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Careers Insight: Instant boost to wellbeing

Massages are an effective way of reducing stress and boosting production. More companies are realising these benefits

When our organisation marked Mental Health Awareness Day last year, one of the most well-received aspects of the day was our focus on stress management and the opportunity to have an on-site 15-minute massage. As a result, we have committed to inviting a therapist to our offices on a quarterly basis.

How do you feel about this? A nice, but pointless thing? Another people development tree-hugging gimmick? Costly, disruptive and with little effect on business outcomes?

While many of us might view massages as a luxury item or something to enjoy on a spa day or on holiday, some business leaders are starting to look at massage more seriously.

Being extremely interested in workplace wellbeing, my own conclusion is simple: if you haven’t considered this as something for your organisation or even just for yourself, then you really should. I list the reasons why here.

The business world is fast-paced and stressful. Sometimes people need to relax in order to solve a problem. “Massage frees thoughts,” explains Yodi Richeson, an American massage therapist. “When you are so focused on something and stressed out, you have blinkers on and don’t see the whole picture. You just see what is in front of you. Massage lets executives calm down to think clearer and get a better picture – it’s better than coffee.”

Richeson, who has been a massage therapist for more than 25 years, has worked with the US national volleyball team and has a number of high-level executive clients from the business world. She has witnessed first-hand the “aha moment” her clients have after letting go and relaxing.

Massage has proven to be an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension. Some studies have also found that massage can help people suffering from anxiety, headaches, digestive disorders, sports injuries, joint pain, fibromyalgia and lower back pain. Considering how many of us sit at our desks for long hours suffering from neck and back pain, a therapeutic massage may be just what we need to feel better, think clearer and be more productive.

If you want to avoid taking time off and to stay healthy during the cold and flu season, scheduling a weekly massage may help because it increases the activity level of the body’s white blood cells.

For the past 20 years, there have been studies linking massage to improved brainpower and productivity. Other studies have found that people who receive regular massages spend more time in deep sleep, the restorative stage of the sleep cycle. If you want to avoid not getting enough sleep the night before a big presentation or a day packed with back-to-back meetings, then perhaps consider scheduling a massage on the way home from work the day before.

Massage helps alleviate stress, but it is more than just candles, relaxing music and a healing touch helping the body to relax.

Research suggests that frequent massage reduces cortisol, which is a major stress hormone, high levels of which have been linked to high blood pressure, suppressed immune system function and obesity.

It is important to note that you do not need an hour-long massage to reduce cortisol levels or lower stress – even a brief 15-minute chair massage once a week can reduce stress systems.

Approximately 11 per cent of companies offered workplace massages to employees and 3 per cent planned to add corporate massage in the next 12 months, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.

Richeson advises that business leaders should schedule a massage on a weekly basis or every 10 days. She says the type of massage she provides varies based on her client’s work week or day.

Some days they may need a deep tissue massage because of a stressful meeting and other times a Swedish massage or relaxation massage is required. Most clients work out and eat right because they know exercise and good nutrition helps your mind.

“On the same level, massage gets your mind working the right way because it helps to balance everything – workouts, job, family and life,” Richeson explains.

Clare Jupp is director of people development at Brightstar

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