Employee well-being, Leadership and Management Development

Results from a Public Open Staff Well-being Audit

This is my last post on management learning and development futures gaining insight from spa land. I’ve just released the first part of an open public audit on staff well-being with respondents from around the world working in the spa sector.

Stress Factors

One of the main stress factors that came up, which leaders in the sector are responsible for controlling, was work intensiveness  (Demands). In my webinar, to people interested in the findings of the study, I emphasised the importance of managers helping employees to find or design ways for less intensive working. Less intensive working can be achieved either through reducing the number of tasks within a given time frame, delegating some tasks to others or embarking on complete work redesign and taking a fresh look at job descriptions and person specifications.

Surprising findings

Another thing that came up was surprising. Like other sectors, this group also suffers from work related stress and even more interestingly …back ache.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Good News

The winning ways that team leaders seem to be doing for reducing staff stress is helping employees know how to go about getting their job done (Role) and fostering good relationships having colleagues that listen to me (relationships).

Interestingly the having colleagues that listened was more prevalent in some countries than others. But it wasn’t new news to find that relationships between colleagues were good as other studies have found this to be true of this sector.


But I’d set a warning not to be too complacent about spas being great places to work. My caveat is based on the unpublished studies that I’ve seen (MA and doctoral thesis) and expressed industry concerns about business failure and high staff turnover in this sector for the lack of leadership skills. This mini study has shown that there might be signs that understanding job role  and fostering good relationships might get staff through difficult times in the heat of the moment and so works for the short term. But whether just knowing how to do your role is enough to ameliorate the stresses brought on by the demands of the job or a perception of little control or not being informed about change is something that still needs to be looked at further.

Learning Needs Analysis

The management learning and development needs that I can see arising out of this study are centred on enriching:

  • Work appraisals skills
  • Managing work loads
  • Monitoring performance with risk analysis
  • Setting smart goals
  • Job redesign
  • Operations planning
  • L&D planning
  • Negotiation
  • Positive Leadership stress reducing management competencies

If you would like more information about the results please use the contact from below.

Employee well-being, Leadership and Management Development

Jeremy McCarthy Explains Why Spa is Fountain of Innovation

Jeremy McCarthy the Group Director of Spa at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has kindly given permission for me to re-blog his recent LinkedIn Pulse article. I asked to re-blog this post because when you read right down to the end you’ll see how it’s an authentic account of what busy executives feel they get out of going to a spa and how it helps their business. Jeremy begins…

Spa as Fountain of Innovation


Jeremy McCarthy

” The way I’ve now evolved for me, massage is not a luxury . . . it’s actually where I am nourished. All of the sights, the smells, the sounds, the touch of your practitioner, when I melt into that table, that’s where my body is reenergized. But secondly, and more importantly for me, that sanctuary is where my artistic spirit soars. That’s where I come alive. That’s where I create my best ideas. That’s where I connect the dots. That’s where I’m able to relax and become a better husband, a better father, a better entrepreneur, and certainly a much better artist.

–Artist, Erik Wahl, at the ISPA Annual Conference 2014

I have a confession to make. In spite of spending most of my adult life working in spas; in spite of serving several years on the board of directors of the International Spa Association; and in spite of being a staunch advocate of the benefits of spa in my writing and speaking, I actually prefer shorter spa treatments.

To be fair, this is not so unusual. A quick poll of friends and acquaintances shows that the world can be easily divided into two camps: those who subscribe to the “more is better” approach to spa, and those who enjoy a quick break in the spa, but don’t want it to last too long.

But the reason for my lack of spa endurance might surprise you. It is not that my body can’t take the pampering . . . quite the contrary. The problem is with my mind. I get so many good ideas while I’m lying on the massage table that I can’t wait to run back to the locker room and write them all down. When a spa treatment lingers past the hour mark, and new ideas keep percolating, I start to worry that I will not be able to remember all the great insights I am having.

For me, the spa is not so much the “fountain of youth.” It is the fountain of innovation. The spa is a place where creativity springs forth, where the foundations of good decisions are laid, and where we are connected to our highest purpose and our deepest values. Contrary to popular belief, innovation does not come from brainstorming. It comes from a singular, still and rested mind.

The ironic thing about my proclivity for shorter spa treatments (followed by copious writing sessions) pertains to my new role as the Group Director of Spa for Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group. The Spas at Mandarin Oriental specialize in longer spa journeys. One of the most popular treatments, for example, is a two or three hour “Time Ritual” in which the guest simply commits to the time and shows up. The spa provides a luxurious spa suite appointed with all of the amenities one could hope for. Everything else is customized from there.

The reality is, I can get used to that. Spending more time with my muse is not necessarily a bad thing. I only need to figure out where to put my note pad while I’m on the massage table.

P.S. Earlier this year, our spas launched a new, shorter treatment (45 minutes) appropriately entitled “Calm Mind,” which is now one of my favorite ways to clear my head or get my creative juices flowing. If 45 minutes seems too short to you, then ask yourself these questions:

  • When is the last time you spent 45 minutes on personal wellbeing?
  • When is the last time you spent 45 minutes away from technology?
  • When is the last time you spent 45 minutes in silence?

Just like our bodies, our brains work better when they have time to rest and recover. Some people go to a spa to feel better. Some people go to a spa to look better. Me, I go to a spa to think better”…



Blog originally published on Linkedin Pulse 30th October 2014

If you want to follow Jeremy McCarthy his twitter handle is

I hope you agree that Jeremy’s account is insightful and didn’t deserve to be hidden in Linked In land. I think some of the learnings could be part of what helps explain why individuals self select spa services and activities as part of their own work rest and recovery. It certainly resonates with what I’ve noted from both my career paths. But his article also helps us to understand how spa treatments/ activities help individuals perform their daily work tasks much better. Those nebulous cognitive resource sapping activities of creative problem solving and being innovative certainly would be benefiting from time spent having a spa treatment, it seems. And that is why myself and Lynn put together the Spa Sabbaticals.

I’d love to provide you with the clear physiological explanations about the benefits of treatments but I’ll leave that to my next blog post (reflecting on my teaching input on a massage course recently).

So forget spas as fountains of youth giving treatments. Now is the time to think of spas as fountains of business innovation too!

Employee well-being, Leadership and Management Development, Reboot Camps, Spa Sabbatical

The Business Case for Your Spa Sabbatical

This image reminds me of thoughts that myself and Lynn were having this weekend about the Spa Sabbaticals. We are putting together an info sheet  explaining the business case for our rebooting camps.

The key themes we note we are how some organisations are now responding to best styles of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and not just CSR in its narrowest sense such as being responsible only to shareholders by delivering a return on investment (after Milton Friedman). I used to teach business ethics and CSR for Birkbeck.

The next step up and slightly more sophisticated band of CSR is also connected to employee engagement and job satisfaction. This means organisations taking responsibility for facilitating staff well-being. Employee well-being also has it’s levels which range from paying staff, providing them with benefits, looking after physical health right up to guiding their authentic self actualisation (remember your Maslow). The Spa Sabbatical provides well-being from both the physical and the mental perspectives as well as the existential. The program helps delegates through practical career re-alignment and inner work-life planning. In addition the “taking care of oneself” (after Socrates) and the new concept of self compassion help to explain why the Spa Sabbatical is what individuals might be more inclined to self select. Our detailed info sheet on the business case for our Spa Sabbaticals will be shared with those subscribing to our newsletter.

Read about Spa Sabbaticals and rebooting camps?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 938 other followers