Workers Don’t Feel Quite as Powerful as They Used To
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Workers Don’t Feel Quite as Powerful as They Used To

Fears of an economic downturn are shaking some people’s career confidence, driving them toward stable jobs—and even back to offices.

By Callum Borchers
Fri, Jun 17, 2022 11:30amGrey Clock 3 min

Becca Smith will be back to work in no time.

Laid off from her sales position at a startup a couple of weeks ago, she says she’s received more than a dozen inquiries from recruiters in response to a LinkedIn post about her job loss.

Yet something has changed since the 40-year-old Indiana mother started at her former employer last summer. Back then, she was determined to work from home—and felt sure she could get her way. She also had the confidence to join a fledgling business amid a roaring economy.

No more.

“I will give priority to larger, more-established companies for this job search,” says Ms. Smith, whose old company was venture-funded and cut about one-third of the team to conserve cash. She adds she’ll consider reporting to an office part time. She’d also like her next job to involve selling a product customers need even in bad times, rather than a luxury that could get cut from the budget when money is short.

Though the labor market remains tight and many people still have leverage to negotiate high salaries and remote accommodations, some are bracing for a day when things won’t be so great. As unemployment claims tick higher and business leaders like Elon Musk try to reassert their in-office dominance, workers are showing a little less swagger and looking for more stability than they did just a few months ago.

It’s a strange limbo. Working conditions are about as good as they’ve ever been for many people, and office workers’ complaints can seem petty by historical standards. (Imagine your 2019 self griping about being required to work in an office a few days a month.) Yet a loss of total remote freedom, coupled with sobering economic forecasts, can make it feel like workers’ power is slipping away.

Some companies sense the change and are wresting back more control over how much they cater to employees.

Boston Properties Chief Executive Owen Thomas says his tenants are growing bolder about office callbacks. The national office occupancy rate hit 44% last week, according to an estimate by Kastle Systems, which tracks building-access-card swipes. That’s the highest since the onset of the pandemic.

Employers’ fear that workers will flee for other jobs if told to return to their desks is beginning to subside.

“Some companies are doing layoffs, and that puts pressure on people to get back to the office and stay closer to the senior leaders,” says Mr. Thomas, whose firm is among the largest commercial landlords in several major cities.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said repeatedly that she doesn’t expect the U.S. economy to fall into another recession. Such reassurances wouldn’t seem necessary if not for credible concerns, however, and it might not take the R-word to spook workers.

Career coach Phil Rosenberg says his calendar is filling up with clients who worry it’s now or never—or not for a while, at least—to snag a job with the pay and flexibility they want.

“People are trying to land before the next downturn,” he says.

Luis Caballero, one of Mr. Rosenberg’s clients, says he’s relieved to be starting a new position as a marketing executive next month.

He left a large company in late 2020 with a big enough severance package to support his family for two years, by his estimate, and initially wasn’t in a hurry to find his next long-term fit. Why would he have been?

“Companies were desperate for senior leadership,” says Mr. Caballero of the record numbers of workers who have quit or switched jobs over the past 12 months. “Several friends of mine were writing their own ticket.”

Mr. Caballero, 50, took what he describes as a short-lived “rebound” job last year but quit in February. Searching anew, he says the market“was not the gold mine I had heard about.” Many high-level roles paid less or had heavier workloads than he anticipated.

Mr. Caballero says he accepted an offer that met his expectations—with one major compromise. He’ll drive 10 hours round-trip from his home in Arizona to an office in California, staying over a night or two, to satisfy a requirement to work in person a couple of days a week.

Taking a new job can be risky in the event of a downturn. Some businesses take a last-in-first-out approach to downsizing. As the pandemic fades, companies that grew quickly when people were mostly homebound could cut back as life normalizes. Peloton, Netflix and Carvana already have laid off staff this year.

“If I’m a job seeker these days and I’m smart, I’m considering the business: Is it a business that just developed because of Covid?” says Stacie Haller, a career counsellor at ResumeBuilder.com.

For now, though, the labour market still favours workers, especially in certain industries, she says.

Competition for talent remains intense in biotechnology, with candidates often able to pick among several offers, according to Jean Sabatini, head of staffing at Tango Therapeutics in Cambridge, Mass.

Tech workers, too, enjoy considerable bargaining power, though some have been humbled by the sector’s volatile stock-market performance and shrinking venture-capital pool in recent months, says Allan Jones, founder of an HR software startup in Los Angeles.

The hiring dynamic for most of the past two years has been “bonkers,” he says; prospects frequently Zoomed into job interviews with a confidence bordering on arrogance and scoffed when told that Mr. Jones’s company, Bambee, is office-centric.

Lately, the conversations have changed.



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Clocking out to Turn Back Time—Vacations That Will Help You Live Longer
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Booming demand for wellness tourism shows no slowing, with travel related to health and well-being projected to have reached $1 trillion last year and to hit $1.3 trillion by 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit based in Miami.

Curated wellness travel programs are especially sought-after, specifically holistic treatments focused on longevity. Affluent travellers not only are making time to hit the gym while gallivanting across the globe, they’re also seeking destinations that specifically cater to their wellness goals, including treatments aimed at living longer.

“I believe Covid did put a spotlight on self-care and well-being,” says Penny Kriel, corporate director of spa and wellness at Salamander Collection, a group of luxury properties in places like Washington, D.C., and Charleston, South Carolina. But Kriel says today’s spas are more holistic, encouraging folks to understand the wellness concept and incorporate it into their lifestyle more frequently.

“With the evolution of treatment products and technology, spas have been able to enhance their offerings and appeal to more travellers,” Kriel says.

While some growth is connected to the variety of treatments available, results and the digital world are also contributing to the wellness boom.

“The efficacy and benefits of these treatments continue to drive bookings and interest, especially with the support of social media, influencers, and celebrity endorsements,” Kriel says.

While genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, a diet free of processed foods, sufficient sleep, and human connection play essential roles in living well and longer, experts believe in holistic therapies to help manage stress, boost immunity, and ultimately influence length and quality of life.

Anti Ageing and Beyond

“For years, people have been coming to spas, booking treatments, and gaining advice on how to turn the clock back with anti ageing and corrective skin treatments,” Kriel says. However, today’s treatments are far more innovative.

On Marinella Beach in Porto Rotondo, on the Italian island of Sardinia, guests at the five-star Abi d’Oru Hotel & Spa can experience the resort’s one-of-a-kind “longevity treatment,” a unique antiaging facial using one of the island’s native grapes: Cannonau. The world’s first declared “Blue Zone”—one of five designated areas where people live longer than average, some into their 100s—Sardinia produces this robust red wine varietal, the most widely planted on the island.

Known as Garnacha in Spain and Grenache in France, Cannonau supposedly contains two to three times more antioxidants than other red-wine grapes. By incorporating Cannonau, Abi Spa says its unique 50-minute longevity session increases collagen production for firmer, younger-looking skin.

Maintaining a youthful appearance is just one facet of longevity treatments, which range from stress-reduction sessions like massage to nutritional support and sleep programs, Kriel says. Some retreats also offer medical services such as IV infusions and joint injections.

Keeping with the trend, Kriel is expanding Salamander Collection’s existing spa services, such as detox wraps and lymphatic drainage, to include dedicated “Wellness Rooms,” new vegan and vegetarian menu items, and well-being workshops. “Sleep, nutrition, and mindfulness will be a big focus for integration in 2024,” she says.

Data-Driven Wellness

Skyler Stillings, an exercise physiologist at Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort—an adults-only wellness centre in Lanai, Hawaii—says guests were drawn to the social aspect when the spa opened in November 2021.

“We saw a huge need for human connection,” she recalls. But over the past few years, what’s paramount has shifted. “Longevity is trending much more right now.”

Human connection is a central draw for guests at Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Billionaire co-founder of tech company Oracle Larry Ellison and physician and scientist Dr. David Angus co-founded Sensei. After the death of a mutual close friend, the duo teamed up to create longevity-based wellness retreats to nurture preventative care and a healthy lifestyle. In addition to the Lanai location, the brand established Sensei Porcupine Creek in Greater Palm Springs, California, in November 2022.

Sensei has a data-driven approach. The team performs a series of assessments to obtain a clearer picture of a guest’s health, making wellness recommendations based on the findings. While Sensei analyses that data to curate a personalised plan, Stillings says it’s up to the guests which path they choose.

Sensei’s core three-day retreat is a “Guided Wellness Experience.” For spa treatments, each guest checks into their own “Spa Hale,” a private 1,000-square-foot bungalow furnished with an infrared sauna, a steam shower, a soaking tub, and plunge pools. The latest therapies include Sarga Bodywalking—a barefoot myofascial release massage, and “Four Hands in Harmony,” a massage with two therapists working in tandem. Sensei Guides provide take-home plans so guests can continue their wellness journeys after the spa.

Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Sanctuaries for Longevity

Headquartered in Switzerland with hotels and on-site spas across the globe, Aman Resorts features an integrative approach, combining traditional remedies with modern medicine’s advanced technologies. Tucked behind the doors of the storied Crown Building in Midtown Manhattan, Banya Spa House at Aman New York—the brand’s flagship spa in the Western Hemisphere—is a 25,000-square-foot, three-floor urban oasis.

Yuki Kiyono, global head of health and wellness development at Aman, says the centre provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. Aman’s customisable “Immersion Programs” consist of a three- or five-day immersion. “The programs encompass treatments and experiences that touch every significant aspect to create a path for longevity, from meditation and mindfulness to nutrition and movement,” Kiyono explains.

Banya Spa House at Aman New York.
Robert Rieger

The spa’s “Tei-An Wellness Solution” features 90- to 150-minute sessions using massage, cryotherapy, and Vitamin IV infusions. Acupuncture is also on offer.

“With its rich history of Chinese Medicine, modern research, and the introduction of sophisticated electro-acupuncture medicine, acupuncture has been proven to assist with problems and increase performance,” Kiyono says.

Resetting the Mind and Body

Beyond longevity, “healthspan”—the number of years a person can live in good health free of chronic disease—is the cornerstone of Mountain Trek Health Reset Retreat’s program in British Columbia, Canada.

Kirk Shave, president and program director, and his team employ a holistic approach, using lifestyles in long-living Blue Zones as a point of reference.

“We improve our daily lifestyle habits, so we live vitally as long as we’re meant to live,” Shave says of the retreat. He built the program from an anthropological stance, referencing humans as farmers, hunters, and gatherers based on their eating and sleeping patterns. Food includes vegetable-centric meals sans alcohol, sugar, bread, or dairy.

Guests wake at dawn each day and have access to sunrise yoga, several hours of “flow” or slow hiking, spa treatments, forest bathing, calming crystal singing-bowl and sound therapy sessions, and classes on stress reduction—one of Mountain Trek’s primary goals. The program motivates people to spend much of their time in nature because it’s been proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to inflammation and disease when elevated for extended periods.

While most guests aren’t aware of how immersive Mountain Trek’s program is when they arrive, they leave the resort revitalized after the structured, one-week program. Set in the Kootenays overlooking its eponymous river, the resort and adventure promise what Shave calls a “visceral experience of transformation.”

“They’re interested in coming to be in nature,” Shave says of the guests. “They hit a wall in their life and slipped backwards, so they know they need a reset.”

Banya Spa House at Aman New York provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being.
Robert Rieger

This article first appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of Mansion Global Experience Luxury.

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