The pandemic launched a major trend that shows no signs of slowing down.
For meeting planners, a key lesson learned from the pandemic is that wellness is not just a personal priority—it’s critical for bottom lines, too. Now, attendees expect to meet, break, and network in ways that support their health and wellbeing, so it’s crucial for businesses to adapt and accommodate in accordance with this new normal.
That’s why smart organizations are investing in keeping their employees healthy—not just safe from COVID-19, but healthy in a holistic way. And that overall commitment to wellness is manifesting as a significant trend in meetings and events in 2021 and beyond.
“The past year has been such an eye-opener to the fact that health is one of the big things we can control, and that [it] has the most impact on our lives,” says Scott Cook, fitness supervisor at the Greater Phoenix resort Mountain Shadows. “Wellness affects all things in our lives, and we must integrate it into everything we do—even more so now with the broader focus on keeping people healthy, both mentally and physically, so we can all get back up and running.”
What Wellness Looks Like at Meetings
Incorporating wellness into meetings has already taken on many forms—and there’s no wrong way to do it. It might be a mindfulness exercise, a fitness break, a healthier menu or even just moving a larger portion of the program outdoors.
“Our bodies are not made to be in fluorescent lighting for nine hours a day, just sitting and looking at a screen,” Cook says. “Doing that too long in an unbroken stretch zaps your energy, your focus, your creativity. So, we try to break it up.”
Programming offered at this resort does so, for instance, with quick stretches and meditations as breakouts in the middle of the day. This gives attendees opportunities to get up and move, and resume the day with a refocused frame of mind.
Wellness-focused programming has “always been a big part of what we do,” Cook points out. He notes the resort’s full range of fitness amenities, a fresh juice bar, mountain-view lawn yoga, and other healthy options the staff has been “integrating into meeting formats since day one.”
The culmination of any number of these options makes a big difference, according to Cook. “You feel good, you get some fresh air, you get a little vitamin D. Mentally, you’re going to be sharper, you’re going to communicate better with those around you—and these mindset shifts make meetings much more effective.”
The Shift in Corporate Culture
Organizations must demonstrate that they care about their employees’ overall wellbeing, not just protecting their physical health, to enable them to work toward company goals. A focus on wellness is also a must for attracting and retaining top talent, who seek a commitment to these things from leadership now more than ever.
“It becomes part of the company culture when a company focuses on employee wellness and wellbeing,” Cook explains, citing scientific research supporting a wellness-centered approach to meetings. “It shows that a company cares about its workers, and that benefits the goals of the organization. Employees end up being more creative and better at what they do.”
Additionally, Cook says that he receives overwhelmingly positive feedback from groups that prioritize these sorts of programs.
“They provide wellness opportunities to reset and find people are more focused and more creative in their approach to problem-solving when they have that wellness break,” he says.
The wellness trend, Cook observes, is becoming more entrenched in the fiber of meetings, forecasting many more outdoor events and health-focused programs going forward—well beyond your typical meetings trend.
“The pandemic really did shine a light on everything that’s important,” he says. “Health, family, and work alike. With all of those things in mind, it’s clear that wellness will remain a priority at meetings well into the future.”