Working On Wellness
Famed Florida Resort Looks To Put Employees First With Dedicated Programs
Under its long-standing family ownership, descendants of founder Henry Flagler (circa 1896), The Breakers Palm Beach has carved its niche through its sophisticated style and bounty of world-class amenities. These offerings range from Flagler Club—the resort’s exclusive, ultra-luxury boutique hotel—to its spa and golf courses, including The Breakers Rees Jones Course and Ocean Course, Florida’s oldest golf course. The Breakers also takes great pride in its roughly $25 million annual investment to continuously improve the property.
But while things evolve at The Breakers, there is one constant: an employee-centric culture, the pillar of it being social responsibility, which is fundamental to the resort’s success and longevity. It’s also why many employees have been at The Breakers for 20 years and longer.
“As an entrepreneurial hotel company that thrives independent of chain affiliation, we constantly optimize and expand ways to create lasting connections with our staff,” said Denise Bober, the resort’s senior vice president of human resources. “The team knows our dedication to their professional and personal enrichment is authentic, and in turn, this earns us tremendous loyalty, high retention rates and low turnover that set industry standards.”
By recognizing and prioritizing each individual and their unique needs, The Breakers develops highly personalized wellness services and resources, which foster a strong sense of fulfillment and a more enriching workplace.
“The Breakers has always taken great pride in cultivating a culture focused on inclusivity, quality of life and team member satisfaction and well-being,” says Bober. “In genuinely caring for staff members in every facet of the employee experience, they can better care for themselves, their families, peers and community.”
Rooted in the belief, ‘‘it is not only about making a living, it’s about making a life,” The Breakers extends a wide range of comprehensive and meaningful wellness benefits/resources to its team, which can serve as a blueprint for the hospitality industry.
One of the key areas of concentration, and part of a company-wide initiative, is employee mental health. For the past four years, the resort has partnered with Ferd & Gladys Alpert Jewish Family Services, a non-profit, non-sectarian organization, to provide Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training to its management team. MHFA teaches critical communication and support skills that empower participants to identify and extend initial assistance to individuals who show signs of mental health problems, or are experiencing a mental health crisis.
Based on favorable feedback from participating managers and the growing prevalence of mental illness in general (one in five Americans suffer from some form of mental illness in their lifetime, per Alpert JFS), The Breakers quickly recognized the need to expand MHFA training to its entire employee population. In October 2021, the resort launched Mental Health is Everyone’s Business—a virtual training initiative that raises awareness of the role mental well-being plays in both work and non-work lives. Led by an Alpert JFS-certified instructor, this course reduces the stigma around mental health challenges, giving insight and encouraging participants to help others by emphasizing self-care.
“The Breakers’ focus on mental health began five years ago when we recognized that mental health goes hand in hand with physical health,” said Bober.
To date, 400 managers at The Breakers have completed MHFA training and 335 non-managerial team members have completed Mental Health Is Everyone’s Business.
Based on findings from an internal diversity study conducted in 2019, The Breakers also has a wellness program specifically tailored for team members of color, a population that has traditionally shown lower engagement levels within the company’s wellness incentive program. The Breakers’ Wellness Program for Team Members of Color with Dr. Nicola Finley is a fully-integrated educational experience that supports the health equity for this particular employee demographic and is now one of the organization’s key DEI partnerships.
Developed with Dr. Nicola Finley, an integrative medicine physician of Jamaican heritage, this three-to-four-month program begins with a confidential biometric screening, which provides tracked, measurable outcomes to proactively bring awareness to health disparities and prevent chronic disease. Team members participate during paid work hours and are encouraged to prioritize their health with a focus on areas such as nutrition, exercise, mental health and sleep.
To date, 26 employees have participated in the test pilot for The Breakers’ Wellness Program for Team Members of Color with Dr. Nicola Finley.
Meanwhile, “The Breakers’ Parent’s Corner helps team members balance work, life and caregiving demands,” says Bober.
Parent’s Corner brings together new and experienced parents and guardians to share personal stories, challenges and referrals, as well as exchange parenting ideas, advice, information and resources. Participants in the group are reassured to learn that their concerns are not unique, finding kinship, camaraderie and comfort whether raising infants, small children, teenagers or young adults.
A total of 97 employees currently participate in Parent’s Corner, which Bober says continues to grow.
“The Breakers’ number one priority is taking care of its team in various essential aspects of wellness, such as mental, physical, emotional, and financial. This optimizes personal fulfillment, a sense of belonging, as well as performance, which perpetuates authentically caring service and a warm, welcoming environment that strengthens customer relationships and guest loyalty. Ultimately, this drives financial results that empower us to give back to the community,” she said.