## Calculating Services for a Pre-Paid Event

This question recently came in from a long-time chair massage practitioner:

Is there is a calculation for figuring out in advance how many people in a group (office, convention, health fair, etc.) will get a chair massage at a one-time event if it is offered for free? Say the employer or somebody else is paying for the service.

While I know of no formula or rule of thumb for that particular calculation, let’s reframe the question in terms of expectations. Whoever is paying for the massages wants to purchase just enough service so that the people expecting to receive a massage are not disappointed without paying for more massage time than needed.

So, what we are really looking for is both the number of people at the event expecting to get a chair massage and how high or low is their level of expectation. One way to gauge the level of expectation would be by classifying whether the event is open, closed or somewhere in between.

An open event is where there is a virtually unlimited number of people that could possibly get a massage, such as at a convention or street fair where chair massage is used as a traffic builder to get people to stop at a booth. In those situations, the expectation of getting chair massage will be relatively low.

A closed event has a fixed number of potential massage recipients, such as a one-time event in an office that might be used as a reward or incentive for the employees. In that case, the expectation of getting a massage would tend to be high.

In between open and closed events are other situations, such as health fairs, where people might know that there will be free chair massage, might want one, but understand that there are a limited number of massage slots available, so their disappointment will be tolerable.

Open events
The open event is the easiest one to schedule because it is based on the budget of the customer paying for the services. Once the budget is determined, say \$700, that number is divided by your hourly rate, say \$70 per hour, which gives you the number of practitioner hours they will be paying for, in this example 10 hours. If the event runs for 5 hours, you would make two practitioners available.

The next question is how long are the massage slots that the customer wants for the event: 5-minute, 10-minute, 15-minute, or longer. Dividing the number of practitioner hours by the length of each massage gives you the approximate number of massage slots. It is approximate because you will probably have to use some of those slots for practitioner breaks, if the length of the event is greater than 2.5 to 3 hours. I personally don’t like to do more than 3 hours of massage without a break.

To finish the calculation for this example, say the customer wants 10-minute massage slots. That would be 6 slots an hour times 10 hours for a total of 60 slots. Subtract two 20-minute breaks (4 slots, one for each practitioner) and you could guarantee the customer that you will deliver 54 massages.

While the event organizer may have advertised the availability of free chair massage in advance of the event and some people may be disappointed if they didn’t get a massage, they generally won’t hold it against the sponsor of the event.

Closed events
In a closed event there is typically a fixed number of people to be massaged. For example,  a company wants to thank each of its 100 employees with a chair massage for meeting a deadline. Here the calculations get a bit more complicated but, as a starting point, it is useful again to understand the calculation described above.

If each employee gets a massage in a 15-minute slot (4 slots per hour), then 25 practitioner hours will be required at a maximum cost of \$1750 (if you are charging \$70/hour). Since it is unlikely that all 100 employees will be able to get a massage (some will be sick, on vacation or just won’t want a massage), the next step is to make an estimate with the customer for the number of slots to schedule.

After you explain the calculation above, if there is a long lead time to the event, some customers will want to survey their employee’s interest to come up with a number, others will want to just make their best guess.

In any case, the number of practitioner hours you decide upon is what goes into the contract with the customer and that is how the schedule gets set. If the customer opts for a conservative number of slots and you have the flexibility, you could offer to add more slots if the original amount fills up quickly and they end up having a waiting list. That would have to be spelled out in the contract and agreed upon by the practitioners actually doing the massage.

In closed events there is often an implied guarantee that everyone who wants a massage will get a massage, so ensuring that both the customer and the recipients are happy is challenging. Thus, when you are working off a schedule, make sure that you have the extension number of each person scheduled in case you have to call to remind them of their appointment. If, on the day of the event, someone is sick, you can also offer to do double sessions if the event coordinator cannot otherwise fill in the slot.

Semi-closed events
A corporate health fair is a typical semi-closed event where generally a fixed number of people are expected but there is no guarantee of everyone getting a massage.

As in the first two cases, after you explain the basic calculation, you can help the customer to decide how many slots and what slot length they can purchase with their budget constraints.

Customers like to get what they paid for, which means they generally don’t like to see practitioners standing around doing nothing. This can be tricky in situations where there is no pre-scheduling of the massage slots and recipients get taken on a first-come, first-served basis (often involving a clipboard).

In those situations, having some flexibility in the length of the massage is helpful. For example, often things are slow at the beginning of the event. That is a good time to give longer chair massages. As the number of people in line waiting for a massage grows, the practitioners can begin shortening their massages until the minimum slot-time agreed upon is reached. The goal should be to always have someone in every chair getting a massage, even if it is the practitioners working on each other.

Meeting expectations
Understanding the expectations of the customer and the massage recipients is key to repeat business and positive recommendations. Remember, customers come to you because you are the expert. Helping to clarify the decisions they have to make is step one. Now delivering a great massage is up to you.

A special shout out to Tom Darilek and Debra Rilea for their help in framing this question and response.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

## Interview with David Palmer

At the 2013 World Massage Conference (WMC) David debuted his first webinar entitled The Future of Professional Touch.

After the presentation and discussion, they premiered a video interview that had been shot in April 2012. You can view it here. In it David describes some of the personal experiences that led him to the path of chair massage..

The WMC is unique in the massage world because it is a “virtual conference” streamed over the Internet and provides an easy way to acquire continuing education credits. You register once for each year (this year was the sixth edition) and have access to any of the live presentations in the June and November sessions.  You can also review the recorded version of each session to watch at your convenience and still get CE credits.

Check it out and register here.

Posted in Chair Massage, Politics, Videos | 1 Comment

## Chair Practitioner as Wellness Coach

This article originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of Massage Magazine. The focus of the issue was on the business of massage and I was asked to respond to the question:

How can I best position myself as a wellness coach offering chair massage services to business?

Here is my response:
In a previous article I discussed why becoming a wellness coach is a good strategy for marketing workplace massage. To position yourself as a credible wellness coach for massage I suggest getting a credential and a good rationale justifying your services. The established wellness industry can give you the first and some revolutionary research the second.

Credentials
Formal training in wellness is often as close as your local academic institution, which may offer degrees or certification in health, wellness and fitness. A quick search will also put you in touch with related academic extension and online courses.

You can also access professional training and specialized credentials through non-profit organizations such as the National Wellness Institute or The Corporate Health and Wellness Association, both of which offer online and in-person training, certification, membership and conferences.

Both the academic and professional credentials are useful paths for getting a broad-based foundation in wellness and developing credibility as a wellness coach. However, you will quickly discover that massage is rarely found in the curricula of the mainstream wellness industry. In part, this is because of our deep-seated cultural phobia regarding touch. Specific prohibitions about touching are still routinely included in many corporate sexual harassment policies.

This absence of attention to massage by the wellness industry is also indicative of an absence of good data justifying the benefits of massage in the workplace.

It wasn’t until 2012 that the first (and as of this writing, only) textbook surveying the field of massage research was published (Massage Therapy: Integrating Research and Practice. Edited by Dryden and Moyer). With chapters on cancer, fibromyalgia, scars, sexual trauma, anxiety and depression, low back pain, neck and shoulder pain, headaches as well as special populations (pediatrics, pregnancy and labor, athletes, and older adults) it appeared that there was little evidence to construct a proactive rationale for massage in the workplace.

Fortunately corporate attitudes are in rapid transition and positive justifications for massage are appearing.

Corporate attitudes
Thirty years ago only in my wildest dreams could I have imagined a business conference entitled Wisdom 2.0 that would bring together leaders from some of the most successful tech companies (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Cisco) together with academics, researchers, politicians and spiritual educators (such as Marianne Williamson, Jon Kabot-Zinn, Jack Kornfield) to discuss “how to live with greater wisdom, purpose and meaning.” Yet, that is exactly what happened this past February for four days in San Francisco.

Check out videos of some of these presentations. Listen carefully and you will hear the business jargon of future and it will contain words like presence, engagement, compassion and mindfulness and concepts such as conscious capitalism, the innovative mindset, places and spaces of intimacy and reclaiming our selves.

Another easy way to learn about the changing values in business is by tapping into the seemingly bottomless library of presentations offered up by TEDTalks (www.ted.com). One word you will hear over and over again in all of these discussions is connection. Companies want their employees to feel connected to themselves, to each other, to customers, to their work, to their communities, to their environment and even to the greater good of all humankind.

Of course, touch is the physical manifestation of connection and chair massage is a very safe container for a whole lot of touch. So, in the massage version of a wellness coach we are actually connection experts.

Revolutionary research
Why is massage so good at creating a sense of internal and external connectedness? In a word—oxytocin. In the past ten years, this hormone/neurotransmitter has risen from obscurity to take a leading role in the wellness narrative. Here is the short, somewhat oversimplified rags-to-riches story starting with some basic physiology.

The autonomic nervous system has two complementary branches: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which generally activates our fight or flight response, and the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) which generally promotes rest and recovery and makes us feel calm and connected.

We live in a sea of stress caused primarily by over-stimulation of the SNS. Too much noise, too many smells, too many people, too much work, too much email, too many perceived dangers. The fight or flight response, once the occasional visitor when a tiger crossed our path, has become a constant companion. This chronic stress response has been dissected in thousands of research papers and the conclusion is simple, we are overwhelmed physically, mentally and emotionally.

What has been studied far less, until now, is the PSNS that stills the waters and brings a sense of peace and calm, comfort and compassion, healing and health to our lives. Evidence is mounting that the primary chemical that triggers this parasympathetic response is oxytocin. Originally thought to be released only during childbirth and breastfeeding, oxytocin is now known to be produced by the pituitary gland of both males and females throughout our lives.

We also now know that the most efficient way to stimulate the release of oxytocin is through caring touch. This means that we have a scientific rationale for why massage makes us feel better that we can explain to companies and customers. For the last 25 years my key message was “Circulation is not optional” now it is “Oxytocin is not optional.”

When oxytocin kicks in employees feel better about themselves and each other, productivity and creativity increase because energy is no longer drained away by a hyperactive SNS, and the multiple health problems brought on by a chronic stress response are reduced, resulting in lower absenteeism and health care costs.

Conclusion
To become a serious wellness coach to business carrying the banner of massage, get a credential and become an oxytocin expert by checking out the pioneering work of Kersten Unvas Moberg (The Oxytocin Factor), Paul Zak (The Moral Molecule) and Dr. Gabor Maté (drgabormate.com). The latter two have some engaging videos on YouTube.

## Four Ways to Market Workplace Chair Massage

Outfitted with education, experience and selling points (see related article: 21st Century Workplace Seated Massage) for chair massage, how do you locate some likely business prospects?

1. Finding receptive companies can be as simple as reading the business section of the daily newspaper, or its online equivalent. Local business articles provide a wealth of information about new companies, growing companies and the changing circumstances of established companies. Make a list and call the CEO or human resources department of these companies to find out if they already have or are considering a program to support workplace wellness.

2. You can narrow your marketing even further by identifying companies who already have an interest in workplace wellness. Theresa Crisci of Total-balance Life Choice shows up every time her chamber of commerce invites local companies to describe their wellness initiatives at a health care council meeting. Invariably, four out of five of the companies will never even mention stress reduction as part of their wellness strategy, but are eager to hear her talk about it when she approaches them at the end of each meeting.

3. Piggybacking on firms that specialize in providing corporate wellness programs or Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) can save you a lot of legwork. Even if they don’t offer seated massage as part of their package of services, you can often get your foot in the door of local companies by offering to be part of the increasingly popular “lunch-and-learn programs where you can talk up the benefits of stress-reduction services.

4. The most targeted and cost-free marketing is word-of-mouth referrals. Yuki Takaishi, owner of Touch Wellness in San Francisco, California, found that former chair massage clients who had moved on to other companies would often encourage their new employers to incorporate chair massage services into the workplace. Friends, neighbors and religious or social club contacts can also help you advocate for wellness in their workplaces.

Posted in Chair Massage, Marketing | 4 Comments

## 21st Century Workplace Seated Massage

From the first days of professional seated massage in the mid 1980s, massage in the workplace has been a significant market segment. When my business was providing chair, or seated, massage at companies such as Apple Computer, the service was clearly positioned as a workstyle benefit that set progressive 20th century businesses apart from their stodgy, suit-and-tie counterparts.

While that motivation still exists and evolved, another trend has emerged, driven by a shift in the health care industry that, if seized upon, has the potential to completely reshape the face of massage and the workplace.

For the past three decades, chair massage has ebbed and flowed with the growth and recession cycles of the economy. The high-tech and bio-tech sectors, in particular, typically lead the upswing and provide fertile ground for workplace massage. These companies are often created, managed and staffed by a younger generation more interested in quality of life issues. Benefits such as free meals, childcare, concierge services and massage therapy are often part of benefits packages.

Theresa Crisci, who has been doing workplace chair massage for nearly 20 years in Connecticut, identified a big shift in corporate attitudes over the past two decades “For the most part, we no longer have to worry about sexual harassment issues being a barrier for chair massage in the workplace.” Crisci believes that chair massage actually holds a certain cachet for the current generation of young people in the workforce and the companies who employ them.

Another two decade practitioner, Tom Darilek, owner of Seize the Day Energizing Chair Massage, in Austin, Texas, believes employers consider regular massage to be simply another tool for attracting and retaining top tech talent. Darilek also notes that in the past, while companies occasionally would give lip service to chair massage as a wellness tool, they basically treated it as a fad that would fade as soon as the economy began to tighten.

Now, there are significant signs that the wellness fad may finally be here to stay—and there is every reason to believe that chair massage therapists may benefit.

The revolution

The future of workplace massage is tied to the economics of health care policy. At long last, corporate, governmental and academic policy makers have come to the conclusion that a health care system whose primary focus is sickness care is doomed to bankruptcy. They have concluded the ultimate foundation of an economically viable health care system has to be prevention and wellness.

This radical paradigm shift is stamped indelibly into the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010. While the media and partisan politicians were obsessing about the constitutionality of ObamaCare and its new framework for financing health care, mostly overlooked was the fact that the 954-page ACA legislation specifically “directs the creation of a national prevention and health promotion strategy.”

The law created the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council (National Prevention Council), composed of the heads of 17 Federal agencies and chaired by the Surgeon General. This high-level federal action group works closely with a 25-member Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health, also mandated in the legislation. Both of these groups are developing plans and recommendations that will impact every strata of society, including workplace wellness.

Happily, massage therapy has a seat at the table of this health care revolution. One of the members of the Advisory Group is the esteemed Janet R. Kahn, Ph.D., a 30-year massage professional and the director of research of the Massage Therapy Research Consortium from 2003 to 2008. Her background in massage and integrative health makes her an ideal advocate for the inclusion of massage as these panels refocus the health care system on prevention and health promotion, two areas in which massage excels.

The National Prevention Council and the Advisory Group have already targeted the workplace as one of the primary arenas for implementing this new strategy. I will make the case that seated massage is ideally suited to lead the way in workplace wellness. Then, armed with a clear idea about how to describe and position the unique strengths of chair massage, I will make a few practical suggestions about finding companies ready to hear the message of chair massage.

This might be a good time to note that, while most of the following rationales could also be applied to table massage, the twin barriers of time and money make chair massage a far better fit for the vast majority of workplaces. Experience has shown that, in general, only the very largest companies include the option of table massage in their menu of wellness services.

The prevention intervention

The medical community has traditionally limited prevention to proven clinical screenings—mammograms, colonoscopies, blood pressure screenings, treadmill tests and the like. In the new health care model, prevention also includes dealing with lifestyle and pre-clinical conditions, a particular strength of chair massage.

Seated massage has always been good at preventing little problems from becoming big problems. The reason someone wakes up with a crick in her neck is never because, as she might claim, she “slept wrong.” Rather, it is because of weeks or months of accumulated psychological or physical stress finally reaching a tipping point that resulted in a muscle spasm. Regular chair massage alleviates the results of these minor stresses and prevents muscles from reaching that involuntary contraction threshold.

Too much mental stress is the primary or secondary cause of many medical conditions as well as an inhibitor to healing virtually all injury and disease processes. Most people will agree that high-quality chair massage is an instant stress reducer. While we don’t yet know all the exact mechanisms involved, there is sufficient scientific evidence to support the claim that massage is effective at reducing anxiety and depression.

Human beings were made to move. When employees are immobilized by their jobs at desks and keyboards, their bodies will eventually break down and rebel. The coin of movement has two sides: active movement where people move themselves, which we call exercise, and passive movement where someone else creates the movement, which we call massage. Regular seated massage moves the tissue, which enhances circulation, which lets the body’s own self-healing mechanisms work most efficiently. Neither movement nor circulation is optional and chair massage provides a heaping serving of both.

Immobilized bodies that don’t move result in what Thomas Hanna, the great somatics pioneer, more elegantly termed sensory-motor amnesia. That is to say, chronically contracted muscles which eventually stop giving feedback to the higher cortex of conscious awareness. When this happens we are no longer able to feel the imbalances we have created and we begin to think that our bad posture is normal.

Seated, or chair, massage restores the mind-body connection and we feel better in two important ways: First, we feel the relief of the multi-tiered rebalancing that comes at the end of a massage; second, our capacity for experiencing sensation inside our bodies increases.  We can now feel more and we can feel better. If we are not getting accurate feedback about the state of our health, we see no reason to change. Massage restores that feedback loop and shows us that we have control over how we feel.

This enhanced self-awareness brings us to the second set of rationales for seated massage in the workplace.

Making wellness work

Advocates of wellness and health promotion know in order for the health care paradigm to shift from treatment to prevention, people must be motivated to make significant lifestyle changes.

We have known for decades that five chronic diseases–heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes–are responsible for more than two-thirds of all deaths in the United States. We also know the progression of all these conditions is heavily influenced by lifestyle. Studies have repeatedly shown we would save billions of health care dollars every year if we ate better, exercised more, reduced chronic stress and didn’t smoke.

So why haven’t we change our lifestyles? Because change requires effort and motivation.

One of the unique aspects of chair massage, unlike any other workplace wellness modality, such as smoking cessation, dietary modification, exercise, Yoga or meditation, is it requires no motivation to change. It works immediately with no effort or intervention required on the part of the recipient. With massage, people also come to realize that they have far more control over how they feel than they ever imagined and thus become more motivated to change.

The frosting on the cake is that chair massage also supports every lifestyle change. No matter where you are on the spectrum of wellness, from couch potato to super athlete, if you want to break a habit, start a new one or support any transition in your life, adding massage will immediately make you feel better and positively reinforce your efforts.

Finally, seated massage is the most egalitarian of all wellness programs. You don’t have to be overweight or a smoker or have high blood pressure or even be stressed out to qualify and benefit from regular massage. The only ultimate contraindication for massage is an individual’s reluctance to be touched.

A major transition

Chair massage in the workplace is at a moment of major transition. In the emerging health care economy the time is right to position yourself as a serious wellness consultant who provides massage services. There has never been a better time to showcase the benefits of massage and create a true health care system, one body at a time.

For further marketing tips, check out Four Ways to Market Workplace Chair Massage.

Posted in Chair Massage, Marketing | | 4 Comments