These entrepreneurs are bringing much-needed rest to front-line workers
Timothée Régnier and Eric Normandeau's relaxation pods help people rest during a stressful time
At first glance, Timothée Régnier and Eric Normandeau are an unlikely duo.
Régnier is a young engineer from France who moved to Montreal and hopped between different startups. Normandeau is a health and fitness specialist who taught physical education for 14 years at a Montreal school board.
An idea brought the two together: they both wanted to solve workplace fatigue.
"Like a lot of people, I was suffering from drowsiness," said Régnier. "You take a lunch break, you head back to work, then you fall asleep in a meeting or in your car."
Régnier wanted a solution that didn't involve coffee or other energy-boosting substances. He wanted something that was natural, would fit in an office space, and could help relieve workplace stress and anxiety. To him, the ideal solution would involve a space where workers could quickly nap before going on with their day.
Thankfully, Normandeau already had an idea in the works.
"In the general population, there's a big lack of sleep," said Normandeau. "This has consequences like stress, fatigue, anxiety, depression and burnout. For me, that's not normal."
This gave him an idea. He imagined a private pod that people could reserve and use to rest during the work day.
So, when Régnier and Normandeau met, they were a natural fit. They founded RecharjMe together.
RecharjMe's business model involves renting relaxation pods to other organizations. For a fee, companies can have a pod installed in their workspace. Then, through an app on their phones, employees can book up to 30 minutes to relax, free of charge. Inside the pod, they will find a heated massage chair, soothing music, and therapeutic lights that can help them relax in the middle of a busy workday.
Before the pandemic, their main clients were offices in the Montreal area. But things changed when COVID-19 hit in March of last year.
Stories of overworked nurses and stressed front-line workers filled the airwaves.
"When we saw the distress in the hospitals, we thought 'ok, we have to try to help them,'" said Régnier.
They got to work. They reached out to hospitals and offered their services. They now have pods installed at the CHUM, Verdun hospital, the Montreal Heart Institute, and Notre-Dame hospital.
To make sure the pods are safe, the RecharjMe booking app reminds users to disinfect the pod before and after use. Underneath the chair, there is also an air purifier to lower the risk of infectious airborne particles in the pod.
Normandeau and Régnier say the response from health workers has been positive. So far, they say 700 medical staff have made 4000 reservations through the RecharjMe app.
"For us, that's so important," said Normandeau. "That's why we're doing this."