Wellness in the Workplace

Engage Your Employees and Increase Profits

August was National Wellness Month. Yes, Wellness now has its own month with Instagram sites like @wellness_month and research organizations such as the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) sharing data on Wellness. It seems Wellness has become big business and is no longer an individual sport. In addition to the social media aspect, there are countless wellness apps including Insight Timer, Fabulous, and Shine, just to name a few. With Wellness being a huge buzz word, companies have started to integrate Corporate/Workplace Wellness programs into their benefit offerings with the intention of lowering health risks and increasing employee productivity. Grand View Research’s 2019 study noted the global corporate wellness market size was valued at USD 53.6 billion. Why is so much effort and money being spent on the notion of Workplace Wellness? The GWI research points to employee burnout and disengagement.

A recent Forbes article reported, in 1973 the average American worked 1,679 hours per year. By 2015, that number reached 1811 hours, almost three weeks more a year! This has resulted in many of those in the workforce being exhausted and overwhelmed! The other side of that coin is the employee disengagement. A 2018 State of the Global Workplace reports, “85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work.” Astonishingly enough, with all of the money and effort invested in Workplace Wellness programs, research hasn’t shown the Workplace Wellness programs implemented to be effective in a large percentage of users, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (4).

Wellness in more current times is considered to be the holistic integration of physical, mental and spiritual well-being…


If the Wellness Programs are not effective, it poses the question: Could it be Wellness has been ineffective in producing the expected beneficial results?

Wellness, the biggest industry trend, is not new. Wellness is the cornerstone of the Spa industry. The word Spa – (Salus Per Aquam) literally means healing through water. Wellness has been ingrained in cultures throughout history; be it through teas, oils, massage, hot springs, muds, wraps, tonics, rituals and healing practices. Ancient modalities including Traditional Chinese Medicine, Herbology, Ayurveda, Hydrotherapy, and even more recent services such as Chiropractic are included under the Wellness umbrella. Wellness is broader than exercise classes. In addition to the above-mentioned options, meditation, mindfulness, yoga practices, walks in nature, as well as human and spiritual connection can all be considered Wellness.

The modern definition of Wellness came in 1948 when the World Health Organization (WHO) defined Wellness as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.” It goes beyond mere freedom from disease or infirmity and emphasizes the proactive maintenance and improvement of health and overall well-being. We as a society have been striving to reach the goal of well-being ever since. Wellness in more current times is considered to be the holistic integration of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, fueling the body, engaging the mind, and nurturing the spirit in most basic sense (1).

Dimensions of Wellness

A few years before WHO defined Wellness, Abraham Maslow (1943) developed the “hierarchy of human needs” citing “physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization” as essential for a person to feel motivated. Maslow’s pyramid of the needs explains the lower levels have to be met and fulfilled before moving up to the next level. As the ideas of Wellness continue to expand and be explored, the number of sectors has also grown and evolved. The four, six, eight, (who do we appreciate) components of Wellness have shifted from the six facets; physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, environmental and social, established by Dr. Bill Hettler in 1976. Current well-being leaders, including, Anthony Robbins, renowned Life Coach, also states there are six core human needs – certainty, variety, significance, love and connection, growth and contribution. Interestingly, the first four needs are defined as “needs of the personality” and the last two are identified as “needs of the spirit.” In the scientific world, the National Center for Biotechnology Information has stepped in and stated there are eight dimensions of wellness which are now used in achieving optimal mental and physical health:

1. Emotional – coping effectively with life and creating satisfying relationships with others and appreciating our own uniqueness.

2. Environment- good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being. Takes responsibility to preserve, protect and improve the environment and appreciates the interconnectedness of nature and the individual.

3. Financial – satisfaction with current and future financial situations and is fully aware of financial state and budgets, saves and manages finances in order to achieve realistic goals.

4. Intellectual – recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills and encourages life-long learning.

5. Occupational – personal satisfaction and enrichment from one’s work. involves personal satisfaction and enrichment in your life through the choice of profession, career, and personal performance.

6. Physical – recognizing the need for physical activity, healthy foods, and sleep. The taking care of your physical body to maximize your energy and prevent many chronic illnesses.

7. Social – developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system. Encourages contributing to your community by encouraging healthier living and initiating better communication with those around you. Supporting the interdependence of your community with the natural surroundings gives opportunities to live in harmony with others and with our environment (3).

8. Spiritual – expanding a sense of purpose and meaning in life. The spiritual dimension recognizes our search for meaning and purpose in life. Having your actions fall in line with your beliefs and values works towards developing a healthy world view. Pondering the meaning of life for yourself involves respecting the decisions of others to follow their own path (3).

Wellness Starts at the Top

With a somewhat clear understanding of Wellness and the key factors determined, then why has the effectiveness of Workplace Wellness programs resulted in minimal change in employees’ overall health? As in many things, change has to starts at the top. As Spa and Wellness professionals, we sell the concept of Wellness to clients with the goal of providing a refuge from the world and hopes of having guest leave looking and feeling better than they arrive. However, we do not give the same to ourselves, especially industry leaders (Spa Directors, Managers, Leads). As a former Director of Spa and Wellness, I instructed the team to take care of themselves; get services, rest, finding ways to recharge, and drink plenty of water. Similar to parenting, the team was watching what I was, or in this case, wasn’t doing and not just listening to my words. I was not practicing what I preached. My lack of using the Wellness practices I shared resulted in several health scares and finally forced me to reevaluate. I began to take the steps for my self-care. I began to incorporate weekly yoga and work-out sessions, purchasing a 64 oz pink jug that I challenged myself to fill and drink daily. I reduced my hours from 14 – 16 a day to 8 – 12 a day. I led by example, which led the team to look at their own Wellness practices and find ways to create self-care as well as work life balance.

If Workplace Wellness, is going to be accepted and utilized by team members, we as leaders must do exactly that, and lead by example. Taking time to use the products sold to clients, having a quick aromatherapy meditation session to reduce tension. Having a gratitude instead of gripe session. There has been lots of research on the benefits of replacing complaints with grateful comments. There are laugh sessions, again to create a sense of calm. It is counterintuitive to create a place of serenity and peace for the spa guest and not do the same for the ourselves or team members.

Refilling the Vessel

For those in the giving professions, like the Spa, Beauty, and Wellness industry, who have been called day makers, which has now morphed into life enhancers. It becomes essential that we make Wellness a priority, taking care of ourselves first, and refilling our vessels. In using wellness, well-being, and self-care practices, we are better able to take care of ourselves as well our clients, family, friends.

Wellness Everyday

Wellness shouldn’t just be practiced in August or remembered on the second Saturday in June (Global Wellness Day) it needs to be practiced on a daily basis. Research has shown it takes 21 days to make a habit and 90 days to create a life style. With this in mind, hopefully industry leaders realize that it takes a time to implement and achieve the positive results of a Wellness program. Success of the programs requires spa leaders to actively participate in the programs and make it a tribe event. With this formula, hopefully, Workplace Wellness will become the standard in every locations and spa will host wellness parties for clients and staff instead of Happy Hours.