The Canadian Guide to Corporate Massage

Why Employee-paid corporate massage programs fail

You may be thinking … This is amazing, each employee will pay for their own massage and it won’t cost the company a dime!

But, hold on … let’s look at this a bit more closely.

A common misconception for businesses looking to introduce chair massage is that a massage program can pay for itself by having employees pay for their own massages.

Although having employees pay for their own chair massage sessions seems like a good way to provide the benefit of chair massage without costing the company anything, the approach has several major drawbacks and can often do more to lower employee morale than improve it.

Who pays for the in-office massages comes down to the issue of morale.

Here are a few reasons why employee-paid massage programs consistently fail:

1. Employees don’t get a feeling of being cared for, or cared about when they have to pay for massage

Making employees pay for their own chair massage sessions rarely has the intended effect of creating happiness. Employees see through the gesture of the company “supporting, but not paying for” the workplace massages as a sign of their organizations unwillingness to truly invest in them and care about their health and well-being.

It’s not hard to imagine reactions to an employee-paid program being along the lines of…

“Hold on a second, they are saying we deserve a break and a massage - but only if we pay for it ourselves?”

“This isn’t fair, only the people who can afford a massage get to take a break.”

“Last month they changed to the cheaper coffee in the breakroom, and now they want me to pay for a massage?”

On the flip-side, employer-paid massage programs are perceived quite differently. Employees feel like the company cares, and that they are appreciated for their hard work, long hours and stressful days. When it comes to corporate massage services, the organizations that invest in their employees have seen results in stress reduction, creativity, morale, decreased absenteeism, and an overall sense of company loyalty.

To learn more about the benefits of massage, check out our article in this guide titled:
The Benefits of Office Chair Massage in the Workplace

2. Employee-paid chair massage programs reach very few people and have low utilization

The reach of an employee-paid chair massage program is extremely limited. Massaging just a few people in an organization, often as little as 5-10% of the company does very little to impact the overall morale of the entire company.

To compound the limited reach issue, unless people are suffering from a headache, muscle pain or tension that very day, they tend not to view taking the time away from their workday as necessary or appropriate (through the eyes of the company). Participation rates of employee-paid programs are MUCH higher, often 5 times higher! That’s 75% or more of your company reaping the benefits of corporate massage. High utilization of your massage program is a sure-fire way of effectively impacting and positively improving your whole workforce.

Imagine you’ve done all the work to get acceptance to run an employee-paid massage program in your office. You did a lot of planning and pitching to get approval to run the event. You’ve organized the break room and moved the chairs around, you’ve made massage-day posters and hung them around the office, and today is the big day! But the sign-up sheet has a lot of blank spaces. Well, maybe it’s just because it’s the first day. The staff will love it, and word will spread - right?

The day finishes and turn-out was better than the 25% participation rate our guide outlined - let’s say it was 50%. You double down on your promotion of the event and the next massage day rolls around. But this time, participation is down to only 30% - what happened? You take a quick poll of the people who didn’t return and they just shrug and say the massage was great the first time, but they had other things to spend their money on this month. They say maybe they’ll think about it again next month. So participation rates have dropped and there is another potential issue - the chair massage practitioner or massage therapist you brought in was only able to bill for 30% of their time. So instead of putting in a full day and getting compensated fairly, they’re now asking if you will be able to guarantee more massage sessions for them at the next event - because if they can’t bill for at least 75% of their time then unfortunately they don’t think they can return.

And there it is, all your hard work for nothing. Participation rates dropped and you are forced to ask your boss if it’s ok for you to cancel the very event you worked so hard to arrange.

3. Non-solicitation rules make promotion awkward

Promoting an employee-pay massage day or employee-pay massage sessions directly to employees is an awkward affair. The massage company is put in a position where they are effectively viewed as a vendor soliciting to the employees. In most cases the massage company would be subject to non-solicitation policies that limit their ability to communicate with employees. Ultimately the program dies because of the inability to get the word out that the massages were event available.

With a company-paid program, the company is choosing to invest in their employees. The relationship that is forged between the company and the massage provider is viewed as a partnership. The massage company and the organization together create and develop a chair massage program that is intended for the good of the team. These types of programs improve morale.

Think about an employee sitting at their desk when the announcement about the upcoming massage day pops into their inbox. It’s probably going to be one of the best emails they’ve received all day, and it’s going to make them feel great about working in your organization. A massage… for me? Nice!

4. Employee-paid massage programs squash morale.

When the massage program fizzles and fades due to low utilization, the massage company is forced to withdraw their services entirely. Bringing massage into an employee-pay workplace just isn’t sustainable. Those individuals left behind, whose numbers were simply and unfortunately not enough to sustain the program, are left disgruntled, unhappy and unmotivated. This is exactly the opposite effect that a corporate massage program is meant to have. Then it’s back to the drawing board, as it were.

In conclusion…

Company-paid programs are the way to go! They have a positive impact on employee morale, and give employees a sense of being cared for … and who doesn’t like to “feel the love”!? Company-paid massage programs are also far reaching and accessible to everyone in the company. This is crucial, as the more people that receive a massage, the more the whole team and the entire company reap the benefits. The ROI is at its peak! With company-paid programs there are no barriers such as competing with, sneaking around, or violating non-solicitation rules. The massage company is considered to be a health and wellness partner, not a solicitor. Company-paid massage programs make people happy! There has never been an instance where a massage practitioner has shown up to a company and been met with groans of, “oh no, it’s massage day today”. Employees LOVE massage days, and when the company supports the notion that each employee will take a few minutes from their work day to receive a massage the benefits for both the employee and company are win-win.

If you are looking to add a mobile massage program for your business, take a moment to understand the benefits of the massage, and then use this template to talk to your boss about massage.