What's next? Massages to boost employee morale

May 15, 2000
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ANN ARBOR, MI — Contractors looking for ways to entice and retain technicians while boosting employee morale may want to consider following the unique footsteps of D&C Heating and Plumbing.

The plumbing, heating, and air conditioning wholesale-distributor provides an unusual perk for its employees: a 15-minute massage, once a month, from a professional masseuse. Employees do not have to leave the office; the masseuse comes to D&C.

“These massages are effective for the employees who take advantage of them,” said president Dave Morrison. “Some may say that it’s a waste of company time and not everyone likes it, but it definitely improves morale.”

Just ask the D&C employees who take advantage of the “tension relief” sessions, usually manipulated by professional masseuse Peggy Schwartz. It costs the employee only $5. D&C picks up the rest of the tab.

“If we don’t have someone come in every month, we definitely notice,” said office worker Sue Augustine.

'Holistic connection'

Ten years ago, Morrison played softball and frequently encountered sore muscles. He was playing at the Ann Arbor (MI) Sports Club and next door was a little clinic helping those with sports injuries.

The sports masseuse, Jocelyn Granger, helped Morrison with his sore muscles. After visiting the clinic a few times, Morrison and Granger discussed how one’s state of mind could affect the way a person feels.

“There is a holistic connection to it,” says Morrison. “That’s when I started to think about having someone come to our company to provide the massages.”

At first, D&C offered the massages only at its Ann Arbor location. (Other Michigan locations are Ypsilanti, Tecumseh, Utica, Walled Lake, Howell, and Dearborn Heights.)

“I wasn’t thinking about who would be included or excluded from this,” says Morrison. “Since we would have this once a month, we’d have the masseuse for four or five hours. Anyone who was interested could get a massage.

“Some people at the other branches would ask why the Ann Arbor branch was getting the special treatment. So what we do here, we offered to all other branches. They are free to have someone come out here [Ann Arbor] once a month, too.”

Morrison believes the $5 co-pay is reasonable, considering the cost of a masseuse can be $60/hr.

At present, the ones enjoying the massages are the office employees. However, Morrison believes that anyone and everyone could benefit. “I believe the technicians would like them,” he says. “The only problem might be, when do you do it?”

Soothing service

Employee Kathy Johnson knows Schwartz personally, and she arranges the dates for the masseuse to do her soothing service.

“Her first love is massage therapy, and then she became a registered nurse,” says Johnson. “It’s nice to have a massage therapist who is a nurse. She knows if there are some sore points that shouldn’t be massaged.

“When Peggy can’t make it for a month, someone else will come in.”

When Schwartz arrives, she usually attends to a conference room full of employees. The massage is performed in a specially designed therapy chair.

“The employees sort of sit and kneel, and there’s a place to rest their face,” she explains. “This way, there is no weight on a particular spot.”

A few years ago, Schwartz said she read an article on massages in the Wall Street Journal “and how they provide better productivity and morale.” She’s finding truth in that analysis.

“The massage loosens muscles in the shoulder, neck, and arms,” says Johnson. “She [Schwartz] does it so that you can totally relax. You put on headphones and listen to music while she performs the massage.”

“I feel that anyone would like it,” she adds. “The guys in our warehouse might like it too. Some people might feel weird about trying this, but I think that you need to try it; if the masseuse does something that you don’t like, tell her.”

Contractors, are you listening?

Augustine is definitely sold on the idea.

“She doesn’t come here often enough,” she says of the masseuse. “It’s really nice that the company puts forth and helps out with this. I sit at my desk all day, and when I get a massage, I walk away for a few minutes and it’s like getting a Calgon bath!”

Augustine, who has been with the business for 10 years and works for all of the managers, says it makes a difference.

“Our office is upbeat anyway,” she says, “but this changes the temperament of all the employees.”

Fellow employee Linda Bogedain also finds the perk relaxing.

“If we don’t have someone come in every month, we definitely notice it,” she says. “It’s been really nice here at work. For me, it’s a luxury to have the masseuse come in. It would be difficult to find the time outside of the office, and it’s very affordable at $5.

“I’d be in the chair four or five times if I could, and it would be nice to have it every week!”

Schwartz became motivated about massage therapy when she was a youngster. Her mother, a retired nurse, would provide back massages in return for dishes being done.

“My mother, who worked in Canada, said that as part of nighttime care, patients received back massages,” says Schwartz. “I couldn’t wait for my back to be massaged. When you receive a professional massage, it takes the edge off a stressful day.”

No argument from Morrison.

“I think in our lifetime, as we know more about the connection between the body and mind, and that health insurance covers preventive medicine, this idea will spread,” he says.

Adds Bogedain, “I believe that this is a trend for the future. It’s nice to realize what the employees need. It’s a preventive idea, too. It can only help, so in the long run it’s worth it.” 

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