Bringing Wellness To Your Workplace


Seventy-six percent of the 3.2 billion workers around the globe struggle or suffer in their physical well-being.1 Are your employees included?

In 2016, the Global Wellness Industry (GWI) released The Future of Wellness at Work report, which highlighted the impact unwellness has on businesses and the economy as a whole. They estimated workplace unwellness could be costing the global economy 10–15% of annual economic output.1 In the U.S. alone, “actively disengaged employees cost an estimated $450–550 billion per year in lost productivity.”1

In that same report, GWI reports that 52% of people in North America have access to workplace wellness programs; however, too many of those programs are reactive rather than proactive. The majority of employees feel the goal of these programs is only to cut down on company healthcare costs, not to truly support personal wellness.

"Most workplace wellness programs are reactive, not proactive."

The workplace wellness movement has created endless opportunities for spa and wellness professionals, as employers hire yoga and meditation teachers, nutritionists and massage therapists.2 Mainstream wellness has brought on concern that the wellness industry is becoming narrowly associated with wealthy elites, according to the Global Wellness Summit’s (GWS) 2017 Wellness Trends report.3 This perception has welcomed a flurry of low-cost wellness goods, but “at the same time, a new focus on the well-being of the employees and practitioners that actually deliver all of this ‘wellness.’”3

Kathryn Dowthwaite-Blay, spa management academic, educator and director at Spa Education Academy, worries there is a contradiction between client offerings and workplace wellness for spa employees. “Whilst a spa therapist is offering wellness solutions and services to consumers, they may be being exploited, injured and harming their own well-being,” Dowthwaite-Blay commented. “Is workplace wellness being communicated to the wider spa environment and embedded into the spa workplace? I’d argue that there is much room for improvement.”

The Problem

“Spa staff don’t know how to report, protect or train, nor are they aware of their rights,” said Dowthwaite-Blay. She believes workplace wellness should be a part of risk assessments.

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While the democratization of wellness access has positive elements, it also uncovers a lack of awareness surrounding the well-being of the people actually delivering 14 low-priced, but physically intensive, treatments in a row. “Consumers need to be educated about labor costs, realize that ‘cheap’ is often not fair and that businesses that want to attract and retain the best practitioners, their most serious business problem, will need to put a much stronger focus on their employees’ own well-being.”3

A culture that “disregards workplace wellness can affect productivity, retention and recruitment of spa staff, not to mention the overall longevity of a therapist’s work life, with complications such as repetitive strain injury becoming more rife,” worried Dowthwaite-Blay. She calls for the leaders of the spa community to take accountability for educating their peers on the issues impacting well-being in the spa environment.

Victoria Rosamond is a lecturer in international spa management for the department of hotel, resort and spa management at the University of Derby in the U.K. Rosamond agreed that people working within the health, wellness and spa industry are notorious for not taking the time out they need. “We are not good at self-sustainability and do not always practice what we preach,” admitted Rosamond.

Joanne Berry, founder of The Wellness Education Hub, feels you have to be well to provide wellness. “This includes feeling appreciated in your workplace, having a sense of involvement in the day-to-day operations and having a voice. Mental health is so often neglected in our industry … being able to offer yoga once a week for instance, or discounted treatments as part of your employee perks makes a huge difference,” Berry suggested.

How Employee Wellness Will Change Your Business

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Employers have begun to understand that their company welfare depends on the health and wellness of their team.2 Outdated and self-destructive work habits, such as the minimum vacation-time allotment, no maternity or paternity leave and hostile workplaces are being replaced with more proactive approaches to reduce the chance of problems arising in the first place.2

In GWS’s 2018 Wellness Trends Report, specialists touch on how wellness meets happiness, “Today, we see a developing trend that happiness is more closely linked with well-being, and wellness more closely linked with overall health. This distinction is likely to be useful going forward. Ultimately, the hope is that the conversation regarding health, happiness, wellness and well-being will motivate people across the world to focus on what makes them thrive.”4

Organizations with high happiness achieve a 37% increase on sales, 31% higher productivity, 300% more innovation and 10% increase in customer satisfaction. Workplaces, especially those with high reports of employee unhappiness, are noticing the toll this negativity is taking on productivity and starting to look to happiness research to help.4

Happiness is no longer considered to be a matter of luck, but instead something that people can influence, “and more people will be using wellness modalities as a route to their personal happiness.”4

It is hard to argue the benefits of workplace wellness, but it may feel overwhelming to approach as a spa owner or manager due to a lack of resources or simply not enough time to plan it all.

Integrating Wellness in Your Workplace

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Rosamond and her fellow program educators attempt to instill the value of workplace wellness in her students by offering examples of their own industry experience and passing down methods that were introduced to them from their own mentors and employers. “We also try to tell our students as future managers how important it is to take care of their team, as good employees—therapists in particular—are so hard to come by and to keep in an industry with such high staff turnover.” Rosamond discusses the time and monetary cost of recruitment and training wellness providers with her students.

“The question for new spa operators to ask themselves is: How can this business authentically deliver spa wellness without causing injury or harm to workers through the levels of intensively working that we have seen thus far?” asked Glenis Wade, U.K. and European workplace wellness educator.5

A key factor in supporting employee well-being is by allowing staff to take time for themselves, recommended Rosamond, even if that simply means ensuring they take a full break. “For example, one of my colleagues mentioned her manager used to encourage all staff to take part in group meditation at the end of a shift,” she recalled.

Sue Davis, director of wellness at Lifehouse Spa & Hotel in the U.K., has tackled workplace wellness for her own employees. The company began by offering regular workshops on nutrition, life coaching and mindfulness techniques to their team prior to their opening. Since opening, employees have access to regular workshops, free fitness classes, free gym use and complimentary meals. They also offer access to on-site services free of charge or at a discount, including spa treatments, physiotherapy, personal training, shiatsu, food intolerance testing and life coaching.

“The spa therapists receive free spa treatments every month and all staff enjoy heavily discounted benefits from treatments to day spas and overnight stays. During quiet periods staff can use the spa facilities outside their shift,” explained Davis. “In addition, our spa staff has their own relax room, staff restaurant and we have a staff welfare team in place.”

Davis admitted it can be challenging to arrange workshops for staff due to timing constraints—most would prefer to head home after completing a shift, understandably. “We therefore try to put on workshops at lunchtimes and offer walk-in options for staff to come and go to create some flexibility.”

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Not all businesses have the resources that are available for larger companies, but there are steps even small day spas can take to create a healthier, happier environment for their team. Davis suggested supplying fresh fruit and filtered water for staff, or even offering to serve a healthy lunch for the team once a week, but to make sure to juggle shifts so that the staff can sit together and talk. After all, social interactions and a sense of community are profoundly impactful on wellness.1

Communication is Key, As Always

It’s imperative that employees feel heard insisted Rosamund, “so perhaps taking the time to have a monthly meeting could reduce or prevent a negative atmosphere.”

Thirty-nine percent ofSkin Inc.’s (2017 Skin Inc. Media Kit) audience are managers and owners, but 41% are estheticians in non-managerial roles. It’s easy to feel helpless in matters like these as an employee, but there are ways to broach the subject of your own health and wellness with your manager.

Rosamond reminds therapists that if they are unwilling to speak out, they won’t be heard. “The wellness movement—with a huge hand from social media—is giving employees, including therapists, the opportunity to speak up and also to become more informed on what is and is not the norm or acceptable.”

“This is where a staff welfare team can be of benefit,” said Davis. A welfare team is made up of fellow therapists, helping to create a safe environment and enabling staff to voice concerns without fear of being judged or reprimanded. “We have a senior therapist heading up our staff welfare team and she has the experience, warmth and compassion needed to counsel the younger therapists and be a spokesperson on their behalf.”

Without a staff welfare team in place, or a positive relationship with your manager or employer, broaching the subject of well-being may be daunting. Berry suggested taking it one step further: “Create a solution and present it to management with it all laid out. It may be just what they’ve been waiting to hear to transform their business, retain employees and increase their bottom line.”


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Kristen Wegrzyn is a former Skin Inc. associate editor. She currently lives in Edinburgh, Scotland as a content marketing professional in the spa industry. She can be reached at [email protected].

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