, and retention. They have a range of corporate wellness offerings, specializing in wellness challenges and lunch & learns (now webinars). Learn more about HEAL here.