By Deanna C. White
There are a lot of words that can describe the offices of a tax firm nearly three weeks before the March 15 corporate tax filing deadline. Harried, stressed, and frazzled come to mind.
But at the suburban Chicago offices of Porte Brown LLC, the mood is entirely different. No one would expect it to be completely tranquil, but even under looming deadlines, it's surprisingly unruffled, focused, and in some pockets, almost serene.
That's because Porte Brown, a CPA firm in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, is one of the growing number of accounting firms investing in their employees' wellness by offering weekly chair massage therapy sessions for team members during the busy tax season.
According to Tricia Carlstrom, marketing specialist for Porte Brown, the firm brings in a certified massage therapist every Wednesday during tax season to offer employees fifteen-minute chair massages.
The massages are designed to help employees decompress during the stressful, deadline-driven season and to alleviate the physical tension and general aches and pains created by sitting in a chair and hunching over a keyboard all day, Carlstrom said.
But aside from the physical relaxation a chair massage provides, Porte Brown Managing Partner Bruce G. Jones, CPA, says chair massage is "just one more way Porte Brown goes above and beyond to let our staff know that we appreciate them and all the hard work that they put forth yearlong."
Licensed massage therapist Allison Grothaus, owner of A Traveling Touch, Inc., the provider of Porte Brown's chair massages, says the proven results of massage therapy for employees and the bottom line benefits for the businesses that offer it to their employees, are well documented.
In today's business world, Grothaus said, on-site chair massage is a growing trend, particularly in heavy-stress, deadline-driven professions like accounting. Porte Brown is the seventh accounting firm she's added to her client list since 2006.
"Every year my list of accounting firms grows", Grothaus said. "Particularly at this time of year when they really need it."
Grothaus says on-site massage therapy and ergonomic consulting (rearranging employees' workstations for better body mechanics) can:
- Alleviate common office ailments, such as headaches, neck, pain, and lower-back strain caused by spending hours sitting in the same position or hunching over computers.
- Produce noticeable physical benefits. Massage calms the central nervous system, promotes deep breathing, boosts circulation, lowers blood pressure, improves skin tone, and lengthens and stretches strained and swollen muscles.
- Reduce stress and boost mental focus and a sense of inner calm which, in turn, increases and enhances employee productivity. "It's like rebooting a computer", Grothaus said.
Massage therapy produces a definite "warm, fuzzy" effect on employees, Grothaus said, which increases staff loyalty and productivity because employees know leadership is willing to acknowledge and reward their services.
Grothaus said chair massage is also proven to dramatically reduce worker's compensation claims and absenteeism, due to reduction and alleviation of repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, nerve impingement, and lower back pain.
"Because of technology, everything in today's workplace is literally within people's reach, so they're not moving at all", Grothaus said. "As a result, worker's compensation claims are at an all-time high in the clerical/office worker fields, resulting in higher worker's comp rates."
In addition, employee wellness initiatives, once considered a fluffy "perk" by many partners, are now viewed as vital tools for recruitment and retention.
"At Porte Brown, we take pride in attracting top talent to our firm", said Jones. "We make the work environment at Porte Brown fun and engaging. We make it a pleasant place to work, and therefore, we retain our top talent."
In fact, chair massage is just one of the wellness benefits Porte Brown provides for employees throughout the year as part of its holistic philosophy of caring for its employees' health and well-being. The firm also offers free spinal adjustments, provides healthy lunches and snacks, offers an on-site wellness screening/assessment, and participates in the annual Ron Santo Walk to Cure Diabetes, among other activities.
"We all know that the work has to be done, but it's not all about the work here", said Firm Administrator Joellen Johnson. "Porte Brown really encourages play, homelife, and being a well-rounded person."
That philosophy isn't lost on Porte Brown's newest employee, Staff Accountant Julie Sherman, who joined the firm right out of college. Despite the fact that it's the height of tax season and just two months into her first job, Sherman waits calm and composed in Porte Brown's main conference room waiting for her first chair massage.
Sherman said she's relaxed because she's looking forward to the chair massage, a nice perk that breaks up her workday and relieves her desk-related aches and pains, but mainly because she knows she works for a firm that cares about her health and happiness, as a person and an employee.
"It's little things like chair massage that show me this firm really cares about its employees", Sherman said. "That it's not just about the numbers. Porte Brown cares about me over the long term, and I feel a sense of loyalty to them because of that."
For more than sixty-five years, Porte Brown has provided accounting services to individuals and businesses throughout Chicago and the suburban areas. The firm specializes in tax planning and preparation services, audit, business valuations, retirement plan administration, and consulting. Porte Brown also focuses on technology solutions, providing computer consulting for clients, either by establishing a new network for their operational and accounting needs or working with an existing network with the help of Porte Brown Technology Solutions.
Visit Porte Brown's website to learn more about the firm's employee wellness efforts.