Mental Health Initiatives for Spa & Wellness

March 30, 2021 LNE Editor

By Andrew Jacka,
Chairman – Asia Pacific Spa & Wellness Coalition

In January, the APSWC spoke with Woon Hoe Lee, Senior Assistant Vice President / Executive Director of Wellbeing at Banyan Tree Holdings on their recently announced initiatives to roll out groupwide wellbeing practices (including mental health initiatives) for their employees (hereunder referred to as ‘associates’). This article is a result of that conversation.

Well-being Index

The Banyan Tree Group had initially developed a Wellbeing Index as a form to assess the lifestyle of its guests. However, built on the core passion for people, its leadership team believes that “we can only look after our guests when we look after our associates”. The assessment was extended to associates who provide the services and support to their guests. It consists of 64 questions which reviews lifestyle practices based around Banyan Tree’s eight pillars of wellbeing. Questions include the amount of water consumed daily; whether they immerse themselves in nature; and whether or not they participate in daily sports activities amongst others.

The Banyan Tree Eight Pillars of Wellbeing incorporate practices of the mind, body, soul relationship with others and nature.

The Organizational Wellbeing Index was initially trialed in three properties in early 2020 and a groupwide survey conducted in 2nd half of 2020. The resultant index and follow-up actions will be rolled out across the group from March 2021. Through the Index, each property is able to pinpoint overall trends, strengths and improvements for employee wellbeing. Banyan Tree corporate office will work with individual hotel’s management teams to suggest appropriate guidelines, training and activities to address any issues.
Mental Health initiatives – when did you last show your staff that you cared?

“I Am With You”

The Group has also had a shake-up of their company’s training modules. As an inside-out journey, the Group’s people-first approach led it to revamp its groupwide training modules to express its service culture of ‘I am with you’.

Leaning on tenets of empathy, positive psychology and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), the training has been led by the Group’s Banyan Tree Management Academy.

Mr. Lee stated: “Traditional training where the lecturer talks and students listen is being replaced with new training modules built around experiential learning with a facilitative approach and supported by what works for each property in keeping with their bottom-up approach to what associates need rather than what management wants to teach. This is especially important when related to mental health initiatives.” The new style of training seeks to promote resilience, self-awareness and self-care.

Advocating for a broader industry rollout, where “it is no longer a case of whether or not the industry is ready for it, but will the industry make the choice” said Mr. Lee. Today the quality of our rest, our mental wellbeing etc., is impacted by circumstances beyond our control, and it is time for employers to start to pay attention. It is acknowledged that what is done to address the mental wellbeing of employees could be restricted by budgetary constraints, but it is no longer acceptable to do nothing. Simple budgetary-considerate activities such as social gatherings, group physical activities and breathing practices, can yield far greater results than might be obvious. It is up to each company to choose what they address and how they address it.

Mental Health Initiatives: Tele-Therapy Services

In addition, the group is laying the groundwork to support associates’ wellbeing with the launch of Project T, a tele-therapy servicewhich partners with likeminded externally-certified wellbeing practitioners. It covers a variety of wellness subjects including life coaching, nutrition and stress management.

Strictly confidential and available in English, Chinese and Thai languages, associates benefit from complimentary professional sessions to learn stress management techniques, to apply at work and in their personal life.
Pre Pandemic Planning

Planned well before the global pandemic that shook the world’s economy to its core, and brought discussions on mental wellness to the fore, its relevance and importance as an essential tool has only been further highlighted by COVID-19. By taking a proactive approach to their associates’ health an unintended, but (with hindsight) an obvious beneficial outcome has been the potential for reduced staff turnover and reduced sick leave of associates.

In closing Mr. Lee stated that “these are exceptional times and exceptional solutions are needed, to prove that we genuinely care of the team and value their contributions to the company. Afterall, our dedicated associates are the pillars of our success.”

One might suggest that this gives definite pause-for-thought!!
About: Andrew Jacka – Chairmain: Asia-Pacific Spa & Wellness Coalition (APSWC)

Since its launch, the Asia-Pacific Spa & Wellness Coalition (APSWC) has grown in size and reputation and by 2011 united some 16 associations across 14 countries, with a network extending around the globe. The Coalition was formed to meet the challenges presented by the evolution and growth of the Asian Pacific spa industry. APSWC’s mission: to act as a bridging mechanism between countries to promote, protect, educate, and develop the spa & wellness industry in the Asia-Pacific region.

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