Sunday 22 April 2018

Masseuse with a zest for life who escaped the rat race

Why we should be singing the praises of Zest at Work

ZEST AT WORK: 'Setting up a corporate massage business in the midst of a recession was very difffcult, says Deirdre Casey. But she persevered and she did it. Photo: Gerry Mooney
ZEST AT WORK: 'Setting up a corporate massage business in the midst of a recession was very difffcult, says Deirdre Casey. But she persevered and she did it. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Louise McBride

Louise McBride

Being stressed out is something which most of us accept as an inevitable part of work. However, one woman who decided enough was enough is Deirdre Casey, the founder and owner of Zest at Work, which provides corporate on-site massages.

The 31-year-old set up Zest of Work about four years ago after graduating in holistic therapy. Ms Casey had gone back to college to study therapy after quitting a stressful job in corporate sales.

"Before I became a therapist, I had worked in a very stressful corporate environment," said Ms Casey. "It was easy to see the effect stress was having on people, especially as the recession took hold and more people were suffering from financial stress. As the economic downturn kicked in, I thought it the right time to make a change. I had a keen interest in holistic therapy and I wanted to turn this interest into a career."

So after graduating in holistic therapy in 2010, Ms Casey set up her company with a small loan from the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Trust fund. Doing so in the midst of a recession was no mean feat. "Some call it brave, some call it mad," said Ms Casey.

"Realistically, it was very difficult. I was trying to sell a perk and a benefit to companies at time when there were major cutbacks. Fortunately, some employers saw the benefit of holding on to a small and affordable perk."

The company's main product is a short, seated massage done over clothes without oils. Each massage covers the back, shoulders, neck, arms and hands. Most of the massages are provided in Dublin.

"As they are only 15 minute treatments, the massages are really accessible to employees - they can pop out for a massage at any time of the day," said Ms Casey. "It's really important to have senior management buy into this as well. If staff see senior managers pop off for a massage, they're more likely to do it too."

People are more inclined to go for a massage when it's available at the office, she added. "So many people come to me and say that they've been meaning to go for a massage for ages but that it hasn't panned out.

"Having an on-site massage means people don't have to go that extra step and arrange the massage outside the office. As the massage is quick and over the clothes, it is not at all intrusive. It's a nice way to introduce people to the benefits of holistic treatment."

Employers and employees benefit from having a corporate massage service on-site, according to Ms Casey. "Massage is really good for managing absenteeism and employee health," said Ms Casey. "It also improves concentration in an employee so it can increase productivity. It improves the team atmosphere and the office environment. For the employee, it's incredibly relaxing and it can also help treat musculoskeletal pain."

Ms Casey has secured a raft of clients, including multi-nationals and start-ups.

"I provide on-site massage in offices with six people to 2,000 people - and everything in between," said Ms Casey.

Zoo Digital, a digital media agency, is a regular client of Ms Casey. Hubspot, the American marketing software company, which recently opened its European headquarters in Dublin, is another client. So too is the recruitment agency, Robert Walters and the cloud technology company Sungard Availability Services.

American companies who are based in Ireland often go for this type of perk, according to Ms Casey. "On-site massage is available in the head offices of California's Silicon Valley companies so these businesses want it in their subsidiary companies as well," said Ms Casey.

With economic recovery kicking in, Ms Casey has seen a 50pc increase in customers over the last six months.

"When I first started out, it was very much IT and software companies who were providing this perk for their staff," said Ms Casey. "Now there's a range of companies going for it across the board. Companies are looking to attract and keep high quality employees. There's a lot of interest from start-ups in Dublin. Those guys are all vying for the same pot of employees who are used to getting their free meals and on-site massages."

Although a lot of her company's growth over the last six months has arisen from the economic recovery, Ms Casey also says that's it down to the "hard slog" she has done over the last four years. "Some companies I did a pitch for at the very beginning are now ringing to say that they have the budget for this perk," said Ms Casey.

Although we appear to have seen the end of the recession, there is still a lot stress in the workplace, according to Ms Casey. "Previously a lot of stress arose from job or financial insecurity," said Ms Casey. "Now it's a case of managing workloads. But there are a lot of different reasons for stress. A lot of people just keep going and allow stress levels to build up. But people need to address stress. It could manifest through a creak in the neck or a tired and emotional day. Sore stomachs and tension headaches are very common."

As Ms Casey only has one part-time employee, she is largely running the show at Zest at Work. "I make a point of getting a massage regularly though - given the physical nature of the work," said Ms Casey. Ms Casey is optimistic about the New Year. "I feel the growth we have seen over the last six months will continue into 2015 due to the continued economic recovery and the fruits and seeds planted a few years ago," said Ms Casey. "We have some big names who are looking to start with us in January. It's an exciting time and it's encouraging to see employers investing in their company's health and wellbeing. It's also a definite sign that things are improving here."

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