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Guests are No. 1 at Luxury Hotels, but Four Seasons Oahu Also Invests in Employee Well-Being

Luxury hotels spend millions improving their customer satisfaction, but Four Seasons in Oahu, Hawaii is investing in their employees’ health and happiness as well.

We spend the majority of waking hours on the clock, so workplace environment plays a major role in overall health and happiness. Studies show satisfied, happy workers take fewer sick days, are more productive, and tend to treat customers and coworkers better. And it isn’t just about employee happiness, either—employee satisfaction affects a company’s bottom line. According to a 2015 Gallup study, businesses with “highly engaged” employees were 21 percent more profitable on average than those with “disengaged” ones.

Unfortunately, a 2011 survey conducted by the Conference Board reported that U.S. workers were the unhappiest they had been in 22 years of reporting on job satisfaction. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Simple, effective, and inexpensive changes to worksites (and having a best friend at work) are what impact employee well-being the most.

The cost of turnover

Luxury hotels, in particular, have a difficult time retaining happy, healthy, and engaged employees due to the long hours, high demand, high stress, and poor employee experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, annual employee turnover rates should be somewhere between 10-15 percent, whereas the hotel and hospitality industry experiences an employee turnover rate close to 75 percent. With a rate this high, hospitality companies can expect to pay anywhere from $3,000-213,000 to replace employees. In addition to paying a premium for employee turnover, companies with unsatisfied or “disengaged” employees tend to provide lower quality customer service, which will also impact the bottom line.

“We try to offer a better quality of life to our employees so they can be happier and that can start with the time they spend at work.”

Charlie Parker, General Manager

In Blue Zones Project® communities across the country, worksites and company leadership teams put the focus on employee well-being, physical work environment, social networks, policies and benefits, and well-being solutions.

The Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko’Olina Hawaii is the first Blue Zones Project Approved® Four Seasons in the country. Charlie Parker, General Manager, said, “We try to offer a better quality of life to our employees so they can be happier—and that can start with the time they spend at work.”

Business benefits to keeping employees healthy and happy

Excellent customer service is important in any industry, but paramount for hospitality employees. Guests at luxury hotels come to experience something special and step away from their normal, perhaps stressful, everyday lives. Employees may be the first interaction a guest has in a new place, and even the employees who may not have face-to-face interactions with clients (janitorial staff, housekeeping, etc.) have the opportunity to leave a lasting impression with guests. Healthy, happy employees are the driving force behind the success of a company. They feel more empowered, are more confident in making business decisions, take pride in their work, and show up ready to engage with customers. And according to a study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Maryland, they found a significant interaction effect between customer empathy and customer satisfaction on customer loyalty, meaning that a positive experience could, in fact, produce a lifelong customer.

Four Seasons pledges to put employee well-being first

Before beginning the implementation of the worksite designation, Four Seasons Oahu had to answer the following questions:

  1. Are your organization’s leaders (at all levels) modeling well-being behaviors and influencing an environment that supports the well-being of others?
  2. Does your organization have a purpose that employees connect with, and does your organization support employees to identify and pursue their own purpose inside the context of their work?
  3. Does your worksite promote healthy practices and empower employees to make healthful choices through the physical layout and worksite setting?
  4. Is there a clearly defined engagement strategy that uses an effective mix of communications, incentives, and social events to help promote well-being improvement?
  5. Are your human resources policies and benefits designed to encourage well-being?
  6. Are there engaging solutions to support employee efforts to improve and sustain well-being?

To qualify for the Blue Zones Project Approved worksite designation, at least 25 percent of Four Seasons employees had to sign a Blue Zones Personal Pledge, which required all of them to optimize their own surroundings. This included reviewing their homes against a checklist designed to discourage mindless eating and encourage better sleep. It also called for them to take a free Blue Zones Purpose Workshop to identify their strengths, passions, and gifts.

At the same time, Four Seasons Oahu was working to build a menu of actions to promote health and happiness for all employees across the resort. Leadership at Four Seasons also committed to a policy makeover to make employee well being a priority in the company mission statement and provide support for employees’ personal values.

Community Program Manager Kathy Davenport leading a micro-break with the managers at the Four Seasons Resort O‘ahu at Ko Olina.

Four Seasons Oahu went above and beyond expectations partnering with Kahumana Farms for a weekly farmers market, offering free employee yoga classes on their spa rooftop, adding variety and healthier options to their employee dining facilities, and creating a downshift space for employees to unwind or step away from stressful environments, even for just a few minutes.

A few other improvements include:

  • A new mother’s area where moms can express and store breast milk
  • Easy access to walking, biking, and other fitness programs
  • Self-monitoring health equipment
  • Employee gardens
  • Enhanced stairwells, where employees can see awards and successes and share community pride

These sustainable changes to the environment of the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko’Olina Hawaii will improve employee well-being, but are also expected to have a positive impact on both the business goals and the guest experience.


“It’s very worthwhile, and I encourage any employer if they’re serious about offering a greater wellness lifestyle to their employees to seriously consider Blue Zones [Project].”

Charlie Parker, General Manager

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