By ERIN FORTNEY
Special to HR.BLR.com
Call it relaxing, call it rewarding, call it stress relieving - but don't call
it a fringe benefit. Robin Segal, Ph.D., owner of a New York City corporate
massage therapy service, argues that massage therapy is a valuable wellness
strategy that can lead to healthier, more productive employees.
Segal discovered the benefits of massage when she was contracting for the Department
of Energy in Washington, D.C. As the stress of her job mounted, she found herself
regularly visiting a massage therapist to help her body relax and unwind.
She admits that what has become a successful business began as a matter of
practicality: "I figured that if I learned how to do it myself, I wouldn't
have to pay for it anymore."
Segal received her training at the Swedish Institute in New York City, where
she learned both Eastern and Western approaches to massage. After receiving
her New York State license, Segal began Massage Massage, a massage-therapy company
that performs on-site massages at various businesses throughout the city.
Companies book blocks of time in which massage therapists visit the office
and provide massages to employees. Some companies use the service as a reward
for good performance, while others use it simply to give their employees a break.
Among her regular clients are high-profile companies such as The New York Times,
Lego Direct, New York Life Securities, and Seventeen magazine. She notes that
public relations firms and media-oriented companies more frequently solicit
her services, whereas companies whose billing must be more transparent, such
as law firms, are not as likely to.
Catering to desk jockeys
Segal targets her services mainly toward people who sit at desks or in front
of computers all day. Bad habits at work, she explains, can lead to muscle soreness
and permanent injury. She cites cradling the telephone on the shoulder as one
of the biggest problems, which causes problems in the neck and shoulders. General
job stress causes neck muscles to tense up, resulting in tension headaches.
Hunching over at a desk makes the rhomboids - the muscles at the shoulder blades
- tight and sore.
Although she has a large network of clients throughout New York City, Segal
does extensive self-promotion to garner new clients. "Massage is something
that is experienced one person at a time," Segal says of her marketing
strategies. "Not everyone reacts the same way and there's no way to target
any one industry."
The recent economic downturn has had an effect on her business, Segal admits.
While she adamantly says that massage is more than a "perk," many
companies simply cannot afford the extra expense.
As a result, Segal has written a book entitled, Feeling Good at Work: Ergonomics,
Stretching and Self-Massage (self-published, $20). The book is targeted
toward "office workers, desk jockeys and computer wizards." It provides
stretching and massage exercises directed specifically at aches and pains caused
by typing, slouching, sitting at a desk, and of course, cradling the phone.
The book also provides extensive information on ways to reduce or avoid these
aches and pains through cheap or even free ergonomic solutions. Segal says she
wanted to show that ergonomics needn't be expensive. For instance, she says,
stop cradling the phone and use a headset instead. A footrest can be constructed
from a couple of phone books stacked on the floor. And a special desk attachment
isn't necessary to provide proper keyboard tilt - a desk drawer will work nicely.
Segal says a major reason for writing the book is "to communicate the
necessity of massage. Even if a company can't afford to pay for massage therapy
for its employees, the book is much less expensive and is still an extremely
Ideally, Segal would like to see her book integrated into corporate culture.
The ideas within the book expand on the massages that she and her staff perform,
as well as ergonomics seminars that she offers at companies. The book is an
easy-to-read reference that an employee can easily keep close at hand, should
a headache or neck pain arise.
Massage is a great way to relieve stress and alleviate those aches and pains
caused by sitting at a desk all day. But Segal hopes that her book will serve
as an educational tool and continual reference point for office workers. Her
objective, she says, is to help employees "work to alleviate their pain
by understanding the cause of the problem." Education, she notes, is the
key to ending bad habits and learning to adjust the office environment to properly
fit the body.
For information on Segal's company, Massage Massage, or her new book, Feeling Good at Work, visit the Massage Massage Web site.