Destination West Focuses on Well-Being and Employee Retention

Laura Putnam and Chris Hodges led education sessions during Northstar Meetings Group's event in Denver.

Northstar's James Antaky enjoys Destination West with Flavia Oliveira of Visit Santa Cruz County, Carolyn Creek-McCallister of Visit Park City and Sachiko Sado of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau. Photo Credit: Ketara Gadahn/Studio Alani

The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of physical health, but it also brought mental health conversations out in the open. Laura Putnam, CEO and founder of Motion Infusion, spoke about how to turn the workplace into an "oasis of well-being" during Northstar Meetings Group's Destination West, held May 5-7 at the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center

According to Putnam, well-being at work — or lack thereof — has played a large role in the Great Resignation, causing employees to quit their jobs in droves. 

"People want to know that they are cared for; they want to know that they matter," she said, addressing the event's 63 event planners and 70 suppliers. "And they want to know that their well-being is respected. All of this has come to the fore with the pandemic."

When it comes to destigmatizing mental health, managers must set the tone. 

"Whether or not well-being is part of the job description, the extent to which team members are engaging with their health has everything to do with their manager," Putnam said, pointing to research showing that every hour a manager sends after-work emails translates to 20 minutes of after-hours email time for their team members.

One of the best ways to ensure the well-being of employees companywide is to examine the corporate culture. 

"If we look at something like burnout, we've been so focused on what's wrong with people as opposed to what's wrong with companies," Putnam said. "When in fact, the research suggests that the top drivers of burnout in the workplace have nothing to do with the individual. No yoga or mindfulness can make up for these bigger factors, such as perceptions of unfairness or unfair treatment at work."

While wellness in the office — whether in-person or remote — is key, it can extend to meetings as well. 

"While there may not be wellbeing across our society, how might we create that oasis of well-being so that with every single event that we plan, every single person who comes there is a little bit healthier, a little bit happier because they are there?" Putnam asked. Solutions range from simple offerings such as healthy food options, to incorporating physical activity, like a walking tour or a yoga class, to break up long periods of sitting.

In addition to mental health, employee engagement is also crucial to retaining staff. Chris Hodges, author of "Noble Automation Now," also spoke at Destination West about adopting technology to do mundane tasks, allowing humans to have more time for the interesting parts of their jobs.

"You get more innovation, you can do all kinds of new services with technology, you get more motivation," Hodges said. "There's nothing like taking boring jobs away from people and giving them more exciting jobs to get their motivation up."