By Joan Hannant, Founder & CEO of The Soma Institute
One of the cruel ironies of 2020 is that when people are stressed or tense, they need massage more than ever. Clearly, this has been a stressful year. Add to that all the people who are working remotely and bent over odd workstations or composing spreadsheets while sitting on a couch and you get a long list of physical problems that massage is great at addressing. But, due to COVID-19 and government mandates, for months massages either weren’t available or didn’t feel like a safe choice.
Now that the massage industry is opening back up, it’s not a surprise to be hearing from so many Soma graduates about demand for massages being high. We recently reached out to a few employers and Soma graduates to get their thoughts on “getting back to work,” new safety procedures and how the pivot to online communication has changed our industry for the better.
Cassandra Stratton - Employer - Mario Tricoci
“When reopening, it was important to us that our vision remain the same: To be synonymous with the latest trends in beauty and wellness services, to offer sustainable careers for our employees and to strive to keep our team members and guests safe at all times.
The addition of PPE was a new practice that did take some time to get used to, but with a little training and practice, the team was comfortable and thankful for the additional protection. We have added 15 minutes between all services to allow for disinfecting the work areas. We implemented a mobile check-in/check-out process. We hired additional team members to clean and sanitize throughout the day. With new technology, we’re offering cashless options, have added an e-commerce site for product sales and implemented a “know before you go” process.
The demand for massage is high. Our therapists are seeing many returning clients that understand the benefits of massage and the balance that massage provides with mental, physical and emotional health. In addition, we are also seeing new guests who have been isolated and stressed from the pandemic and are longing for wellness. We have received great feedback that guests understand that Tricoci can offer a safe place for healing touch.”
“We took some additional time to implement added safety procedures that were not being required before reopening. One example of that is adding air filtration systems. We have also implemented many additional steps to ensure safety. We started by reducing the amount of people we allow into our building at any one time. We’re having guests wait in their cars until they get the wave from us telling them it’s okay to come in. We’ve also staggered appointments to minimize the interaction between our guests. Both employees and guests are wearing masks at all times. We’ve even removed some of the niceties we usually provide like the comfy wool pad on the tables and the plush pads in the face cradle.
Almost all of our regular clients are back and are totally on-board with the safety changes. We’ve also been seeing an uptick in new clients over the last few weeks. The added stress of the pandemic is definitely making an impact on the need for massage. We’ve noticed an exacerbation of current symptoms in the people we had been treating clinically now that they’ve come back in. Several clients have told us since they couldn’t get massages they went to other professionals and began considering options like orthopedic surgery. They’re glad to be back!
Like a lot of small businesses, the pandemic hit us hard. We’re grateful to be back at work and to be seeing a big demand for massage.”
“As soon as the pandemic began shutting things down, people embraced technology. Today, virtual learning is still going strong, because right now, people are hungry for continuing education and learning new skills!
It’s been a lot of fun to watch Soma students adapt and thrive during this time. Our students have been great about online classes. Our instructors have gotten creative as well. My goal was to make online classes as much fun for me to teach as they were for the students to experience. I even invested in a skeleton to use as a prop. We named him George, and he’s become a regular part of my classes. I also bought a bunch of huge Post-it notes to use like a chalkboard at home.
Now, I’m doing a mix of online and in-person teaching. It’s been amazing to get back in the classroom and to see our students in person. After my first day back, I was smiling the entire night when I got home. There is something special about the energy in our classrooms when we’re working with students face-to-face.
In some areas, online learning is here to stay. A big part of that is continuing education. I’m also a practicing massage therapist, and I began a webinar called “Two Anatomy Geeks” with Dr. Evan Osar who I work with at Institute for Integrative Health & Fitness Education. This project really took off once COVID-19 hit. Soma’s continuing education courses have also been very popular since the pandemic hit.”
As you can see, the massage industry is getting back to business in a variety of ways. One thing that has become very clear - people missed getting massages and all the benefits that go along with them. I’m glad the industry is again providing this important service to so many. This year has been a challenge for everyone, but I’m grateful to work with employers, faculty and students who really embraced innovation and are taking this opportunity to redefine their futures.