Wellness, staying present, mindfulness…all words you hear in a store that sells hemp and patchouli oil. But in a world where many of us are spending more time at work than at home, the subject of care-taking at the office is coming up more and more. Between a commute, calls and emails sent after work hours and the energy it takes to complain about it all, your career breathes and sleeps with you. People call in sick when they are simply stressed, and sometimes that stress creates real sickness. Frazzled, tired, many of us are adept at dragging ourselves to work to go through the motions for another uninspired day.
Abide in Me, a therapeutic extension of its parent company On and On Enterprises, founded by mother and daughter business team Debra Ingram and Christina Michelle Sayles, brings wellness into the office by way of massage chairs and human connection. A few minutes of massage and a chance to vent about the day to an empathetic listener leaves an employee feeling rejuvenated, energized with renewed mental clarity. “They can work better” Christina sums up simply.
On and On started as a combination of a promising writer and proud Mom. Christina wrote as a young girl, mostly poems, although she didn’t think they were anything special. Her mother Debra disagreed.
“She was putting [my poems] on designer paper….I wasn’t that into it, it was my way of expression. I didn’t think anyone felt what I felt…I would get embarrassed” Christina says, remembering, “she made a portfolio and would showcase [my writing] at her job.”
“The more I encouraged her to write the more she wrote and the prouder I was” adds Debra, wearing a Mom-issued ‘I told you so’ face of loving triumph.
And then someone commissioned her to write a poem, which expanded Christina’s awareness, she could use her writing as a vehicle of service for other people. So, when her aunt received a life-saving kidney after years of chronic illness, Christina and Debra commemorated it with a family newsletter. Suddenly, they were hearing “what are you guys going to do next month?” So On and On, inspirational products featuring Christina’s poetry, was born, named for the notion that as we change and grow, previously hidden talents and opportunities show up – we need only to be on the lookout for them. We go On and On, becoming and becoming and becoming.
Around this same time, Debra was closing in on 35 years at her day job, feeling, like many of us, that “retirement” is a word from 1956. “In today’s society, what’s retirement?” says Debra, “today, most people…leave and think ‘now what do I do? What other experience do I have?’” She had been told she was a good listener and skilled at massage, so, in her own moment of becoming and becoming, she went to school and got licensed and certified in Massage Therapy. Abide in Me massage was then nestled neatly under the On and On umbrella of the shared business. There was trepidation as Debra stepped from the corporate structure into the free winds of entrepreneurship, but also excitement in the challenge. “There are obstacles around coming out of that comfort zone,” says Debra, “[but the] obstacles catapulted us to say yes, we can do it, and we fed off of one another and here we are.”
Many of the events Abide in Me creates are intimate, says Debra, but they’ve decided to expand toward the work environment because “even during the personal events most of the conversation we hear from clients is about jobs. It’s not even about personal issues because they are handling them…it’s their jobs that they are frustrated with.”
Aside from the obvious stress relief benefits, a massage break during the work day creates a change in perspective and variance in routine, engaging the creative mind which can find new pathways to solutions merely as a benefit of a different vantage point. Also, an event like this allows co-workers to relate to different aspects of their personhood – parent, spouse, bowling aficionado – which enhances empathy and communication. “… When it’s time for us now to put that [work] hat back on we have a different appreciation and understanding of each other and we can work differently together” Christina says, remembering a recent event created for the women of their local church, “we could hear ‘you go through that too?’ in their conversation, there was no judgement, only fun, and inspiration.”
And “once it’s over….it allows the individual to think more for themselves…how else can I care for myself?” Debra says. It begins a conversation within the employee, extending to the rest of their lives. Better health, less stress, happier worker, and an opportunity to discover some hidden talents within themselves.
The workforce can leave many of us feeling like cogs in someone else’s wheel, completing tasks a faceless voice told us to finish. An event created as an investment in the health and balance of the driving energy that determines the success or failure of your company seems like good business to me, not to mention the appreciation factor, one of the most underrated and untapped superpowers of the business world. By not acknowledging and caring for the humans that keep your business going, you are limiting yourself and the resources available to you.
“As women, we are role models, as a mother, as a wife, a sister, an auntie…those are different fronts that we play. As a man, it’s the same thing. As a company, it’s the same thing” says Debra, “you don’t realize what you have until you tap into it. You really go on and on, from who you are to who you can be.”