A stressed-out worker is not a happy worker, and an unhappy or unhealthy employee quickly becomes an unproductive employee. That’s a lesson more companies have taken to heart recently—particularly when planning meetings—with resort spas increasingly being viewed as a resource for lessons in lifelong well-being and not just as destinations for some well-deserved pampering.
“Spa meetings reflect corporate concern for the health and well-being of employees,” says Lillian Africano, editor-in-chief of SpaReviewMag.com. “Golf used to be a favorite component of corporate meetings; today, a program is just as likely to be geared to fitness, nutrition or weight loss.”
Spa resorts, in turn, are promoting more wellness-oriented programs to corporate groups.
In the comprehensive Resolutions program at the 175-room Boar’s Head Resort in Charlottesville, Va., participants set individual, attainable goals—such as doing cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes, three days a week, rather than “getting in shape”—and determine the actions they need to take to succeed. The program includes an initial diet and fitness assessment, a fitness and nutrition plan, and follow-up e-mails after the stay to monitor and encourage progress.
Resolutions was originally designed as a six- to eight-week program, but has just been rolled out in a condensed version that can be done in as little as one day.
“What we want to accomplish is to reinforce a healthier lifestyle with people,” says Phyllis Ellerman, fitness director at the Boar’s Head Resort.
She sees the program as making a difference not only to each employee but to those around them.
“Studies show that people who make these changes are more productive, happier and healthier, so it affects everyone, not just themselves,” Ellerman says. “Even if someone walks away just making one better choice, the trickle-down effect can be huge.”
Meeting attendees who get services at the Agave spa at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., are instructed to symbolically place their worries and troubles in an Apache burden basket outside the door of each treatment room.
“This practice is one of the many ways the Agave Spa teaches overall wellness—by sharing this tradition with every guest in the hope that it will inspire them to continue the practice into their daily life,” says Holly Penido, corporate relations coordinator at the resort, which boasts 183,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space.
The spa also offers groups healthy-eating cooking classes. Led by a certified nutritionist and personal trainer, the program opens with a simple yoga practice before participants prepare a detoxifying lunch.
At the nearby Boulders Resort, the Golden Door Spa offers customized exercise and nutrition programs aimed at reducing the overall weight of corporate groups—participants even forage through the resort’s gardens to find healthy ingredients to cook their meal.
“If the group wants to cut down on overall sick time by promoting wellness, the spa sets up similar programs offering introspective wellness programs that include ‘brain-healthy’ services, meditation with a resident shaman, even numerology classes and astrological consultation,” says Debi Bridges, a spokesperson for the resort, which can accommodate meetings with 10 to 500 attendees.
Stress management is the focus of Satori Executive, a four-night, five-day corporate package at the Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain that includes relaxing spa treatments combined with sessions on business etiquette, nutrition, corporate Pilates and yoga, and fitness, including hiking and biking tours and tennis.
The Satori “10-minute Office Retreat” includes exercises to stretch spines stressed by hunching in front of a computer for hours at a time and deep-breathing techniques to ease stress and combat lethargy.
“We tell employees they need to get up from their desk and stretch every few minutes,” Thomas says. “Sometimes, we don’t think about doing that and then we wonder why we have lower-back issues. We teach attendees how to take these practices home and into the office.”
Wellness involves the mind, body and spirit, and charitable giving has been shown to increase happiness. At the Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater Beach, Fla., groups can “Spa with a Cause”: 10 percent of all proceeds from retail sales and spa services purchased during the course of an event are donated to the charity of the company’s choice.
The spa at the resort also can arrange organic cooking classes and lectures on wellness, as well as provide tours of the sustainable, LEED-certified property for those who want to improve their workplace and home by living more greenly, says Maureen Vipperman, director of the Sandpearl Spa and Beach Club.
Such customized programs are increasingly popular with large national and international groups, which tend to want “meatier” programming for their attendees, Vipperman says.
“They want more because they’re aware of more,” she says. “They want to know what they should try and what changes they should make. From my point of view, it’s what every business should be looking for; the retention that can increase productivity and improve employee health and happiness.
“That’s how we pitch it to them,” Vipperman continues, “because it’s what they want; even if they don’t use those words when they ask.”
Bob Curley is a freelance travel writer whose work has allowed him to indulge in various spa treatments, including—most recently—his first pedicure.