You’re Back at the Office. Your Annoying Colleagues Are, Too.
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You’re Back at the Office. Your Annoying Colleagues Are, Too.

Employees are rediscovering the pet peeves that come with working inches apart from one another.

By Sarah Needleman
Thu, Aug 4, 2022 10:18amGrey Clock 4 min

It didn’t take long for Gary Bush to become reacquainted with the harsh realities of office life after two years of working out of his home.

Within a matter of days, the sales manager for an auto dealership found himself having to break up a spat between two employees over a large container of apple juice. One said she brought it in and left it in the office refrigerator to drink later that day. The other conceded to consuming most of it, but argued that he wasn’t at fault because it wasn’t labelled as hers.

“Any little thing that happens they come to me,” said Mr. Bush, 36 years old. “It’s like I’m a babysitter.”

In recent months, many more professionals who were sent home at the start of the health crisis have been returning to the workplace, where they’re being reminded of the pet peeves that come with sitting inches apart from one another. Some say having to once again deal with office politics, loud chatter and other workplace grievances is already making them nostalgic for when they were only able to engage with their peers over the phone or online.

When Andrew Hashem resumed working in an office for a software company, he figured that stepping into a glass office and closing the door to make a phone call would be enough to discourage colleagues from interrupting him. “They would knock, I’d point to my headset and they would still come in,” he said.

A new makeshift bar set up near Mr. Hashem’s desk for Wednesday afternoon social gatherings added to his discomfort. The fun would often start while he was still on the clock, but many of his peers weren’t.

“I could hear them having loud conversations and playing music,” said the 35-year-old, who recently changed to a fully remote job with a healthcare company. “It made it really hard to concentrate.”

Migrating back to the workplace after spending so much time away can be a bit of a culture shock for many professionals, said Katie Burke, chief people officer at HubSpot Inc. “There was this romanticising of the office experience,” she said. “Now we’re seeing a return to normalcy.”

Workers may need a little time to readjust to a challenging commute or a new one for those who changed jobs, added Ms. Burke.

“Everyone can benefit from taking a deep breath before going in and approaching things with a little bit of kindness,” she said. “When in transition everyone tends to forget what the expected rules of the road are.”

Now that Josh Ross is spending his days in a cubicle farm again, the tech-company support specialist said he is back to being flanked by noisy co-workers. Audible sighs of frustration are a common irritant, along with the sound of his peers typing on mechanical keyboards.

“All you hear is the clacking of the keys,” said Mr. Ross, 31, adding that he mutes his microphone on calls with customers when he isn’t speaking so they aren’t bothered, too.

Mr. Ross longs for the days when he could work out of his home in Lansing, Mich., where he lives by himself. There, he said, “I control the sound level. In the office, there’s literally no sound control.”

Companies calling staffers back to the workplace in many cases are offering hybrid schedules, allowing people to come in only a few days a week. But for Matt Shantz of Winnipeg, the arrangement has created a headache he didn’t anticipate.

During video calls with colleagues still working remotely, he now hears the voices of other office workers in real time through a wall—and then again about half a second later through his computer.

“There’s a slight delay,” said Mr. Shantz, an academic adviser for a university, who went back to working in an office in May. “It’s an echo chamber.”

Even if all of his colleagues eventually resume working on campus, the 37-year-old expects to be stuck dealing with another inconvenience—thermostat wars. Mr. Shantz is comfortable working without air-conditioning in the summer but some of his office mates prefer to turn it on. A vent located directly above his desk makes him shiver.

“It sometimes gets to the point where I have two sweaters on,” he said.

Many companies used the downtime to remodel or reconfigure offices.

Mae Tila, a 36-year-old customer-care manager, initially didn’t mind when she found out her employer, a mailing and printing company, moved her desk to the front of the building because she went in only a few days a week. But now back to a routine of going in full time, along with many of her colleagues, it’s clear to her she’s literally in a weird spot. “Everybody walks by me to get to their designated area,” she said. “I get everyone’s life story.”

Ms. Tila has started saying only “Good morning” when colleagues come in and not also “How are you doing?” in hopes of discouraging small talk. But it rarely works. Recently a colleague griped to her about the challenges of babysitting grandchildren and a dog at the same time.

“I’m a private person so when people spill their lives to me it’s overwhelming,” Ms. Tila said.

Some office workers who have been back longer say the change of scenery was initially refreshing—until it wasn’t.

Destiny Palmerin, a sales and marketing coordinator for a health-product manufacturer said her attitude started to sour once she started hearing her boss clipping his fingernails at work. “I know what that sound is,” she said. “I should not hear that.”

Ms. Palmerin, 24, grew leerier of colleagues as competition for the office microwave started to cut into lunch break. “Almost everybody goes to lunch at the same time,” she said. She’s also been unhappily reminded of what it’s like to work after someone burns popcorn. “You can smell it everywhere,” she said.

Mr. Bush, the dealership sales manager, expected his colleagues to have kicked at least one bad habit over the past two years—coming to work despite feeling sick. Yet a few weeks ago a sales associate who went home early for that reason returned the next morning, he said, seemingly worse off—not a comforting sight in the Covid era.

“She’s coughing and sneezing,” he said. “I’m like, dude, go home.”

The associate wanted to stay to increase the chances of landing a bonus, since part of the compensation is commission-based, but Mr. Bush insisted the worker go home, he said. “I was super annoyed.”

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: August 3, 2022


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

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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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Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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