PRESENTEEISM Strategies Revealed
Employers are increasing the potential for alignment and connectivity with the most precious commodity in their organizations, the productive employee. Even massage therapy has evolved as a cost effective adjunct to the work day that has a resounding impact on productivity. Corporate wellness guru Bill Sickert refers to himself as the “Prophet of Presenteeism” exposing the many strategies used by organizations to enhance his national cause.
Suburban Chicago law firm Kovitz Shifrin & Nesbit treats employees to a free 20-minute chair massage once every two months. Therapists are on site once every two weeks, and employees can pay $20 for a 20-minute massage on the weeks that they’re not due for a company paid massage.
The company covers gratuity, explains firm administrator Ivie Cohn. “It’s something that we sometimes share in an interview with potential employees,” Cohn says. “It definitely speaks to our culture and our environment.”
At the Colorado Health Institute, Kathy Helm sits at a computer all day. She said one of the benefits of a massage is that it reveals problems that she didn’t realize existed. “You go in and get the massage, and you’ve got this problem and this problem and this knot,” Helm says. “Once you get it worked out, you’re able to do things better. You don’t have that tension.”
Helm says she gets an immediate sense of relaxation from lying in the chair and listening to the music played by the on-site massage therapist. “You immediately feel the stress level drop,” she explains. “After you’re in the chair, the therapist asks what is bothering you, if there are any areas you want her to focus on.”
Often, she’ll have the therapist work on her shoulders, tight from spending so much time in her chair in front of her computer. “So she’ll massage my arms and go down to each finger,” she remembers. “And when she’s done with that, you just feel so relaxed. Last month, I had so much stress in my back, and when she was done, I had nothing.”
Stories like these are what sway some corporations to add massage therapy to their existing employee benefits.
John Hasmonek can relate. Hasmonek is a certified public accountant and partner at Ronald J. Borden & Company, a Chicago-based accounting firm that offers employees monthly on-site massage therapy. The company began offering the benefit about a decade ago in response to extremely long work hours during certain parts of the year, especially tax time.
“Our people get tired,” explains Hasmonek. “So, we decided to offer them a massage in the office once a month in order to give them a little break to see if it would increase their energy levels. And it has. It has increased their morale even more than we anticipated.
People really look forward to that monthly massage.” Debbie Jordan, an administrative assistant at the firm, speaks highly of the program. “We brag about it,” she says. “I’ll go to the health club, and I’ll tell people that the massage people are coming Monday. They can’t believe it. They’re very jealous. They say ‘that’s a nice perk you have from your employer.’”
Bill Sickert notes that research on corporate massage does exist and massage practices and therapists widely rely on a 1992 article in the Financial Times to trumpet the benefits that companies can reap by offering massage therapy to employees. The article claims a company based in Ontario, Canada, reported a 25 percent decrease in time off for work-related injuries, and a $200,000 decrease in compensation claims after it implemented a massage therapy program.