At 31 years, there is little doubt the Walt Disney company is the oldest continuing corporate supporter of seated massage in the world. Michael Neal began taking a stool around the Disney campus in 1982, providing employee-paid massage. When he retired 18 years later, another practitioner who had also begun working at Disney, Allen Chinn, was ready to pick up the baton from Neal. Besides continuing to work on employees, Chinn occasionally gets paid directly by Disney for individual events such as health fairs.
The reason why Disney originally allowed chair massage on the premises was not complicated. The employees wanted it and no one objected. Disney provided no specific location for the chair massage and there was certainly no scheduling or promotional support. It was all very ad hoc, but it worked.
To discover what seated massage companies think they are selling these days, you only need to scan a few of their websites. As Rob Nitzschke, from Manchester, New Hampshire, summarizes: “What companies are looking for is a happier workforce, greater productivity, loyalty and retention in their staff and increase the perception of the employees that they are cared for.” What employees are primarily seeking is instant rejuvenation.
While these traditional rationales still exist, thoughtful business owners, like massage therapist Larisa Goldin, are finding other ways to segment the markets for workplace chair massage. Goldin surveyed her current clients around the Seattle metropolitan area to find out why they were buying seated massage. She identified new categories of corporate clients.
The Challenging Workplace. These are the specifically high-stress environments where employees are coping with difficult workloads or difficult environments, such as hospitals and schools.
The Growing Workplace. Competitive industries, such as high tech and bio-tech, see a recruitment advantage by including chair massage in their benefits mix. Nitzschke puts it this way: “They want bragging rights to be able to say our corporate culture is tops.”
The Progressive Workplace. There is no question that 21st century companies are far more likely to have someone in a decision-making position who genuinely believes in the importance of massage. They are also more likely to have a culture that encourages and responds to input from their employees. Goldin mentioned Path, a large international non-profit with 500 serious, focused young employees who internally decided that they wanted regular chair massage. They got it.
Pay close attention to the millenials. They have grown up with a far more positive idea about massage than any other generation in history, and the massage industry is just beginning to reap the benefits. Listen to what they want out of massage and how they want it delivered. To a great extent they control the future of workplace massage.
David Palmer developed the first professional massage chair in 1986 and has trained more than 14,000 practitioners in seated massage techniques and marketing. He wrote “21st Century Workplace Seated Massage” for MASSAGE Magazine‘s October 2012 issue. Palmer can contacted for training and speaking engagements through his website, www.touchpro.com.