** This was written before the call for social distancing ramped up this weekend. If you can stay home for 2 weeks do it now. If you really really can’t, be extra vigilant in your cleaning, screening and care. It may come a time within the next week or so that the Federal or your State government will tell you to stay home. Help is starting to come in the form of bills and legislation that should help all. We need to start helping each other!
H.R.6201 – Families First Coronavirus Response Act
COVID-19 is all around us, hitting our communities hard with schools closing for 6 weeks, all major events closing and the stock marketing crashing. As massage therapists it is a really scary time not knowing if your business will survive or if you will be able to continue to work.
Decide if you want to stay in business or close
It’s a difficult choice. The call for social distancing is becoming louder and louder. WA State just closed ALL schools for 6 weeks. Restaurants are closing their doors all over. The guideline here is to stay 6 feet away from people yet students will be sent to daycare places where that is impossible. Costco and other big box/grocery stores are mobbed with shoppers. It’s mixed messaging to say the least and leaves massage therapists fending for ourselves to make the decisions.
My Massage Therapists Guide to COVID-19 provides the details you need to know about the virus, illness and keeping your office clean and inviting.
- Can you afford to close your business not just for 2 weeks but possibly longer –6 weeks, 2 months, 3 months?
- Are you healthy yourself with no underlying immune issues, heart or lung diseases or other things?
- Do you have family members at home that are risk for catching diseases and not being able to fend them off adequately? Are you taking care of family or friends with underlying conditions that are a higher risk?
- How do we deal with the guidelines for distancing vs staying in business? It may no longer be a quandary if/when the State Department of Health and the Board of massage shut us all down. There has been so much discussion over whether the mandates for social distancing – stay 6 feet away — apply to massage therapists. AMTA-WA has approached the DOH/BOM for their recommendations.
People Need Massage
Everyone has added stress from all the fears of the unknown that are now arising and we all know how stress affects most every system of the body. Many are in pain from working on computers and are also working on the front lines in hospitals and nursing homes and fire/rescue departments. While the risk may be too great for some massage therapists, the opportunities are there if you want them.
People are staying home now and working from home when they can. They have more time in some ways. It may take a week or so before people have made the needed changes in their lives to adapt to working at home and now having the kids at home so hopefully they will be coming out for massage as things get more settled.
Write an article on your website about stress and write about how massage can help.
Create a page on your website and send out a news brief to all of your clients either by email or regular mail. Think about the things that a client might be fearful of when coming into a massage office. Some of the things that they are concerned with is will they be safe coming into your office and laying on the table. The face cradle brings up extra questions and fears.
I just got one from the place that makes my glasses that is very well written.
- Tell people that you are not sick and have not been sick or around anyone that has been sick.
- Tell them what cleaning protocols that you use and have been using to keep the office disinfected.
- Tell them how you are responding to the pandemic and what you are doing to protect the spread of the virus.
- Invite them to ask questions and have a specific way for them to ask either by email, text or by phone.
- Offer them gift certificates for sale or package deals for sale to help keep your cash flow balanced. Ensure them that you will remain in business so that they will be able to cash them in or what you would do if you had to go out of business.
- Give them options for laying on the table without putting their face in the facerest. It is a great time for sidelying work!
- Offer then $10 off if they bring in hand sanitizer!
Everyone that comes into the office needs to be screened carefully which is part of building the clients confidence that you are taking this seriously and also keeping from spreading it through your office.
Have them wash their hands or
use hand sanitizer upon entering your office!
- Have you been sick with a flu or cold in the last few weeks? I have added colds to the list too. Many cases of COVID-19 are going undetected because of lack of testing. Many cases are so mild that they think it is just a cold or maybe regular flu. If someone is sick, they need to be tested and if positive for COVID-19 quarantined until better and cleared of the virus.
- Has anyone in your immediate household been sick with a flu or cold in the past few weeks? If someone is sick in their immediate household the risk is too great that they might have it and not know it.
- Have you been in a building or store where it has been declared that someone infected with the illness was there in the past few weeks? While this is getting tricky to determine where people have been and what they have done, it is more about making people feel safe.
Keep clients coming in the door
- Update your Google Business listing daily with offers and posts to reassure potential clients that it is still safe to get a massage.
- Find local Facebook groups that are in your specific area and share information and let people get to know you before making a post to tell people about your business. Many working at home are looking to support local businesses.
- Find your local area on www.nextdoor.com and get to know people there and offer your services.
- Get involved in your community by checking in on your neighbors, having small get togethers in coffee shops and do what you can.
- Change your hours to accommodate people having to stay home.
- Let them bring their children in.
- Consider adding services like foot massage.
- Consider going into people’s home – but there is a risk there too. Bring your own cleaning supplies!
- Consider setting up for chair massage for employees of stores like Costco and local grocery stores that have to stay open and are dealing with such overwhelming shopping.
If you have employees
Having employees makes it even more of a difficult decision as you are partly responsible for other people’s income. In WA State, they are implementing extra unemployment benefits for those affected. Check to see what your state is doing. Some large employers are choosing to pay their employees even when not working to keep things in place and provide for them.
Train them in cleaning protocols and help them manage their fears. Teach them how to talk with clients. Provide ways for them to talk about it among themselves and with you to help alleviate their fears.
Other ways to make money
Get Massage and pay for it from other massage therapists! You will need it!
Taking insurance cases. This is more of a long term solution. This virus is not going away anytime soon. There are many businesses closing and people out of work permanently. People are more likely to continue to come in when their insurance is paying. Most states allow massage therapists to bill for car accidents or work related injuries. More and more health insurance companies are paying. Insurance will take 2 weeks to a few months or even a few years to pay so in a way it provides income during slow months. It may be a good time to start working on getting massage therapy covered by insurance. The world is really going to need it! I have it all explained in my book — The Massage Insurance Billing Manual
Add stretching to your list of services. This will allow people to leave their clothes on which is another measure of protection and they don’t have to lie in the face rest.
Become a delivery driver. The community will be scrambling to take care of each other. With restaurants closing or being faced with the threat of closing, many are moving to expanded delivery of food and products. Grocery stores are moving to that more too.
Become a census taker. These are temporary positions that may help you survive this. https://2020census.gov/en/jobs.html
Offering Consultations for support and teaching home massage techniques. I have seen some massage therapists talking about doing that. It is important to stay within your Scope of Practice though.
Look into making money with a website and sharing your expertise. I always have a source of income through my many websites. It won’t help you immediately but will help you survive, thrive and weather any future emergency events.
Grocery stores and Big box stores are getting slammed and are hiring people to work.
Taking care of yourself is mandatory. You won’t be able to help anyone if you are run down or stressed about this. Find your support groups on Facebook or start a local support group. With supplies like hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes, think about sharing them with others if your business takes a downturn or you have extra supplies.
If you have a mentor or supervisor it is a good time to set up phone meetings or online meetings to talk through your fears and struggles so you don’t take them into the massage room.
Go outside and get back to nature for walks around your community. Stay grounded.
If you get sick
If you get sick with any kind of illness you will need to stay home. It could be the coronavirus so check with your doctor. If you do have a confirmed case of COVID-19 you will have to quarantine yourself away from your family and others until you are cleared medically. Some are saying you just have to have 72 hours where you are tested to be virus free and in other places I have read that you should quarantine for 2 weeks after getting and having the virus. Only your doctor will know what is right for you.
If/When you have to close
Things are happening so quickly and things change minute by minute. Your City, County, State and our Federal Government will have to do something to help every single person affected by this which could be millions and millions. in Seattle our state is making it so people with jobs can get unemployment benefits and are working on getting funds for small businesses and even the homeless may finally get the help they need. It probably will take time and we don’t know for sure what is coming or not. Our communities will have to start taking over and help each other.