In the Media

Add a Refreshing Touch to Benefit Programs

From Human Resources Magazine

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.

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.

A Growing Corporate Benefit

The typical on-site massage is performed in a portable "chair," which places the employee in a sitting position, leaning forward. No clothing is removed and no privacy is required for the massage. Therapists can set up just about any place that is convenient for the employees and the company.

The typical chair massage lasts from 10 to 20 minutes, "about the same amount of time an employee would take for a cigarette break," says Robin Egal, president of New York-based Back to Work, Inc., a company that provides massage therapists for businesses. "The employee gets a neck and shoulder massage without having to leave the building. ... So, there's not much wasted time."

Choosing a Massage Company

Cheryl Hutcherson, membership assistant for the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), encourages employers to find a massage company that hires state-certified massage therapists. "This will tell you that they have met certain qualifications, such as graduating from an accredited school with at least 500 hours of training and passing the state certification."

"Certification alone may not guarantee that you have found the best therapist," cautions Tyler Watson, owner of Corporate Touch: Hands-On Stress Solutions, a company with locations in Philadelphia and southwestern New Jersey providing certified massage therapists for the workplace. "Some people go into massage because they are thinking first about self employment or money and not considering whether they have natural hands-on ability. I have found through my years of interviewing people to work for our company that a lot of people get out of school but still don't quite have what I consider to be innate talent."

Jane Wilkinson, manager of StorageTek's corporate wellness program, suggests that employers also inquire about the massage company's specific corporate experiences. "Ask how long they have run corporate programs before- and ask for references," she says.

Some companies might wonder that their employees will not be interested in using the benefit. "We have found that usually between 50 and 60 percent of the employees in any given workplace will jump at the chance to get a massage," says Watson, "there are always some who will decline."

Massage Touches the Bottom Line

The justification for any employee benefit tends to be, is it worth it? The answer appears to be YES.

At Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, TN, where the hospital pays on-staff massage therapists, Tracy Smith, Wellspring program coordinator for the hospital, says "I don't have any studies or stats on the bottom line for the hospital, but I do believe it is cost-effective and very inexpensive in relation to other things that are supplied at our hospital. And, quite honestly, it makes it all worthwhile when you see the faces of the employees who have been so tense. ... When they go back to work and are dealing with patients' families, they are more pleasant and they do a better job. That's the kind of bottom line we are interested in."