This year, World Reflexology Awareness Week takes place from 18 - 24 September and the theme is Corporate Reflexology.
I've been working on-site within organisations since 1990 and I can say with some confidence that both company and employees reap the rewards from such initiatives.
Reflexology in a Corporate Environment
Stress is not just one of the biggest killers (it's estimated that 75% of all illness is stress related), it also represents a huge cost to business. Approximately 18 million working days are lost annually as a result of stress, at a cost to business of £4billion. Having a stress management policy and employee stress management programmes are useful initiatives for organisations to undertake, but nothing beats 1-1, touch based therapy to connect with an individual who feels stressed.
I quite understand that therapies can be a "touchy" subject in workplace, but Reflexology is perfect: the only clothing to be taken off are socks and shoes, so it feels safe for both client and organisation. And working on the feet seems remote and less invasive than any other type of massage.
Reflexology is also really relaxing, so it's a wonderful destressor! And having a therapist who has some stress management training (that would be me!) makes the benefits even more substantial when they can impart some practical tips about how to manage pressure and avoid stress outwith the treatment session.
Reflexology as a Stressbuster
Stress can be defined as more pressure than the body can withstand or dissipate. Managing stress is to be avoided in my view - after all, who wants to "manage" something that they don't want! Avoiding stress is all about managing pressure and not letting excessive pressure take a hold for too long, otherwise it's likely to tip into stress.
In my view, one of the reasons that stress has become so prevalent is that we are spending more time in our heads and less time in our body. Our awareness of the stress signals that our body offers has become diminished and we don't notice we're stressed until it has become a significant problem.
Regular relaxation (as provided by Reflexology, meditation, yoga and many other complementary approaches) allows us to tune into our bodies. That feeling of being totally relaxed: where our body feels really heavy or light; where all the tension has been allowed to slide out of our muscles; where our mind is at rest and more in tune with the physical sensations in the body, is a powerful place to be. That feeling of being totally relaxed gives us a benchmark - our place of zero tension against which to measure the level of pressure we are experiencing. And the more often we allow ourselves to experience that place of zero tension the better we become at recognising pressure. And the better we are at recognising pressure and tension, the more we can micro manage pressure and avoid stress. We get into a virtuous cycle of relax, recognise pressure, neutralise pressure, feel more relaxed.
Managing pressure and avoiding stress can itself be stressful - it's about taking personal responsibility; about taking time out for ourselves in an increasingly busy life; about setting boundaries and saying "no" or "not yet" - not always an easy thing to do; and applying many other skills and actions that we may not feel capable of, or sufficiently empowered to carry through. Reflexology takes away personal responsibility and allows the individual to just "be", to sit back and let someone giving ourselves time to "be" in a calm and nurtured space.
Evidence Based Benefits of Reflexology in the Workplace
In Denmark there is a longstanding culture of applying Reflexology in a corporate environment with significant benefits:
Odense Post Office has employed a full-time reflexologist since 1990 and reports savings of around £100,000 per year as a consequence of a 13.3% reduction in sickness and absenteeism.
Ishoj Municipal Health Department recorded 2,499 fewer sick hours over a 6 month period in which employees received reflexology, generating a saving of £21,490.
SAS Cargo estimated a financial saving of £2,000 per month when employees were receiving reflexology.
Fonss and Hove, Solicitors in Kolding, found that employees receiving treatment showed greater motivation and enhanced working ability. And after a four year period, the need for treatments declined because of minimal sickness and absenteeism.
In the UK companies such as multi-nationals, city councils, oil companies, football teams, supermarket chains, department stores, computer firms, a dance company, a fire station, schools and hospitals and many small businesses all host on-site reflexology.
How To Incorporate Reflexology into a Corporate Environment
There are a number of ways and degrees of input that organisations can make if they want to introduce Reflexology into the workplace:
1. Have leaflets available for staff - no cost, no time input, but no way of
knowing if staff have responded
2. Host a talk by a Reflexologist - set a date and time, provide a room,
publicise the talk. The company would be able to gauge interest by the
numbers attending and any further take up would be up to staff
members personally. In my experience, interest is likely to be low
because there's not much incentive for staff to attend.
3. Host a morning/afternoon/day of taster sessions to allow members of
staff to experience the treatment. Normally the company would cover
the cost of the Reflexologist and this taster session can be linked to a
4. On-site Reflexologist turns up one am/pm/day a week/fortnight/month.
This would involve a room from which the practitioner can work and
treatments can either be subsidised (time/money) or not. This is
usually preceeded by free taster sessions for staff to let them try the
treatment before they commit to paying for their own treatments (often
at a reduced price from an off-site clinic). Organisations can monitor
the take up of the service (although all information between employees
and therapist would be completely confidential).
4. Company can subsidise treatments, either by offering them in work
time and/or covering the cost of treatments.
5. There are other variations that can be put in place according to the
needs of the organisation and flexibility of the practitioner.
Any organisation that would be interested in participating in World Reflexology Awareness Week can find out more by emailing me (Doris Wylie of Lothian Reflexology) at firstname.lastname@example.org.