Prioritizing Wellness in a Time of Crisis
Lead and Learn
Leah Mello, Director of Fitness and Well-being
Apr. 5, 2022
About Royal Caribbean Group
Royal Caribbean Group (RCG), also referred to as the Group, is the world's second-largest cruise line operator. The Group fully owns three cruise lines: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Silversea Cruises.
On March 1st, 1999, Royal Caribbean Group opened its first onsite fitness center located at the HQ campus in Miami, FL. Soon after, all company locations followed suit, providing free onsite fitness centers, which eventually expanded into spa services, chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, vitamin injections, onsite medical clinics, eye exams, various intramural sports, and more.
What started off as a single fitness center has now expanded far beyond physical wellbeing. The Group provides resources to support employees across all eight dimensions of well-being physical, emotional, financial, environmental, spiritual, social, intellectual, and occupational.
There’s an inside joke at the Group; some employees call it the “Royal Caribbean Country Club,” others claim we are making our company campus so appealing that employees truly feel at home. To some degree, that is exactly what we are trying to accomplish. We recognize how hard our employees work, and a lot of their time is dedicated to delivering the best vacation experience to our guests.
At Royal Caribbean Group, we want our employees to love where they work and be reassured they can achieve work-life balance in and out of the office.
I lead the wellness initiatives at the Group. My role is ever-changing to meet the employees' specific needs. Supporting one’s well-being is not a one-size-fits-all, and in some cases, my role requires drastic directional changes and increased support almost immediately. The pandemic was one of those critical moments and, most recently, the crisis in Europe. We have several European crew members onboard our ships and their safety is our top priority. There was a sudden high demand for mental wellbeing crisis support to be made available in a timely manner and in their respective languages. My role is only a tiny piece of what goes into offering unwavering support to our shipboard and shoreside employees; whether there is a crisis at hand or not, employee well-being is a top priority.
With that in mind, I operate mainly through a well-being lens. Every recommendation I propose, and every decision I ultimately make, is guided with one centralized question, “how will this impact the health and wellbeing of our employees?” That sentiment is at the forefront of everything I do. My team and I work to cultivate and inspire a culture of wellness within the fine fibers of Royal Caribbean Group.
When the pandemic began, our company’s priority was protecting the health and safety of our employees and guests. Closing our offices and halting sailing was the right thing to do, but the question that lingered on was, “for how long?” We spent almost a year and a half not sailing. Over time, other companies were coming back to business, even travel industries like the airlines, and I remember thinking, when will it be our turn?
We are more ready than we have ever been, with robust safety protocols in place. Cruising is arguably one of the safest ways to vacation because it gives us the ability to create our own bubble while out at sea. The pandemic weighed heavily on us all, but I believe it made us stronger as a company. Royal Caribbean Group has always been very resilient. There was no doubt in my mind that we would be back and better than ever.
Despite being hopeful, there was still a lot of anxiety circulating and an increased need to step up, get creative, be resourceful, and adapt. The small but mighty well-being team took immediate action. Within three days of closing our offices, the interactive, hands-on well-being program transitioned fully to virtual platforms. All group fitness classes, meditation sessions, and personal training were made accessible via live stream on our Instagram page, @yourwellbeingrcg. Crewmembers, who were onboard our ships for months while waiting to return to their countries, also had access to these offerings. In addition to live/pre-recorded classes, personalized health tip videos were created internally by the team and shared weekly. These personalized messages served as a constant reminder to keep employees engaged and mindful about their well-being. Social media and virtual platforms played a key role in ensuring that we upheld a high standard of well-being care, especially mental well-being while working remotely.
The well-being team considered the need to secure normalcy and a healthy work-life balance while working from home. Fostering social well-being by hosting engaging team competitions, such as the annual weight loss challenge, continued to take place. Despite the competition going virtual for the first time, Royal Caribbean Group had a great turnout, with 247 participants competing in the 12-week weight loss challenge.
Additional support from RCG’s EAP programs, Lifeworks, Health Advocate, and Dr. Ciminero and Associates, along with access to telemedicine, all played a part in supporting employee health during the pandemic and presently. We continue to measure key performance indicators, such as adhering to medications, managing chronic diseases, completing preventative screenings and immunizations, and engaging with disease management programs. EAP utilizations and well-being program participation reports are routinely reviewed by our team to monitor the impact of our well-being initiatives.
To nicely tie together all wellness offerings, a one-stop-shop online well-being portal was created for employees to utilize. Weekly communication continues to be sent out to employees, driving traffic to the online portal. The addition of this online portal has been a pivotal moment in the wellbeing program, especially during the pandemic.
Return to the Office
In the months leading up to the office return, we launched a Return to Office (RTO) campaign supporting a healthy return for both shipboard and shoreside employees. Our dedicated crew members had to undergo lengthy quarantine periods to safely board our ships. Well-being care packages were provided to crewmembers in quarantine, such as yoga mats, healthy tips, food vouchers, spa masks, stretch bands, and live stream meditation and workout classes. Shoreside employees also received a well-being care package, offering discounted gym memberships, ergonomics workstation support, 30 recipes under 30 minutes ideas, helping your pets adjust to your absence, routine building workshops, and more. This transitional period was crucial to ensure employees felt supported and that the Group had employees’ best interest at heart.
Since returning to the workplace, we have been able to revive a sense of normalcy. The Group allows us to work Monday-Thursday in the office and every Friday, we work from home. I love interacting with the employees and I feel more connected to the Royal Caribbean Group brand when I am here. Moving towards the future, flexibility seems to be what most of our employees’ desire. To me, offering flexibility means trusting in your employee population enough to allow them to engage in healthy work-life balance, without it affecting production. Our leadership does a great job at listening and delivering, so I know we will see some big steps towards a flexible working environment without going completely remote, which has its challenges as well.
The Future of Wellness
In 2022, mental fitness is top of mind. Breaking down the stigmas and learning to train our mental fitness as much, if not more, than our physical fitness. We have existing resources in place to support employees. The focus will be on effectively communicating the resources through a mental fitness campaign, creatively leveraging incentives, and championing employees who are willing to speak openly about challenges they have faced and overcome.
We want to explore something different by encouraging an open dialogue with robust resources that are easily accessible on our existing platform. The mental fitness campaign will be one of the most meaningful initiatives we ever launched, and I am excited to be part of it.
Director of Fitness and Well-being
From an early age, fitness and wellness has always been a part of Leah's life. She graduated with a BS in Exercise Physiology and went on to achieve a certification in personal training at the American College of Sports Medicine.
Soon after, she spent several years as a Lifestyle Director, managing amenities, spas, and fitness centers within various luxury condominiums throughout Miami, Florida. I coached and trained clients, taught group exercise classes, and spoke on various health panels. Her true passion is corporate well-being and she currently leads wellness initiatives at Royal Caribbean Group. We focus on many aspects of wellness, supporting employees across all 8 dimensions of well-being. Her team works to create a corporate culture, where wellness is intertwined within the fibers of the company. They work to cultivate and celebrate work-life balance, which in return, fosters productivity and happiness. It encourages employees to become more mindful of their well-being and creates an exceptional workplace experience. At the Group, they want you to not only love where you work, but feel great while you are at work.