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HUMAN RESOURCES

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An owner's guide to stress-busting tools.
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Stress, anyone? If you're feeling your own pain, maybe Peter Belvin and Devorah Slavin can help. Belvin is the founder and Slavin the president and CEO of Atlanta-based Stress Recess, the largest provider of workplace massage in the nation.

"We sell a service that many companies think is expendable," admits CEO Slavin. "In the height of the dot-com boom, most of our business was long-term contracts for massage, and that's not the case anymore.

"Now we have a coupon-based program, where employees can buy coupons for massage," Slavin continues. "For example, the Weather Channel pays for one massage a month for its employees, but the employees can buy additional massages. We also do a lot more multiday events," she says, referring to the trade shows, product launches, company parties, and other events at which her business provides its services.

Unlike in the Roaring '90s, Stress Recess's typical customer is no longer a feel-good small company but rather a stable corporation like BellSouth or Coca-Cola. Changing markets and tactics is paying off for Stress Recess, which has money in the bank and, overall, has given more massages this year than it gave all of last year.

"There's an advantage to being small," Slavin explains. "We can change our policies on a dime, change our products on a dime, and we can change internal procedures overnight. There are two or three ways that we can do almost anything we need to do."

Changes aside, Stress Recess is the answer when you need to decompress. Massage tools of all shapes and sizes abound at the company's office, and Slavin and Belvin report that when it comes to massage, to give is profitable but to receive is divine. If you're on your own, Stress Recess's principals suggest you try out these useful tools to give yourself a quick massage at work.

A COMPACT GADGET
When Slavin feels her back tightening up at the computer, she reaches for the Omni Massage Roller ( Omnimassage.com, $15.95). "It's a little thing I use in the office that looks like a deodorant top. It's round, and it's great to massage points in your upper back," she says. "I take a break from the computer and use it a couple times a day, and it really keeps me from being sore."

A TOOL THE PROS USE
When he feels a twinge, Belvin reaches for the Thera Cane ( MassageWarehouse.com, $29.99). "It's like an old person's cane with a hook about three times bigger on the end," he says. "You put it over your shoulder and pull the cane down toward your feet. It's similar to a Shiatsu pressure-point massage. I've got one in my car, one in my apartment, and if there isn't a therapist available [in the office], I just grab one of these and use it for 5 to 10 minutes."

A DIFFERENT DRUMMER
"A couple of drumsticks with rubber balls on them" is how Belvin describes Bongers (MassageWarehouse.com, $11.65 for a pair). "The balls are hollow, and you can really beat someone with them. Just hammer on them. They feel great and are pretty popular with therapists," he says.

SOME EASING LISTENING
Music is a key element in any credible stress-reduction regimen. Belvin suggests that the crazed listen to Yanni's In My Time ( Borders.com, $14.99). "I've been playing In My Time for eight years and never get tired of it," the entrepreneur says. "It's consistent, fluid, and has no highs and no lows."

Wish the same could be said for the Dow.


Copyright © 2001 Michelle Keyo.


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