2017 wellness white paper

2017 S PA N N I N G T H E W E L L N E S S D I V I D E Spanning the Wellness Divide: From Interest to Action in Meeting ...

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2017 S PA N N I N G T H E W E L L N E S S D I V I D E

Spanning the Wellness Divide: From Interest to Action in Meeting and Incentive Travel Wellness A white paper on The IRF Wellness in Meetings and Incentive Travel Study

T h i s a n d a l l o t h e r I R F r e p o r t s a r e a v a i l a b l e a t T h e I R F. o r g

w w w. T h e I R F. o r g


INTRODUCTION Each year companies in the United States invest billions of dollars to help their employees get healthier – and additional billions to help them meet face to face. The IRF Wellness in Meetings and Incentive Travel Study found a significant disconnect between wellness goals and the incorporation of these efforts into meetings and incentive travel programs. The IRF explores what the meetings and incentives industry could do to create better synergies in support of wellness, particularly for companies that already have existing wellness programs. The IRF Wellness in Meetings and Incentive Travel Study was conducted by the IRF in November of 2016, and 143 completed surveys were received from a pool of experienced meeting planners and hoteliers. Responses from 109 were equally split between Incentive House/Meeting Companies and Corporate End Users. Almost 60% of planner respondents had 15+ years of experience. Both personal and corporate interest in the topic of wellness is high. Over 90% of corporate and incentive house planners said they are personally enthusiastic about wellness. The majority of planners also agree wellness is a critical focus for either their company (87%) or their client’s company (74%). Implementation, however, is a different story. Less than half of corporate end users currently connect their meeting strategy with their organization’s wellness strategy and less than half of meeting companies provide detailed wellness guidelines. Meeting planners were measured in their assessment of how healthy their meetings were, with 40% indicating their typical meetings were “mostly healthy” and 19% saying “very healthy.” These numbers rose significantly to 46% and 30% respectively when asked about meetings with additional budget. In sum, while there is strong corporate and personal interest amongst planners for wellness, the implementation is lacking. Perhaps one reason for this disconnect may be an information gap. When asked where they go for information, most of the respondents said general internet searches. There was a drop off then for those that went to specialized wellness institutions, to trade organizations, to industry contacts and/or suppliers. Only one person noted they connect with their company’s wellness organization. And one respondent said candidly “I have no idea.”

Bridging the Gap The recent research gave great insights into the practices planners are currently using to begin bridging this information gap. Meeting planners discussed what practices are standard and preferred, what practices are budget-friendly, what practices are most effective, and what their “wish list” would be if constraints were unlimited.


2017 — Spanning the Wellness Divide

The Current Standard So what are the standard inclusions for wellness currently? The research tested thirteen potential options for food and beverage and thirteen potential options for meeting design. The top wellness inclusions for meetings and events were defined as having roughly more than a third of planners offering them standard in all meetings and roughly three quarters or more of planners offering them in either all meetings or when circumstances allowed:

Food and Beverage Figure 1: Top 4 Standard Healthy F&B Inclusions


Healthy snacks, fruits, vegetables (83%)


Water and reduced calorie drinks as default (82%)


Fish, chicken, lean meats (80%)


Gluten-free options (71%)

w w w. T h e I R F. o r g


Meeting Design Figure 2: Top 5 Health & Wellness Inclusions


Smoke-free facilities (90%)


Free access to fitness facilities (80%)


Frequent breaks to encourage moving (76%)


Casual dress to encourage activity (76%)


Venues within walking distance (75%)

Reduced size plates, nutrition guides for attendees, reusable flatware, zero-waste meeting design, and fitness gamification were the least offered options with 50-75% of planners saying they are either not usually offered, not a consideration, or do not apply.

“We almost never offer sodas anymore. Infused waters have become quite the thing for our groups, and we serve ice tea and lemonade as well.” 4

2017 — Spanning the Wellness Divide

Budget-friendly Practices Not surprisingly, standard practices often map to budget-friendly practices, with three of the top five budget-friendly F&B practices also appearing most often in planners’ standard offerings. From the thirteen options tested, below are the top six budget-friendly practices to which most planners agreed could usually be added at no additional cost. (* indicates a top-five standard practice inclusion.)

Figure 3: Top 6 Budget-friendly F&B Choices


Water and reduced calorie drinks as default (77%)*


Fish, chicken, lean meats (65%)*


Reduced plate size (64%)


Healthy snacks, fruits, vegetables (52%)*


Low sodium meals (47%)


Bulk service of food/condiments (46%)

Interestingly, while reduced plate size did not include extra budget for many planners, it was listed at the bottom of inclusions. Likewise, while less than half of planners said gluten-free was a budget neutral-option, it is one of the most-included practices, signaling less organizational price sensitivity to this inclusion.

“Our VP of marketing organized a scavenger hunt at the end of the team meeting. We had the opportunity to work in teams and look for items around our place of meeting. This activity made us refreshed.” w w w. T h e I R F. o r g


Similar patterns emerged for meeting design, with three of the top five budget-friendly meeting design options also appearing as part of planner’s top standard practices. Of the thirteen meeting design options tested, the following emerged as most budget-friendly:

Figure 4: Best Budget-friendly Options


Smoke-free facilities (88%)


Casual dress to encourage activity (88%)


Frequent breaks to encourage moving (80%)


Mindfulness breaks (62%)


Guide to nearby health/fitness resources (62%)

Although not included in the top budget-friendly inclusions, the top standard practices of “free access to fitness facilities” and “venues within walking distance” still had over 50% of planners saying the could be added at no additional cost. While “mindfulness breaks or resources” and “guides to nearby health facilities” were not included in the top five standard practices, they should be viewed as strong emerging practices; they both made the top five budget-friendly practices and currently also have over half of meeting planners noting they are standard or greatly preferred inclusions.


2017 — Spanning the Wellness Divide

Moving Toward Best Practices As designers know well, standard practices and budget-friendly practices do not always equate to effective practices. More than half of planners in this study took the time to provide openended feedback on what practices they had seen were most effective or impactful. Text analysis showed these included: •

Various engaging/encouraged activities: Examples include organized walks, daily optional work out, biggest loser competitions, 5ks, complimentary group classes/hikes, cycling to conference venue, geocache, team building activities that require standing up, scavenger hunts.

Yoga and meditation: Examples include yoga before meeting, yoga on the beach, hot yoga, meditation breaks, stretching before every meeting to wake people up.

“Meditation… taught how easy it is to do, costs nothing, no equipment, just relaxation tools.”

Interesting healthy eating options: “We often times have the chef from the property teach the attendees how to make a HEALTHY meal... and then we usually serve that same meal or lunch!”

Interesting breaks: Frequent movement breaks or no seating during the breaks.

“Other” practices: Including ties to wellness checks “Wellness checks are of great value because provides instant blood work results as well as vital signs and weight.”

Almost a third of planners also took the time to provide feedback on practices they have seen fail. These included: •

Poorly designed or attended activities: Reasons for not working included the activity is not culturally acceptable (yoga), people do not want to get up, or people drink too much the night before.

Pushback on healthy food: “Consumption of soda. People are addicted to the sugar and caffeine.”

The best indicator of planner’s interest in the topic is their enthusiasm for expanding their current efforts. When asked what they would like to try if given the chance, almost half of planners responded with a wealth of ideas they would like try. These fell into eight categories: 1.

Different activities, e.g. boxing, resistance training

2. Yoga 3.

Active breaks, e.g. walking/mental breaks


Different healthy food options, e.g. F&B synced with

AM+PM biorhythms


Mindfulness, e.g. meditation rooms


Spa-like activities, e.g. foot massages


Free fitness facilities


Other, e.g. gamification and Fitbits w w w. T h e I R F. o r g