Chair Massage Benefits

Add a refreshing touch to benefit programs - massage breaks for employees

HR Magazine,  Oct, 1998  by Nancy Hatch Woodward (excerpt from article)

You've been hearing a lot from employees lately that they're feeling stressed out and stretched thin. Managers in several departments note that morale is down, tension is up, and people are struggling to keep the smile in their voices when they talk to customers. And maybe the HR department is a bit stressed out, too. What can you do? Employee surveys or workload and staffing reevaluations may come to mind, and those are good long-term approaches. But for a quicker solution, have you considered massage breaks?

During the past decade, many businesses have made massage therapy a part of the wellness program.  And they've found massage to be a cost-effective benefit that's either fully or partially employee paid.  Rates range from $12-$15 for a 10-15 minute chair massage and from $50 to $60 for a full hour of massage therapy.  The actual costs maybe lower than those given, because companies can often negotiate volume discounts.

Forget about the old connotations associated with massage: today's massage therapists are trained to help relieve stress and improve alertness.  A study in the International Journal of Neuroscience reported that adults who received two 15-minute massages each week showed signs of marked relaxation and increased speed and accuracy in math computations over the control group members, who didn't have massages.  In addition, those receiving massages reported less depression and reduced anxiety levels.

"Our employees seem rejuvenated after the massage.  They are invigorated," says Patrcia Bucaccio, assistant director of the Working Well program at Cigna Corp. in Philadelphia, which has 3,800 employees.  "The feedback we get from people is, 'This is the best thing that has happened to me today and I'm ready to go back and tackle the day'.  that's why we have kept the program going."

"Massage was something we wanted to incorporate in our HR list of benefits taht we could offer to employees," explains Leslie Orlando, HR specialist with Intuit in Mountain View, Calif.  "My manager was familiar with other companies that had a massage therapist and believed it would be good for us.  So we tried it out and it was quite popular.  We have no problem filling every available appointment each week."

Intuit began using a therapist last November, but other companies have a longer history with massage.  Cigna began its program five years ago, first by bringing in a masseuse for special events, then later on a weekly basis when it saw how well-received it was by employees.

For Storage Tek, the decision came six years ago when the firm expanded its facilities in Louisville, Colo.  "It was one piece of a series of wellness programs we wanted," says Jane Wilkinson, manager of the company's corporate Wellness Independent Care Program.  "I had been researching massage therapy, and it just seemed to fit with our stressmanagement curriculum."

Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, Tenn., looked at massage therapy as a component of healing.  "We wanted our work environment to be more conducive to relaxation in order to take the edge off of the hectic pace in a hospital environment," says Tracy Smith, Wellspring program coordinator for the hospital.  "We wanted our hospital to be as sensitive to the needs of our 2,000 employees as we were to needs of patients."







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