Relax, Refresh, ReFocus

February 13, 2007
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Whether a job requires a lot of walking, or sitting for many hours at a computer — or even making difficult decisions — local businesses and health care organizations are looking at onsite chair massage as a way to relax, reward and recharge employees.

"Corporate massage is very beneficial from the aspect that in a short amount of time, it can rejuvenate you or restart your day," said Duffy Magin, a massage therapist at Champion Health and Fitness who also contracts for onsite corporate massages. "In a short amount of time, you can give someone a little relaxation — a fresher outlook on things."

Magin said he usually contracts with companies, such as Alticor Corp., to come in for a day or two for four hours at a time, giving 10- or 15-minute chair massages to company employees.

"It's a nice little break that helps you physically as well as mentally," he said.

Tom Boehr, manager for Alticor Corp.'s corporate wellness program Optimal You, said the chair massages currently are offered through Alticor's onsite fitness facility. The company is in the process of determining whether having scheduled times each month for onsite visits to certain departments would be a good addition to the program.

"We're looking at ways of offering that on a little bit broader scale across the company," he said.

Boehr said it is also still under discussion whether the chair massages might be partially or fully subsidized by the company.

"Primarily, it's a matter of offering during the course of a work day to employees an opportunity for stress management," he said.

Jodi Gushen, human resources manager for Rockford Construction, said the company has been contracting with massage therapists for five years to offer complimentary chair massages for its employees.

"It helps provide tension release and relaxation during work hours, which we feel has increased productivity and enhanced morale," she said.

Once a week, a massage therapist from Holistic Care Approach comes to the Rockford offices to give employees a 15-minute upper-body chair massage. Gushen said the company asks that employees do not sign up for a massage more than once a month in order to allow everyone the opportunity to take advantage of the service.

"It's a nice benefit for those who don't always get a break from their desk," she said. "They go back to their desks and get more focused and refreshed."

Gushen said the chair massages are meant to help reduce absenteeism, increase productivity, and possibly reduce insurance costs as part of the company's wellness program.

Pam Ries, director of benefits, health and disability management at Spectrum Health, said Spectrum has been offering onsite massages for about eight years.

"Chair massage is more popular because it takes less time out of their busy day," she said.

Ries said while she doesn't have statistics to show that offering massages has improved productivity, she has heard from employees that it has been a good way to keep aches and pains at a minimum. And, hopefully, in the future, the service may even be shown to have an effect on disability claims, she added.

"We're hearing very good things anecdotally about the benefits to their health and from a stress perspective, as well," she said.

While employees pay for their massages, Ries said Spectrum subsidizes about a third of the cost.

At Saint Mary's Health Care, the Wege Center offers services from massage therapy to acupuncture, which are available to employees at a significant discount, and are also open to the public. Micki Benz, vice president for community development at Saint Mary's, said massage therapists from the Wege Center can often be seen on the hospital campus giving complimentary chair massages as a way to reward employees for special occasions, such as during Nurse's Week, or to introduce people to the benefits of their services.

Metro Health began offering onsite chair and table massage through its Priority Health Healthy Best program in the fall, said Kendra Toonstra, wellness coordinator with Priority Health. Chair massages are offered on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and table massages are offered on Tuesday and Wednesday from 2 to 8 p.m. While employees pay for the service, Toonstra said the hospital is working on getting grants to subsidize the program.

"I think one of our first goals off the bat was we wanted to have something that was simple and consistent and grow it from there if needed," she said.

Toonstra said the massage therapy is meant to help employees improve health and reduce stress, contributing to a friendly work environment.

"Those are things we would like to eventually track better in terms of employee productivity and absenteeism."     HQX

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