By Adam and Larry Mogelonsky

Why is employee wellness so critical right now? There are a lot of macro forces at work, but the bottom line is that the hospitality labor pool will remain in short supply for the long run, so you need to think in terms of non-wage employee incentives in order to form that ‘sense of belonging’ to retain your teams.

And we can’t say this enough, investments in employee wellness programming will not only act as a way to stave off staffing issues and inflationary wages, but when your team is healthier it’s also a cost-saver because fewer sick days will be taken (which may also reduce overtime pay), and you won’t have to deal with the hidden costs of replacement (recruitment, screening, training and lost service in the interim).

Perhaps the biggest problem, though, is the ambiguity of the term ‘wellness’ which, by virtue of being all-encompassing, induces a sense of ‘shopper’s paralysis’ insofar as where hotels should start or what they should focus their limited resources on next. The answer here is never everything, because we must be highly programmatic with each new initiative to ensure it becomes perpetually successful fixture of the corporate culture.

In this, we can leave you with five top choices for what to consider for employee wellness in 2023, with the execution of each dependent on the individual brand or hotel’s unique situation. The commonality throughout is that doing more for your people will halo positively back onto service delivery and your ability to grow revenues for the decade ahead.

1. Those that eat together stay together. Just as your guests now want healthier food options in the restaurant, keeping your teams healthy with good staff meals – especially when combined with the familial bonding of eating together – will result in fewer sick days taken and better overall moods amongst individual employees to help combat turnover.

2. Teambuilding happens through group activities. Beyond the bonds that team lunches or offsites help to form, you also have to now consider repetitive strain injuries and how these chronic physical stressors can lead to lower morale or even short-term paid leave. Weekly stretching, yoga or any other form of exercise classes for housekeepers check this box, but also think of your managers. Sitting is the new smoking, after all, so get your teams off of their chairs.

3. Automation lets employees be more guest-facing. Very few choose a career in hospitality because they want to look at computer monitors all day. In fact, too much tech can become a job stressor, so the key is to integrate and automate as much as possible in order to minimize the interruptive busywork that all these systems may create. While many of you may not see the direct connection to wellness, a hotelier far wiser than the two of us put it this way: increase the ‘no touch’ of tech to enable the ‘high touch’ of real hospitality.

4. Succession planning, mentorship and continuing professional development. These three programs are kindred spirits in that they reinforce the feelings of belonging and hope. Whether young or mature, every employee wants to know that there are opportunities to move up the ladder, both for the sense of worth that comes from more responsibility as well as for the prospects of a bigger salary. Develop internal training and one-on-one mentor-mentee programs to guide career development, then make it abundantly evident that if an employee works hard they will be duly rewarded.

5. Encouraging financial literacy. With the recession upon us as well as strong cultural narratives around inflation and earning a living wage, we are all becoming more cognizant of the detrimental effects of financial inability. This stressor can lead to poorer life outcomes and affect job performance, and yet hotels can do their part by teaching their teams about the basics of budgeting, saving, financial planning, compound interest and so on. Your people will thank you for the education and reward you with their loyalty.

To close, let us put a proverbial gun to your head. Other leading brands are already taking employee wellness very seriously. If you don’t get the ball rolling, employees will jump ship to where they feel more appreciated. This will happen for associates seeking higher wages to stay ahead of inflation and, as The Great Resignation has shown, it will also happen for managers and executives chasing higher salaries in addition to more camaraderie amongst their colleagues. All told, the rationale for employee wellness is there, so best get started.