Many people have a good understanding of the benefits of massage. From relieving the physical discomfort created by an overtight muscle, to increasing the flow of blood and lymph to the brain and other organs, to the simple but powerful effect of being cared for, massages from 10 to 180 minutes have real impact on our wellbeing.
But in the middle of a working day, full of the kinds of challenges that require us to be resourceful and sharp, is having a relaxing, on site massage really a good idea?
Yes. And here is why.
More and Better Energy
Fatigue is often linked to muscular tension. This is because the energy resources (glucose, oxygen) that we need can get effectively ‘locked away’ inside tight muscle groups. Having a massage at work stretches those muscles, releasing energy resources and ‘feel good’ chemicals like endorphins back into the body. In fact, the next time you feel tired, try stretching a large muscle group like your quadriceps (thigh muscles) before you reach for a cup of coffee, and then see how you feel. By releasing energy locked away in tight muscles with a good stretch you get a healthy, free, and sustainable energy boost at work.
Motivation comes from Self-Determination
We know that the most motivated employees have a degree of autonomy their working life. So when people are given the choice to receive massage at work, their intrinsic motivation to perform well is being supported. When they take that choice, they establish a habit of self empowerment and state-change. Deciding to receive help, kindness, skilled care puts you in a more optimistic, and therefore energised, open-minded, problem-solving state of mind, helping to create more effective teams and motivated employees.
Expectation as Medicine – the Power of the Mind
We know that the placebo effect is real. Scientists have shown that the expectation of reduced pain, for example, leads to the production of chemicals in the body the actually do reduce the sensation of pain. The impact of a good massage begins when someone looks forward to it, especially after having had the benefits of massage in the past. This is one of the reasons I believe studies keep showing that repeated visits from massage therapists at work deliver increased positive impact over time. It’s even been shown that, after establishing a history of positive results with a practitioner, the mere sound of their voice (as they set up an appointment, for example) can reduce blood pressure and ease muscular tension.
For many people in the workplace, the need to ignore subtle signals from the senses is paramount to keeping your job and sanity. If you’re affected by the sounds of colleagues in a shared space, phones ringing, industrial and environmental sounds, uncomfortable physical environments and fatiguing lighting, the effort that goes into maintaining focus on what’s in front of you distracts from your actual job. While the ability to tune distractions out is necessary to keep us moving forward at work, our health and long-term productivity depends on our ability to be restored to the simple pleasure of being alive in a sensate body. Research on touch has shown that simply resting a hand of someone’s shoulder creates a sense of safety, brings the nervous system out of threat-management and into restorative mode, and improves the recipients’ experience of any interaction. The intelligent touch of massage in the workplace heals the nerves and the body. It only takes a few minutes, and the healing impact can last for days.
Blood Flow = Efficiency & Productivity
For many people at work there is a point in our day when our energy seems to drop. It’s often after lunch, when our bellies are full and the impact of a relatively sedentary lifestyle takes effect. We call it the afternoon slump, and often reach for more coffee, sugar and carbohydrates to keep ourselves going. Studies show that this is the least productive part of the day. It’s not a lack of calories that slows our thinking and makes our eyelids droop; it’s a lack of blood flow to the cells of the body. As well as promoting corporate wellness, classic massage techniques increase healthy blood flow throughout the body, waking up all your cells and getting your brain back into action. After a short 15 minute workplace massage, employees become more alert, attentive to detail, and show increased rates of productivity.
Tension Creates Mistakes
Tense bodies are less agile and responsive, more prone to accidents and injury. Tense minds are more rigid and less likely to find efficient solutions. We know that our maths skills decline when we’re sleep deprived and a stressful day can mean we come home and put the car keys in the refrigerator. Of course, pain is even more of a distraction, and the more intense our pain becomes, the less we can concentrate on anything else. While we all need a little bit of eustress challenge to get us going, taking the edge off of di-stress in a 20-30 minute massage allows us to return to work with a clear head so we perform better, stay engaged, and avoid mistakes.
Culture – the Environmental Impact of Others
Have you ever been in close enough proximity to someone else that their stress, even though they might think they were hiding it, affected you? The behaviour that we see happening around us creates the culture of our workplace. Aside from the impact of the physical space, the way we see people being treated tells us if we should feel safe and relaxed, or under threat and on edge. So when we see our colleagues having their specific concerns addressed, being listened to deeply, and being touched with intelligence and care (all of which happen with workplace massage), we relax, more of our personal resources are directed back to doing good work, building trust, and enjoying a healthy happy culture at work.
Massage Therapy at work has been shown to reduce anxiety and is very effective in the treatment of depression, stress, feelings of isolation and even anger. As humans we all respond positively to being cared for. It encourages more ethical behaviour, opens our thinking for better problem solving, and allows us to celebrate our humanity more fully. Skilled, professional massage makes employees happier, and happier employees make for better workplaces. It communicates a culture of care, corporate wellness and models healthy relationships and generates optimism.
So, if you’re looking for a simple and effective way to support your employees in their efforts do their work well, workplace massage offers layers of benefits for the individual and everyone around them. Keep the sessions between 10 and 45 minutes, and you’ll have a more efficient, happier team.