‘Difficult to feel connected’: Why some employees are using sensory deprivation tanks, rage rooms and cow hugging therapy to destress

Leigh Feldman spent an hour in a sensory deprivation float tank this past November. Feldman, chief marketing officer for salon chain Bishops Cut/Color, said the experience was offered by his employer as a way to help mitigate feelings of stress. 

The one-hour session was meant to help him “rebalance and realign,” said Feldman. While he wasn’t able to reach a meditative state like other employees who took Bishops Cut/Color up on the sensory deprivation float tank, doing so gave Feldman something else to talk about with his team and fellow employees. 

“Working from home, it’s still difficult to feel connected to the team,” said Feldman. “If you have joint experiences it’s advantageous to feeling like a team and feeling closer to each other. It’s a nice ice breaker beyond ‘How’s the weather’ or ‘What are your weekend plans?’”

Feldman’s experience with the float tank offering isn’t a total anomaly. Others say their employers have also offered various unique ways to destress amid the on-going pandemic. One agency exec who asked for anonymity said that she was offered a gift card to a “rage room,” where people are able to get out their pent up aggression by breaking things, from her employer. 

Over the last nearly two years of an on-going pandemic, working from home, being disconnected from other people and the lack of a true work/life balance has some people more stressed out than ever. It’s no surprise then that people are seeking out unique ways — on their own or offered by their employer — to destress like rage rooms or even cow hugging therapy. 

“After being so disconnected, so lonely, so scared, people need that connection,” said Ellie Laks, founder of The Gentle Barn, a non-profit animal sanctuary that offers cow hugging therapy where people spend an hour with a cow and connect with nature. People who work from home, who have been dealing with the added stress of the last two years have reached out to the organization and cow hugging therapy sessions are booked out months in advance at the barn’s three locations in California, Tennessee and Missouri. 

When asked why people might seek out cow hugging, Laks explained that “it washes away all of the stress, washes away the burnout, it’s like a restart and you can face what we’re dealing with better.” 

Employers looking for ways to help out their teams by offering an alternative way to destress shouldn’t simply rely on doing so to help employees with their workload, explained the agency exec, adding that with the Great Resignation employers need to listen to their employees’ needs for work/life balance. 

Per the agency exec, rather than gifts for unique ways to destress or seeking out those ways on her own it’s more important to work for a company culture where answering “emails past 6 p.m. or emails on the weekend” isn’t the norm. 

“What is exhausting talent is the demand for constant Zoom meetings — trust is what talent wants in employers,” rather than uncommon perks said Christie Cordes, a recruiter for talent in advertising. “People want to be trusted to handle their work. It’s the unease of knowing that back-to-back Zooming “proves” their working … that is so draining.” 

Mack McKelvey, founder and CEO of marketing firm SalientMG, echoed that sentiment. “Instead of gimmicky tokens that don’t truly acknowledge or address the extensive burn-out; tools and investment are far more impactful,” she said. “Address pay gaps. Level up strong, diverse talent. Be real. To figure out what’s best for your company? Start by asking your employees and really listening to what they want.”

It might not include bovine-based burnout cures.

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