From stipends for gym memberships to nourishing vending machine options, companies are making employee wellness a priority. Likewise, corporate planners are incorporating new programs and activities into meetings to promote a healthier mind and body and help boost productivity.
“Corporate wellness initiatives can reduce the number of sick days, lower health care costs and create healthier, more engaged employees,” says Laura Moore, an Austin-based human resources consultant. “As a part of corporate wellness, it’s also beneficial to incorporate wellness activities into company meetings. The employees benefit from the activity, and it gives them the opportunity to connect with each other differently. It also demonstrates that their firm values them by providing them a way to focus on winding down and being present.”
For groups who want to get out of the office to relax and recharge together, here are some wellness retreats to consider.
Just 20 minutes from the heart of downtown Houston, The Houstonian sits on 27 wooded acres and is home to the only Forbes Four-Star spa in the city. With full-service meetings and conference facilities and 289 guest rooms, this urban retreat works well for large groups. The Trellis Spa is designed in the Mediterranean style with big windows that look out onto a lush courtyard. The 17,000-square-foot spa includes 20 treatment rooms, seven hair styl - ing stations, seven manicure and four pedi - cure stations, luxurious locker rooms (with Jacuzzi and steam room), an indoor float pool, comfortable upstairs lounge with a fireplace, and relaxation rooms for before and after treatments. Treatments range from tradition - al massages and facial services to uniquely targeted options, such as the Tension Relief Cocoon designed to treat tight muscles, joints and tendons using intensely active marine mud to soothe sore tissue and release toxins.
“Trellis Spa is one of the most sought-after spas in the city and is a nice draw for groups that have the budget and time out of their meeting agenda to enjoy it properly,” says Dawn Turbes, director of group sales. “We can facilitate a total buyout of Trellis or activities as simple as ‘treats and treatments’ for spouses. The spa is very aware of the time restrictions for groups and works to manage access, but primarily we see less and less groups utilizing the spa for organized events due to time limi - tations and budget.”
In addition to the Trellis Spa, the Houstonian Club, a full-service private health club and fitness facility, offers a wide variety of wellness classes for groups, Turbes adds.
One example is Yoga on the Meadow, an outside yoga experience that focuses on awareness, breathing deeply and practicing stillness. “This experience can be planned for different hours of the day and will be entirely facilitated with yoga mats and Houstonian Club water bottles,” says Turbes. Yoga on the Meadow ends with a healthy breakfast with fresh-squeezed juices under a huge Texas oak.
“Complimentary access to the exclusive Houstonian Club is a tremendous amenity for group sales bookings,” Turbes says. “Groups can use the facility independently during hours very conducive to pre-/post-meeting times as weekday hours are 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., and they are able to reserve studios for organized private classes.”
Located in the central business district of Dallas next to the flagship Neiman Marcus, the Joule is a 1920s-era, neo-Gothic landmark building that contains a selection of dramatic mosaics that were salvaged by Tim Headington, the hotel’s founder, from a downtown construction project.
The 11,000-square-foot subterranean spa, designed by Adam D. Tihany, has a uniquely luxurious design, featuring commissioned artwork with four multifunction treatment rooms and three beauty rooms. According to The Spa at The Joule’s Spa Director Virginia Acosta, guests can enjoy the spa’s tranquil subterranean setting and European thermal experiences, such as a crystal steam room, sauna, ice fountain and a vitality pool with built-in air massage loungers. These experiences complement the spa treatments available by warming the muscles before a massage in the sauna, mixing the heated vitality pool and cooling elements of the ice fountain for circulation benefits.
“It’s a great way for colleagues to interact and unwind after a long day of meetings,” Acosta says. “It’s also an excellent way to give the gift of well-being that in turn helps promote the importance of work-life balance.” She adds, “As the industry continues to advance, our in-house lead educator consistently meets with team members at all levels to improve skills and knowledge. From services to products, our staff can understand their guests’ needs and advise them competently.”
Formerly the Travaasa Resort in Austin, the Miraval Austin became a Hyatt property in 2017. At the time of the acquisition, Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian told Fortune magazine, “There is a clear focus on wellness at many corporations to really promote a holistic approach to the individuals who are working for them so they can be more productive and happier.”
Today, Miraval Austin occupies 220 acres of protected land overlooking Lake Travis and is just 30 minutes from downtown. With 117 guest rooms and suites along with a full-service Life in Balance Spa, the resort prides itself on a personal approach to wellbeing, and the spa experiences are designed to transform guests’ minds, bodies and souls using innovative treatments inspired by the natural surroundings.
Wellness programs include fitness, yoga, meditation, culinary, nutrition and art. Many of the spa treatments are designed to balance the mind-body-spirit connection using ancient Ayurvedic therapies from India. The Body Renewal Rituals help cleanse, nourish and heal skin by soothing and protecting it with various peels, scrubs and wraps. More traditional services, such as massage, hair and nails are also available.
“We have seen a tremendous response in corporate guests participating in our wellness offerings,” says Jorah Anderson, Miraval Group’s director of sales. “Not only are more and more corporate companies incorporating wellness practices into the office, but they are providing employees with the opportunity to de-stress outside of work.”
According to Anderson, all Miraval properties offer a selection of Miraval favorites alongside exclusive spa treatments and wellness programs that pay homage to the local community. Specifically, Miraval Austin offers a series of exclusive wellness programs that integrate Austin’s art and culture scene and stunning surroundings through hikes, lake activities and dance lessons.
DEER LAKE LODGE
Described by owner Tracy Boulware as “our little gem in the woods,” Deer Lake Lodge is a 50-acre tranquil escape from urban stresses and is less than an hour’s drive from Houston in Montgomery. Unlike a standard spa resort, the programs and treatments at the lodge are designed to be a truly transformational experience that brings clarity to your mind in an atmosphere of coziness and solitude, says Boulware. “Our treatments are therapeutic and designed to make you feel better, not just relaxed,” she says. “We want results! So definitely you will loosen up, but you will also feel some health issues reduced or resolved.”
Programs for groups focus on detox/fasting (liquid diet only), yoga, positive affirmation and coaching. Spa treatments include the Harmonizing Ritual, which incorporates Reiki (an energy-healing massage). A scalp therapy massage that uses a blend of nutrients to calm and penetrate the scalp is also popular.
The lodge and spa can accommodate up to 32 guests with eight suites, three cabins and one guesthouse that sleeps eight to 10. Liquid food is included in the pricing, plus tastings from the raw food classes. For a small additional fee, planners can use outside catering for those who want more traditional meals.
“Office buildings are stuffy and can even be unhealthy with stale air or chemical fragrances and cleaning products,” Boulware explains. “With the right atmosphere of clean air and natural seclusion, the meeting attendees can stay focused and actually problem solve with a clear head. We have had corporations book our entire resort for executive-level meetings. The secluded, natural environment and lack of distractions are conducive to productivity.”
THE INN AT DOS BRISAS
Located in Texas’ serene Hill Country, The Inn at Dos Brisas is described as a “luxury ranch retreat,” and is an hour and 15 minutes’ drive from Houston and about two hours from Austin. The Relais & Chateaux luxury inn sits on 313 acres that guests can explore on horseback or golf cart. Perfect for small group meetings, the resort has nine Spanish-style haciendas and casitas, ranging from 800 to 3,000 square feet. After alone (or group) time out in the hills, attendees can decompress further with a therapeutic massage by the private plunge pool, organic gardening lessons or a group wine tasting. Other unique activities include stargazing and strolls through the resort rose garden, which features 150 different varieties, cultivars and hybrids.
According to General Manager Jonathan Cartwright, natural wellness is a primary focus of the property, and while they don’t have a spa, per se, guests can enjoy treatments in the privacy of their own rooms.
“I think in the modern world we live in, we thrive for an active life with health benefits to combat the modern stress levels of our business lives,” Cartwright explains. “Groups enjoy a balance of meetings on the property and activities, such as clay shooting, horseback riding, group yoga, frisbee golf and cycling on the ranch and in the Texas foothills.” He adds that some of the main benefits for guests are a good night’s sleep in peace and quiet and the organic food grown on the property’s farm.