Home » Expat Focus Wellbeing Update June 2023

Expat Focus Wellbeing Update June 2023

Inside Employee Minds

This month, among other issues, we’re going to take a look at a recent research project on wellness and business. The Mercer report Inside Employee Minds, which surveyed over 2000 employees, identifies four ‘pillars’ of wellness in the workplace:

  • mental (your emotions)
  • physical (exercise and health)
  • social (relationships with family, friends and colleagues)
  • financial (being able to maintain day-to-day expenses, cope with emergencies and future financial planning)

The report found that respondents cited the following concerns as their top priorities:

  • covering monthly expenses
  • personal debt
  • the ability to retire

The report also outlines the importance of considering different life stages when it comes to wellness: 

  • young employees tend to face budgeting challenges
  • at the mid-career stage, employees face the financial challenges of family life, the cost of home ownership and childcare 
  • at a later career stage, employees’ concerns reflect investment or retirement planning, plus inheritance and estate planning. 

The emphasis that employees place on financial concerns reflect the global situation after the pandemic and the ‘cost of living’ crisis, which has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, among other factors. Other studies show that it’s crucial for employers to show support for their workers during emergency situations – one of the factors which assists this key ‘pillar of wellness.’

Men Only!

No, not the famous magazine – but a comparatively new development on the wellness scene. ‘Wellness’ as a concept is often associated as more of a female concern – look at the brands in the wellness industry that target women, such as Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop. 

In early June, the Guardian newspaper outlined a number of wellness retreats, designed as safe spaces for men to take a break and focus on their mental and physical wellbeing. One of the retreats, the Sharpham Trust, based in Devon, runs Buddhist retreats combined with hiking trips. Hiking is also on the agenda in Snowdonia, at the Menspedition retreat run by Zak Avery. This is a meditative pilgrimage which also involves cold water immersion and cacao ceremonies.


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In Cornwall, Rewilding Surf Retreats does what it says on the tin, emphasising connection with the waves and the self through surfing. Elsewhere in Europe, Rainbow Men is a pop-up retreat in Portugal for gay men, and in Spain, the yoga retreat Suryalila runs hiking, yoga, mountain climbing and cold water sessions. The Six Senses Shaharut centre, in Israel’s Negev Desert, also offers yoga and Buddhist-based massage and breath sessions, but also off-road driving and a camel safari if you fancy something a little bit more adventurous.

Amanpuri, in Thailand, offers beach boot camps as well as yoga. And Deplar Farm, in Iceland, is aimed at those who want something more rugged, with snowmobile experiences as part of its retreat sessions and cross-country skiing. 

Looking after your mental health can be tough in a culture where men are often not encouraged to explore their feelings. But sometimes, pushing yourself to a physical limit can be a way of doing that, not to mention simply taking some time out and focusing on yourself. 

Zest Wellness Comes to Abu Dhabi

25 Zest Wellness centres are expected to open in Abu Dhabi over the next few years, both as separate entities but also as part of Waitrose stores and Spinneys. The centres are dedicated to wellness, featuring services such as a vitamin check, hair and skin analysis, BMI checks and cholesterol level analysis. Zest comes out of Aster Pharmacy, and will also be offering nutritional advice, mother and baby advice, skincare and medical devices for use at home (such as blood pressure equipment). Aster itself is one of the biggest private healthcare service providers in both the Gulf and in India, and with 32 hospitals, 127 clinics, and 521 pharmacies, it’s well placed to develop its interests in the growing wellness sphere.

Record Breaking Yoga in Dubai

Dubai saw an effort organised by the Sports Council last month to break the Guinness World Record for the highest number of nationalities ever to take part in a yoga session. Local press reported recently. Zabeel Park was the site of this mammoth effort, with some 2000 people participating. Did they succeed? The jury is still out, but it looks as though the world record is still held by Qatar. 

Thailand’s Focus on Wellness

The Trade Policy and Strategy Office reported in May that Thailand has significant potential for growth in the wellness sector, particularly in relation to tourism. Given the nation’s many advantages and the success of its retreats, this seems like a given: the country ranked first as a destination for wellness retreats in 2021. 

Poonpong Naiyanapakorn, the TPSO’s director-general, told the press that the aim is for Thailand to become a wellness economic corridor:

“Given the potential and capabilities in the wellness industry, if Thailand promotes sectors with rising demand trends, it can attract high-spending tourists, distributing income to secondary tourist destinations.”

The country also aims to develop its fitness sector as well as health tourism, a lucrative industry in which Thailand is also well-positioned, in addition to the spa market. Hot spring development in the Andaman region is also on the cards. 

Predictions From the Global Wellness Institute 

The Global Wellness Institute predicts that the wellness industry is expected to develop at an average rate of 7.5% per year between 2023 and 2025, with a total value of up to US$6.99 trillion by the end of this period. It identifies four key sectors constituting the bulk of the market (70%): 

  • personal care and beauty (19.9%) 
  • nutrition and weight loss (17.0%) 
  • fitness (16.9%) 
  • health tourism (15.9%)

What is beyond doubt is that this is a growing global sector, and there’s a race for countries to make the most of it while it’s starting to boom: the focus on our health that resulted from Covid-19 is pushing many people to investigate this developing industry more closely, both from a user perspective and as suppliers. 


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