The Hottest Place to Network Is an Ice Bath
The executives at Daring Foods in Los Angeles had a tough summer. The company, which makes “plant-based chicken,” had grown 250 percent in its second year, and there was enough turnover that it started to feel, as the founder and chief executive, Ross Mackay, said, like “an elephant in the room.”
There was one solution: Jump into an ice bath together. The executives spent six minutes in icy cold water, breathing through the pain. “After we all did an ice plunge, and our endorphins were through the roof and we all felt great about ourselves,” Mr. Mackay said, they “ripped the Band-Aid off” and addressed the challenges they were facing.
He is no stranger to wellness practices, explaining that he does “some sort of infrared sauna followed by an ice bath every other day” and uses a hyperbaric chamber — an MRI-like tube that offers oxygen therapy — “a lot.”
Mr. Mackay is a member of Remedy Place, a social wellness club with locations in New York City and Los Angeles. Within the spalike setting, members are encouraged to socialize while getting treatments such as vitamin drips, lymphatic drainage massages and cryotherapy.
Going there is one way he copes with the mental, physical and emotional stress of running a business. “I do this instead of getting a drink after work,” he said.
Now he has opened a corporate account, so his colleagues can hit the vitamin drips, too.
“If an employee has had a great month or a bad month, they go to Remedy and take care of themselves,” he said.
Mr. MacKay even interviewed a job candidate there recently. “We did an IV drip and had a conversation for an hour,” he said. “We need someone who fits our culture, and this is a good way to find out.”
The lower-level lounge at Remedy Place.Credit…Emon Hassan for The New York Times
Across the country, companies are entertaining clients with foot rubs and sound baths. Team brainstorming sessions are taking place in ice plunges and infrared saunas. Meetings with current or potential bosses are happening over IV infusions. According to executives, employees and spas, companies and entrepreneurs are conducting more business than ever in places designed for wellness — and cutting edge treatments.
“The amount of meetings is actually absurd, considering this is a spa,” said Jonathan Leary, the founder of Remedy Place.
Part of the appeal is straightforward: As the world attempts to emerge from the pandemic — and as viruses such as RSV and those that cause the flu and Covid-19 continue to heavily circulate — companies know it makes business sense to prioritize the health of their clients and employees. A 2022 study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management in collaboration with other groups, for example, found that 88 percent of H.R. professionals believed offering mental health resources could increase productivity, and 86 percent said it could increase employee retention.
“People are sicker than they’ve ever been,” Dr. Leary said. “Business owners are starting to realize how backwards it is to say, ‘OK, for our Christmas party or team gathering or corporate retreat, let’s go booze them up and make them overindulge, which is a depressant and will slow them down.’”
Another part of the appeal is novelty.
“No one is interested in team yoga anymore,” said Kane Sarhan, a founder at the Well, a retreat with locations in New York City and Washington, Conn., which attracts companies from Boston. “It’s much more dynamic stuff like IVs, group support circles, sound baths, energy work.”
Mr. Sarhan said Fortune 100 companies and big financial firms are using the Well’s facilities for sales meetings, team events and client get-togethers.
“We’ve been teaching them tapping and palm reading,” he said. “People are exhausted and people have been sick. It’s the responsibility of leaders to help teams deal with it, and giving a discount on a gym membership or a quiet room in an office isn’t cutting it so they are coming to us.”
The most popular spot for meetings: the foot rub area. “I’ve seen dozens and dozens of meetings take place at foot baths each week,” Mr. Sarhan said, laughing. “People have their computers out on their laps.”
BIÂN, a members-only club in Chicago dedicated to increasing well-being, has experienced such a demand from people wanting to conduct business there that it is adding 9,000 square feet to its club. “We created smaller rooms that can be used for Zooms, private calls or one-on-one meetings,” said the co-founder and chief executive, Joseph Fisher.
For employees, work-sponsored wellness is a welcome break from normal routines. Lisa Tareila, director of public relations for the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia, went to a Solid Core workout class for her team’s holiday party. Mousmi Sharma, head of manager selection and development for Hudson Bay Capital, an asset management firm, attended an in-house wellness networking event with 30 colleagues. They had a meditation session and learned stress management techniques.
People who conduct business at wellness centers say they see better results than they have in other settings.
Andrea Leung, a managing director at Deutsche Bank, invited clients to a Qigong session at the Well in New York, where participants meditated, stretched their bodies and practiced breathwork — all methods that are said to stimulate the mind and body and alleviate stress.
Clients were enthusiastic about the event, perhaps more so than they had been for the bank’s dinners or even its World Cup watching party. “People have busy lives, and it seems like this is an event they really look forward to coming to and that they think will help them,” Ms. Leung said. “I think doing this activity helped build trust.”
Another benefit, she added: “We could actually hear each other.”