Diane Tighe is director of catering & conference services at Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club. She plans up to 75 events per month with her team at the Inn & Golf Club and JB Duke Hotel on the campus of Duke University in Durham, NC. With nearly 20 years of experience at the property, Tighe is a Certified Professional Catering Executive (CPCE) and an active member of NACE since 2001. She handles meetings for organizations such as Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits such as the Duke Children’s Gala and global academic powerhouse, Duke University.
There is a reason wellness is gearing up to be a top meeting trend, with associated expenditures growing double the rate of economic growth at $4.2 trillion, as reported by The Global Wellness Institute. The popularity and enthusiasm surrounding this theme cannot be ignored, making it an essential element for meeting planners to incorporate into their meetings. There are a wealth of options to create a well-rounded experience for attendees, but what exactly is wellness and how can planners implement it?
Wellness breaks down into three subsets – physical, mental and social well-being – which must all be considered for a truly well-rounded picture. As personal and professional priorities continue to blend, successful meeting planners need to be aware of the goals of the individual and the goals of the event. First, let’s define each of the subsets for a better viewpoint and discuss how to organically incorporate each theme into your next meeting.
A state of physical well-being is not just the absence of disease. It includes lifestyle behavior choices that ensure health, avoid preventable diseases and conditions, live in a balanced state of body and considers the mind and spirit. This may include eating nutritious foods, getting enough sleep, kicking smoking, staying active and making a point to stretch regularly.
Incorporating physical wellness into a meeting can be done through integrating both active movement and selecting the catering options wisely. As devices like the Apple Watch continue to encourage standing and movement, attendees are more likely to be aware of sitting too long. Mayo Clinic counsels that sitting for long periods links to health concerns such as obesity, increased blood pressure and high blood sugar. Events can implement chances for attendees to stand during a discussion and kick off the day with golf or an organized morning run or walk.
Make sure to also offer nutritious meals for the health-conscious and options for those with dietary restrictions from allergies or preference, so everyone is nourished and satisfied throughout the day. Common ingredients to be aware of are gluten, peanuts, dairy, shellfish and animal products. Culinary teams are becoming increasingly creative and flexible, so a good food service team should know how to cater to everyone’s needs. Planners can send out a survey ahead of the event to get information to prepare chefs ahead of time.
Mental well-being is a state in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to their community.
There is so much information conveyed at meetings, so it’s easy for attendees to leave feeling drained. To prevent this, integrate more breaks into the schedule as a way to regroup and refocus, which is ultimately more likely to capture better engagement and participation. After sessions are complete for the day, planners can also slot in opportunities to meditate through gentle yoga or breathing exercises. A study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that meditation might reduce the chance of getting a cold or the flu, so keep this high on the totem pole. Offer a session focused on how to sustain mental well-being despite stress and have an expert share suggestions on how to work through stress to produce a positive and productive outcome.
Social well-being is the extent to which an individual feels a sense of belonging, social inclusion and a connection as a person within society. Lifestyles, value systems, traditions and beliefs are all important to social well-being and quality of life. Participating in various cultural activities within the community is not only good for health, but can improve life satisfaction and happiness.
Having a sense of connection encourages communication, trust and new ideas, not to mention it makes an event more fun. To round out the spectrum and accomplish social well-being, provide forums for your guests to get to know each other better through mixers and group activities, so your meeting can function as both a professional development tool and a networking opportunity. Other important social factors are: creating an inclusive environment for everyone in attendance; fostering a safe space and open environment for people to share their ideas and express themselves, which is vital for productivity and satisfaction; incorporating sessions on diversity to appeal to minority populations; and discussing topics via guest panels, which are becoming increasingly popular. Make sure there are speakers from different backgrounds and think about how attendees can extend the conversation outside the event. This social component can help attendees during and after the meeting — forging new connections in the industry that remain well after the event is over. It may be worth adding a session into the program that hits specifically on how to achieve workplace wellness. According to the American Psychological Association, 89 percent of workers who support well-being initiatives are more likely to recommend their company as a good place to work.
Only half of the U.S. workforce reported being satisfied with the development opportunities offered by their employer, and just 43 percent said their employer provides sufficient opportunity for internal advancement. Lack of opportunity for growth or advancement placed second behind low salaries as a source of job stress. If the goal of the meeting is to grow participants professionally, discussing ways to find fulfillment in the workplace will be particularly enticing to attendees.
These ideas are not mutually exclusive to a single wellness bucket; for example, the camaraderie of social well-being also contributes to a better overall mental state, and proper nutrition also contributes to mental capacity. At Washington Duke Inn and JB Duke Hotel, the team comes to work every day with a plethora of fresh ideas to help meeting planners achieve organizational goals while thinking outside the box. It’s important to mention that wellness is all about balance, which can be achieved through dedicating significant attention to each dimension. The role of a planner is not to create this balance, but to create an environment in which individuals can maintain existing healthy lifestyles and thrive. Each wellness component is interconnected and equally as important – implementing these four ideas is a great start to creating an environment that will take your corporate meeting to the next level.
With all things considered, wellness truly is an essential element for meeting planners to incorporate into their plans to make any year a successful one. C&IT