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HR director Flo Hunt promotes healthy living (and working) at the InterContinental Cleveland

By Kavita Sherman
Photo by Doug Khrenovsky

Healthy living tends to be personal, but in the workplace, losing weight and getting healthy can be difficult. Colleagues bring donuts and cakes to share at meetings and celebrate events, and they say discouraging things about a co-worker’s weight-loss efforts.

Knowing how powerful workplace peers can be, InterContinental Hotels Cleveland designed a wellness initiative that focuses on social relationships and fun. The plan keeps hotel employees engaged and interested, reduces healthcare costs, and wins awards.

“As a company, InterContinental Hotels Group’s Journey to Wellness program provides a strong foundation and resources to keep our programs alive and relevant,” Flo Hunt, director of human resources (HR) at InterContinental Hotels Cleveland, says. “What we’re doing is our own program. We basically advocate for healthy living through various channels.”

The routes that hotel employees take to improve wellbeing are flexible and varied. They include onsite wellness programs, such as Weight Watchers, Zumba fitness, and Cleveland Clinic’s Shape Up and Go wellness challenges. Other wellness-related options are more cerebral, such as an educational assistance program, volunteer opportunities, and discounted InterContinental room rates for employees.

“We’ve had so many success stories, it’s hard to point to one in particular,” Hunt says, attributing these victories in part to empathy and friendly competitions, such as posting by department how many ounces of water each group drank.

For example, take Hunt’s own weight-loss journey. After losing 80 pounds through the wellness program, she regained some of the weight.

“People would ask me how it’s going,” she says. “Then they’d say, ‘Let’s do it together’ to help me get back on track.”
As the HR director at InterContinental Hotels Cleveland, championing wellness falls to Hunt. In developing a program, she wanted it to be sustainable, measurable, and adaptable.

Before introducing it to the hotel’s 450 employees in 2010, Hunt challenged the hotel’s senior leadership team to become role models, and all of them made personal commitments.

“From the business side, our main driver is cutting healthcare costs,” Hunt, who also noticed decreased employee absenteeism, says. “I also feel that, for people to stick with it, it has to be relatable and sustainable.”

One advantage for InterContinental Hotels Cleveland’s employees is their proximity to the Cleveland Clinic. Separated by a skywalk, hotel employees can pay a reduced fee to use the Clinic’s Walker Fitness Center. Or if they miss a Weight Watchers meeting at the hotel, they can attend one that the hospital is holding. Additionally, the hotel’s wellness initiatives are spilling over to its guests, who can choose healthier Go! Foods menu items.

According to Hunt, the wellness program the hotel offers is unique in the hospitality industry. “We were honored to be named for our wellness activities two times over the last two years,” she says. Most recently, InterContinental Hotels Cleveland received first prize in the large business category in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s 2013 Wellness@Work awards program.

It’s also something Hunt is asked about by her peers in the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association and Society for Human Resource Management.

“In sharing best practices, they want to know what sustains a female professional in our industry,” she says. “The fact that we’re the only hotel entering these kinds of wellness awards programs is something they’re interested in.”

For more information: ihg.com/intercontinental/hotels/gb/en/cleveland

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