Getting back to work series – 1 of 7: Preparing the office

Needless to say, it’s easy to be overwhelmed when considering all the logistics of getting back to work. Through this series of posts, I’ll explore one mode of preparation and share the steps we’re taking.

Some of these steps may fit for your practice as well; some might not. You might have needs based on the configuration of your practice that aren’t listed. Please review the resources provided by the WSMTA , AMBP and IASI— they have compiled great overviews for massage therapists, with links to larger organizations such as OSHA, WHO, EPA and CDC.

These posts aim for a distilled example, with a bit of light-hearted support. Since we’ve got time for some movie/youtube watching, I’ll include a couple of suggestions with each post. Enjoy!

Part one: Preparing the Office

First step: watch at least 3 episodes of Marie Kondo’s “The Magic of Tidying Up!

This should get you in the mood to clear all the clutter from your shelves, cubbies, and closets. It’s been a wonderful exercise to ask ourselves: what is absolutely needed for us to massage in this space?

We’ve learned that over the months and years, we’ve gathered a lot of clutter. Supplies we once used or thought we would use — oils, self-care props, over used linens that sit at the bottom of the basket, etc. And then there’s the decor: Lots of little objects, some are gifts from clients, some are an object of beauty to set a tone. While lovely and comforting on one level, what if we picked just one?

It’s been refreshing and empowering to remember that the work we do is genuinely about how we touch another person. No props, no gimmicks.

Swap out non-wipeable surfaces
We had upholstered chairs for our clients to sit on — we’ve swapped them out for wooden chairs. We had cloth or mat runners on top of a set of shelves; we’ve removed them. We’ve included plastic liners on baskets that hold our linens — both clean and dirty. Scan your room: how can you switch things out?

Add in wipeable covers
We use a foam topper on our tables; I’m not ready to let that go. We’re swapping out the prior (very old) lambs wool cover for a new, wipeable cover. My first attempt will be a bamboo cover that is water proof and washable, 100% hypoallergenic and also protects against bed bugs. (Remember when we were all worried about bed bugs?!) Same for pillows and bolsters.

We’re using small garbage bags (12″ size — which also happen to have twist ties that can be used in masks) over the frame of the face cradle. OSHA’s information makes it clear that the hardest equipment to clean are things with hinges. Think of that oblong overhead light at the dentist office: for years they’ve been slipping little plastic bags over the handles. Our turn.

Reorganize the space
How can the client come in, have a place to keep their things, and get to and from the table with as little chance of touching surfaces unnecessarily? We’ve got a spot that includes easy reach for kleenex, sani-gel and our health screening items (more in a later post). It gives the clear message that our shared hygiene is a priority. Be willing to shift how you live in the space as well. This rearranging might take some imagination about how you think of the space. Think of it as the biggest, baddest spring cleaning ever!

Air Turn Over
Since the risk of transmission is way higher in enclosed spaces, we need to think about air quality. We’ve had air purifiers already; now we’re double checking them to make sure they’re working well. We’re also opening windows and doors to air out the room between clients. This also helps to clear out the scent of the disinfectants we’re using. (More on disinfectants in part 3.) What’s great about airing out the room between clients is that the door is already open–they don’t have to knock or touch the treatment room door to enter!

Keep shoes–and unneeded items–outside
We’ve got a place for our shoes and the clients shoes to be that’s outside the treatment area. We’re also asking that clients leave unneeded items at home or in their cars. If they can make our session the first outing of the day, it’s less likely that they’ll bring a chain of exposure with them.

It’s recommended to consider not using blankets during this time. Turn up the heat, use double folded flat sheets, use a table heater below the client–there are lots of strategies. In general, because we work with people clothed, folks are usually warm enough. Still, we’ve decided to repurpose our stash of fleece blankets for use in our practice. They are washable and not too bulky going into the hamper.

We’ve invested in a few more sheets, as well as hand towels and face cloths. Extra sheets can be used for blankets and for floor coverings (especially as the weather warms up and people aren’t wearing socks). We’re using face cloths as eye shields when people are laying face up, Hand towels go over the extension portion of our table — and bonus! You can work through them for scalp massage, just like our hair dresser does between washing and cutting at the salon. We’re taking them to and from in sturdy/exterior plastic bags; to not create excess plastic waste, we’re rotating those bags on a 5 day cycle.


Phew! After all that, I can share 2 really important things:

  1. In the sessions we’ve had during this time, we both have realized something consistent: clients don’t actually touch that many surfaces in our offices. Their behavior is pretty contained–at least the adult ones!
  2. It’s REALLY important to remember that touching the virus, in and of itself, doesn’t make you get the disease. Transmission requires the next step of then touching our eyes, nose or mouth. So, if you or your client touch something that you’re not sure is free from risk: just WASH YOUR HANDS!

And, after all that, if you need an epic movie to captivate your imagination: try Lawrence of Arabia. Memorable line–from real life: When asked why he loved the desert enough to leave his home in England, utterly uproot his life to be in such a harsh environment, Lawrence replied, “It’s clean.”