Alchemists were once people who spent their lives searching for a substance that could turn base metals into silver or gold. The substance, also known as “the philosopher’s stone,” was believed to be able to grant immortality. The Great Work was the name given to efforts made to find it. Alchemy and philosopher’s stones are now a historical curiosity. They only appear in Harry Potter movies.

Alchemy’s symbolic impulse is still relevant. For example, hoteliers are always on the lookout for that panacea that will turn ailing property into gold. Renovations and amenities that are thoughtful put us on the right track. Direct bookings and higher levels of guest loyalty get us closer. We feel like we are getting closer when we talk about the interactions between guests and employees. The key to running a successful hotel is having a team that’s motivated and inspired. The best finish in the universe won’t do you any good if your employees are not motivated.

What if we went one step further? What if we began to pay attention to our employees’ health and wellbeing and the performance of the hotels? Could this be the “philosopher’s stone” of the hotel industry — having employees who are healthier, fitter, and happier?

Several notable brands have already said yes. Marriott International’s employee wellness program, TakeCare, has seen a significant increase in customer satisfaction over the past few years. Marriott Suites Maharashtra in India, for instance, showed that the wellness program led to a 13% increase in guest satisfaction in just one year. The company also claims that it has benefited from “higher associate engagement” as well as “cost savings due to lower medical claims.”

Marriott’s TakeCare Program is a range of programs that are available to Marriott associates. These include fitness, nutrition, stress and weight management, quit-smoking programs, as well as programs that help associates improve their financial health. The American Heart Association has recognized the company for its efforts, which are grouped under the corporate responsibility banner.

The Ritz Carlton, in Chengdu (China), is another great example of Marriott’s increased attention to employee wellbeing. This property also hosts yoga classes for its employees and hosts ping-pong tournaments. It partners with local organizations to hold a 5K race to benefit children. Hyatt is not left behind, either. The Hyatt Regency San Francisco gives fitness bracelets to their associates and holds fitness competitions between different Hyatt hotels in the area.

Are these hospitality alchemists on the right path? The benefits of demonstrating that your workplace is progressive – and that its focus is on people and action rather than bland corporate statements – are almost beyond count. Your existing employees will feel and look better. Your employees will be motivated to do excellent work, and they will interact positively with your guests. Your reputation in the job market will also improve. You will attract better talent as a result.

When we read about such developments, there is often a shrug of shoulders. The Marriotts and Hyatts can spend money on trendy wellness programs that have clever names. But what about us? What about independent operators, boutique hotels, and smaller hotel chains?

Start small and send out a message. Is there a gym or yoga studio in your hotel? Give your employees access to the gym before or after work. It’s best if there is an area for employees to clean up and shower. Paying a yoga teacher to teach a class every week is not expensive. Depending on where you live in Australia, the cost could be as low as $100 per session. Make fitness competitions more interesting by using inexpensive gifts, such as movie or music vouchers. You may not have to spend any money at all; you can start a regular walk/jog together with your boss. Ask your employees what they would like to see in terms of wellness and health programs. The very question could have a profound effect on employee morale.

Can we really say that employee wellbeing is a panacea newly discovered in our industry? No, this is not a new concept. Good managers have been aware of it for decades. Successfully managing a property is a complex and nuanced undertaking. Employee wellness is important and can be a source of growth that’s untapped for your property.

We are hospitality professionals who always put people at the heart of our work. We could achieve the alchemical reaction that we are looking for by taking better care of our people. Go for the gold!

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