Employers have been offering Botox, yoga classes, sign-on bonuses and more to acquire new staff in our current labor-shortage market. More and more workers are leaving the workforce, which has left many companies scrambling to maintain existing employees plus secure new hires.
One employment benefit that is used to keep existing employees happy and increase recruitment interest is onsite chair massage. Onsite chair massage is known to boost employee morale, attendance and productivity as well as relieve stress. It is the perfect wellness perk to offer in turbulent times. It is also much less expensive than some of the other benefits that employers have been recently providing.
While practitioners could book an event where each participant individually pays for their own appointment, in this article I will discuss how an employer would pay and help organize their own staff event. Adding professional touches such as naming the employer as an additionally insured on your own professional liability insurance might help the employer feel more comfortable with their new employment benefit.
12 Steps to Providing Onsite Chair Massage
Scheduling and working onsite chair events is fairly easy once all supplies are collected and terms have been agreed and executed. Here is a handy 12-step checklist of onsite chair massage procedures and items used to execute a successful event:
1. Work Agreement
Print and agree to all terms of the event in writing prior to payment and execution. The agreement should include:
a. Date, time, and exact physical location of the event.
b. A contact name, email and phone number for a company representative or organizer who will be onsite during the event.
c. Appointment length: how long each chair massage will be offered. Chair massage appointments usually range between 10-20 minutes with about two-plus minutes of sanitation and turnover time included in every appointment.
d. Price, and whether that price includes a gratuity or service charge, or if tips will be accepted from the employees if offered.
e. If driving to the event, determine if or where there is free parking or what the parking charge is in the local area to unload equipment. Any parking charges should be included and added to the event price.
f. I recommend new accounts pay 100% upfront with a reasonable cancellation policy. At minimum, therapists should seek a deposit to reserve their time ahead of schedule. Note on the agreement that the event price is for your time onsite, regardless if the appointments are filled or executed which includes staff tardiness or no-show.
g. Bring the executed work agreement to the event so that there are no questions or debates about the work to be provided.
2. Sign-up Schedule
I recommend forwarding the sign-up schedule to the employer after written agreement and payment is received. The sign-up schedule can be an Excel, Word or PDF document, or you can use a computerized online scheduling software. The sign-up should include the event date, location, benefactor and available appointment times with empty fields where each massage appointment recipient can enter their name and individual phone number.
As a massage employer, I recommend scheduling a short break for the massage therapist every two hours and a longer meal break to be scheduled no more than four hours after the event has started. I usually do not book more than five hours of chair massage per therapist—unless the therapist requests a different amount of scheduled work time.
The therapist who is working the event is the one who should determine their scheduled meal and break times. I recommend no less break time than what is suggested here until a therapist has completed a corporate onsite chair event to determine their physical fitness at an event.
Providing short and successive chair massages is an extremely different work pace and fitness level when compared to longer table massage appointments. Some may find corporate chair massage easier, but some find will find it to be harder work. What it does provide for all is it will breakup of the monotony of standard table massage appointments.
The sign-up schedule should be provided to the massage therapist upon arrival at the event. The therapist should arrive early to call each appointment recipient to remind them of their appointment and more importantly, tell them where their chair massage will be located so that the employee can easily find you, such as “I’m in Conference Room B” or “I’m at the end of the hall on the third floor.” Let the employer, organizer and other massage recipients know if there are any available appointment times to maximize their investment.
3. Massage Chair
Make sure your massage chair is whole and functioning properly prior to leaving for the event.
4. Private space, regular chair, lighting, electrical outlet and trash receptacle: I recommend asking the employer to provide a regular chair and trash barrel in a softly lit private office or conference room with an electrical outlet, out of view and earshot of others. Air conditioning or heating requirements should be reviewed in appropriate climates. Discuss your needs in advance with the employer or organizer because all of this is usually attainable with proper planning.
5. Prenatal or breast cushion: There are triangular cushions available for about $50 that replace the massage chair’s sternum pad which makes a more comfortable fit for pregnant women and clients with large breasts. This is worth the investment, as it is doubtful any notice of massage recipient conditions will be provided in advance. Massage therapists should seek prenatal training prior to working on pregnant women or any other massage specialty.
6. Sanitary aids: Practitioners primarily use hand sanitizer between clients at chair events because of the quick turnaround time required to see multiple appointments every hour. Lotion based hand-sanitizers are preferred over gel to keep hands moisturized. Bring appropriate cleaners and disinfectants with short contact times to sanitize work equipment between each recipient.
7. Disposable face cushion covers and two face cushions: The face cushion cover should be replaced between each recipient. It is recommended to bring two face cushions, and alternate face cushions with every appointment to allow adequate disinfectant contact time on the face cushion.
8. Unscented massage gel or lotion: While shorter 10-minute chair massage appointments are usually a quick shoulder and back massage, longer 20-minute appointments might include this plus a hand massage. Massage oil is not recommended massage medium to avoid soiling or staining the employee’s clothing given most chair massage is performed clothed. I recommend starting hand massage with hand-sanitizer, and if the sanitizer dries, continue the hand massage with regular massage gel, lotion, more sanitizer or dry skin – whatever feels appropriate.
9. Appropriate signage and adhesive or tape: Consider bringing signs to hang in the workspace with helpful instructions such as: “Please Remove Jackets and Sweaters” or “No Cell Phones Please.” Preplanning with preprinted signs such as “Massage Room” and “Massage Room This Way” can help appointments find you in a timely manner. Feel free to draw arrows on your signage or whatever feels appropriate. Hanging this signage will also build awareness of the event, and may help you book another.
10. Business cards: Do not forget to market yourself and provide recipients a way to follow-up with you personally for additional massage appointments beyond their workplace.
11. Music and a clock or timer: Bring any device(s) that will best fit your use. Most LMTs use a cell phone that has been silenced for calls and notifications. Using both relaxation music plus a timer will help execute a punctual, smooth, and relaxing event.
12. Personal ambience: Adding items such as candles and mints to an event is usually a nice touch. When I travelled to the Logan Airport basement to provide onsite chair massage for United Airlines on 9/13 and 9/14 after 9/11, we brought about a dozen boxes of Kleenex, which were handy and all used. Bring anything you think would provide reasonable convenience, happiness or smiles along with your professional presence.
Keep in mind that supply requirements, operations and ambience can vary for individual events, workspaces and employers.
More Corporate Massage Onsite Details
• If this is a first-time event, ask the employer or organizer if playing music or burning a candle in the private massage space would be acceptable. Permission should be sought for anything beyond the employer’s “normal.” Be respectful of the workspace and mindful of things such as commercial smoke detectors around open flames or incense.
• It is recommended to prepack a duffle bag with supplies to accommodate last-minute bookings. New onsite accounts are fairly easy to attain once you build a successful reputation. I recommend wearing a professional uniform with comfortable, closed-toe footwear and a name tag, so that it is clear who you are in someone else’s business. Do not forget to bring a government issued ID, as some buildings and businesses will require identification to enter their premises. If you work by yourself, tell others where you are going as a safety precaution.
• Consider how you will prescreen recipients for medical conditions prior to working on them, whether it be through a quick oral questioning which is the norm, or if you prefer a written medical questionnaire. If you opt for a written intake, plan how this will be executed in advance, including how these medical documents will be kept secure and confidential at the workspace. Beware that discussing a recipient’s medical conditions within earshot of others would be a HIPPA violation.
• During COVID-19, you may want to bring a HEPA filter or fan and strategically place it in back of the client’s airway to blow all exhaled air contaminants away from you. You should discuss any COVID procedures you require and ask the employer if they have any mask wearing policies or other COVID requirements to ensure that you can agree to these prior to setting up a work agreement or payment.
[Watch a video from the author on “Relaxing & Portable Massage Chair Corporate Onsite Chair Event Setup.”]
Plan, and Be Consistent
These 12 steps and tips are what I have used to run a successful onsite chair massage operation for over 25 years, but anyone can vary their operational procedures and supplies anytime they wish. Each practitioner should customize their practices for their own needs and benefits.
Successful event execution requires planning and consistency. Timing is everything given the appointments are usually extremely short. If an employee shows 15-minutes late for their 10-minute appointment, then they have lost out if you are fully booked, and we do not want to create negative feeling about what was supposed to be an employee benefit.
My number-one issue with onsite events is employees missing their appointments, usually because they forget or cannot find the massage area. That is why it is important to call recipients and remind them of their appointment and where you are located after you arrive at their workplace. Calling from their workplace will allow you to explain in detail where you are located. Then, call the recipient again if they are running late and hang signage directing staff to where you are located so that everyone can get every minute out of this amazing perk!
With written permission from the employer and employees, take pictures of the event and post these to your social media with hashtags for #employeeperks and more. Events are great free advertising for new potential onsite or corporate clients and news media interest. The employer may also appreciate your free social media advertising to increase their business visibility.
Back in the 1990s, prior to social media, the Boston Business Journal published a full-color feature on its cover of on my business’s corporate onsite chair massage events at an accounting firm. That one front-page news coverage was all the exposure that we needed to build a long and prosperous career with onsite chair massage.
About the Author
Selena Belisle is the founder of CE Institute LLC in Miami, Florida, where they teach massage, nursing and cosmetology industry CE courses. She has been practicing massage therapy and bodywork for over 30 years. She is approved as a continuing education provider by many industry state boards and the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.