Healthy Meetings – Luxury Retreats Tout the Benefits of Workforce Wellness

There’s a new movement afoot in resorts across the country. Meditation techniques are offered alongside manicures. Lessons in stretching appropriate for the workplace precede a soak in the hot tub, and sessions of tai chi join cups of chai tea in the spa’s quietest corners.
Indeed, luxury resorts are offering a greater number of health and wellness opportunities to guests of all types, but there’s a particular focus of late on corporate groups. According to the “Global Spa & Wellness Trends Forecast” published by Spafinder Wellness Inc., for the 13th time, workplace wellness is one of the top 10 trends in the spa industry for 2016.
The study suggests that this is a direct response to a growing number of businesses across the country taking the well-being of their employees more seriously, for the health of both their teams and their companies’ bottom lines.
For instance, it found that, if businesses want their employees to engage in, and stick to, new behaviors, they are well-served to introduce a broad range of wellness activities that go beyond a traditional gym membership. That’s a niche resorts that offer wellness services can fill, and gradually businesses are identifying ways to combine stress reduction, fitness, healthy eating habits, and more into their company meetings and retreats.

There’s the Rub
That’s not to say it’s always an easy sell. Christine Mariconti, spa director at Cranwell Spa and Golf Resort, said she and her team have made a concerted effort in recent years to highlight relaxation and wellness offerings to corporate groups, and she’s seeing an overall uptick in spa services during meetings. But all-inclusive packages are still scantily booked, and it falls to Cranwell’s team to identify each group’s specific needs and desires, as well as what their schedules and budgets will allow.
“We truly believe these types of services are important to offer to employees, but the biggest problem is they just don’t have enough time,” said Mariconti. “Typically, corporate groups are booked right through dinner, and I see very few businesses that can devote part of their budget to an entire day of downtime for their employees.”
To help address that issue, Mariconti said Cranwell has developed a suite of services for guests pressed for time, including 22-minute facials and massages or express manicures and pedicures. She said corporate groups have begun working these breaks into their agendas more often — after lunch and before the afternoon session, for example — to offer a unique incentive as well as a moment of respite in a jam-packed schedule.
“It offers an opportunity to break away for a moment, to clear the mind, and exhale,” she said. “Guests don’t need to feel like they’re holding their breath all day. Plus, they return to their meetings refreshed and ready to go.”
Conversely, Mariconti noted that Cranwell also offers spa allowances that give employees the opportunity to spend a full day using its facilities, often as a goal-setting reward.
“It’s such a positive thing,” said Mariconti. “We work with companies to book those services and sometimes, a group of coworkers will even come together. That is such off-the-map activity for most people, and also very important for the health of their team.”
Dawn Ramsey-Jacobsson, director of sales with Canyon Ranch in Lenox, which specializes in wellness-based services, agreed that the trend toward holistic services and programs for members of corporate groups is picking up slowly, growing little by little as the definition of ‘healthy meetings’ continues to widen.
“The demand is not as high as we’d like, but ‘health and wellness’ has definitely become a buzz term, and more and more we’re seeing companies taking a closer look at how they run their meetings and really trying to make them healthier,” she said, noting that the resort typically welcomes C-suite executives to its facilities for extended board meetings and corporate retreats, and works with these groups to create individualized plans for each guest that can be implemented upon return home — and to work.
“This is the perfect environment to focus on wellness objectives and personal goals in the health realm. We can present all we have to offer to guests to try hands-on, and they can work a plan through before they leave.”
All Canyon Ranch visitors complete a confidential health and lifestyle questionnaire prior to arriving and reside in an alcohol-free environment for the length of their stay. Nurse educators and ‘lifestyle concierges’ are always on hand, and chefs and dietitians work in tandem to develop all of the resort’s meals, which are typically low-sodium and locally sourced.
Its most inclusive — and, in another way of speaking, exclusive — option is the Executive Health Program, an integrated plan that includes a full physical and diagnostic testing; nutrition consultations; an exercise physiology consultation with a personalized exercise prescription; private training in yoga, tai chi, qi gong, or meditation; and more.
“There is definitely a strong instructional piece incorporated into the customized agendas we create for all of our groups, and more companies in general are looking for these types of classes,” said Ramsey-Jacobsson. “In fact, nearly all of our groups take some sort of class now.”

Give Me Your Tired…
In terms of corporate guests, this often translates to solving some of the key stressors members of the American workforce suffer. For instance, 55{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} employees who responded to the SpaFinder Wellness study reported that the top obstacle to work productivity was overall fatigue. Job stress was a close second at 52{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5}, followed by lack of time to accomplish tasks (47{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5}) and poor sleep (45{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5}).
The survey also found that roughly nine in 10 employees who tried a new fitness or wellness activity felt inspired to continue it on a consistent basis, and 38{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} said they were more productive and happier at work.
Those new activities could be as simple as replacing donuts and coffee with fruit and bottled water, or going a few steps further and taking a class in chair yoga, or attending private lectures covering stress management or the importance of sleep.
“The objective has become teaching people to live longer, healthier lives,” said Ramsey-Jacobsson, “and corporate meetings are just one place we can start. Business gets done, healthier decisions are made, and companies are giving their employees a real gift by investing in their health.”