First National Bank of Arizona’s Tempe headquarters, with about 600 workers, is a hive of financial activity. The building is a circuitous maze of cubicle walls, conference rooms and folks attending to the business of business — but all is not spreadsheets and finance.
First National Bank of Arizona’s Tempe headquarters, with about 600 workers, is a hive of financial activity. The building is a circuitous maze of cubicle walls, conference rooms and folks attending to the business of business — but all is not spreadsheets and finance. The steady stream of stoop-shouldered desk jockeys headed toward the Emerald Room says today is a special day.
Tucked inside the halls of commerce is a young woman with strong hands, a pretzel chair and an iPod full of New Age music — ready to twist their knots into submission.
Today is massage day (audio slideshow).
Help you knead
“I’ve been doing massage for about eight years, and I’ve been doing this for about three,” says Brandi Reed. The energetic owner of Chandler-based Rebalance Therapy, Reed has found a foothold in the working-day world by making massage mesh with corporate culture.
“The key thing people like to know is that they’re seated (during the massage),” Reed says during her 15-minute lunch break. “The client stays fully clothed — very important in a corporate environment.” She will work 23 backs today on her weekly First National gig. “We’ll go 15 minutes, or 30, depending on the client.”
She charges employees $1.25 a minute, she says, but sometimes employers kick in. “I work with vice presidents and human resource directors, and give them coupons for discounts. Sometimes a company will hire me in to do free massages as an incentive for employees or a way to tell them 'good job’ after a big project.” But do workers really embrace the idea of a midday massage? She never gets to answer. Her noon client is at the door.
“I’m glad to be here, I’ll tell you that,” says Bryon Peters. The soft-spoken mortgage loan agent doffs his glasses and sticks his head into the massage doughnut, and soon Reed is wringing his neck muscles out like a kitchen sponge.
“My neck and back are just totaled,” he says, partially muffled. “I try not to spoil myself too often. I was here just last week. But I was doing schoolwork at my home computer over the weekend and got a cramp in my neck.”
Though every back is different, Reed says computers are the most frequent villain: “You see a lot of neck and shoulder stiffness. A lot of repetitive stress injuries: arms, neck and back.” Reed and Peters chat about family and kids while she shoves an arsenal of fists, elbows and fingers into his shoulder and spine. “My lunch isn’t usually until 1,” Peters grunts, between elbows, “But I’m taking it now so I could have this. It’s a huge stress-reliever.”
You rub my back...
Workplace massages might seem a little decadent at first. But Sharon Malone, First National’s benefits manager, says the company sees a lot of upside. “It increases productivity and decreases the kind of stress that can lead to absenteeism,” she explains. Malone, who has had a massage or two herself, says amenities like these demonstrate a company’s regard for its workers. “We’re very much a family company, and this is an expression of who we are.” She says. “It makes this a better place to work.”
From the massage chair, employee Nancy Hershenberg agrees: “It relaxes me,” she says, though Reed’s fists on her shoulders make her accent syllables oddly. “It helps the neck and back pain go away. So when I’m sitting at my desk, I’m not rolling my neck. I’m focused on work. Plus, it’s a nice break. You leave work, but you don’t actually 'leave work.’ It’s hard to think about work in here … this is fantastic.”