Wellness in Meetings: Interest Outpaces Implementation

wellness in meetings

Incorporating wellness practices into our dietary, professional and recreational routines sounds like a great idea. But when the time comes to follow through, it can be tough to swap Sunday morning waffles for a green smoothie, or trade a mindless tv show for a meditation session.

A similar disconnect exists in the meetings industry, according to a new Wellness in Meetings and Incentive Travel Study from the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF). The study measures the prevalence of wellness initiatives in incentive travel and meeting programs.

In November 2016, IRF collected completed surveys from 109 meeting planners and 34 hoteliers. Nearly 60 percent of surveyed planners had at least 15 years of industry experience.

Half of in-house planners called themselves personally enthusiastic about wellness and sustainability. These planners identified wellness as a critical focus for their company at approximately the same rate, and 43 percent said that their organizations have wellness programs.

However, that foundation has not translated to an emphasis on wellness and sustainability in meetings, in design, policy or budgets. The survey found that only 17 percent of companies connect their wellness programs to their meeting strategies. Even fewer organizations budget for sustainable meetings, place a strong emphasis on well meetings or maintain wellness meeting guidelines.

Planners can’t place the blame entirely on companies or clients, however. Only one-third of meeting planners have booked a health and wellness speaker for an event, or selected a wellness destination for a meeting, in the past 24 months.

“Each year, companies in the United States invest billions of dollars to both help their employees get healthier and additional billions to help them meet face to face,” said IRF President Melissa Van Dyke. “The research featured in The IRF Wellness in Meetings and Incentive Travel Study leads us to question how integrated these efforts within organizations are—and what the meetings and incentives industry could do to create better synergies.”

Clearly, sustainable, wellness-based meeting practices have room to grow. But even if the industry isn’t ready to adopt composting and acupuncture, there is interest in creating healthier, greener meetings.

According to the IRF Survey:

The majority of meetings planners agreed wellness is a critical focus for either their company (87%) or their client’s company (74%).
40% of planners characterized meetings as “mostly healthy,” while 19% responded “very healthy.”
The top standard preferred food & beverage wellness inclusions for meetings and events were healthy snacks (83%), water and reduced calorie drinks (82%), and fish, chicken and lean meats (80%).
Smoke-free facilities (90%) and free access to fitness facilities (80%) were the top-ranked standard or preferred meeting design elements supporting wellness.
Offering water and reduced calorie drinks as the default (77%) had the lowest expected impact on F&B budgets.
Emerging wellness practices include “mindfulness breaks or resources” and “guides to nearby health facilities.”

Now it’s up to corporate executives, meeting planners and hoteliers to work together to turn interest into implementation. View or download the full IRF study online.