So you’re thinking about using volunteers in your float center?
Before we clarify what a “volunteer” actually means, we’ll first explore why a float center might be considering them in the first place. While it can be a way to provide floats to people who are otherwise unable to pay, the impulse to bring in volunteers can also stem from a desire to get some sort of free labor (later in this post we’ll dive into why you can’t actually do this, but it’s important to recognize that the instinct is understandable, especially when you have someone lined up and willing to work for free).
In addition to a desired boost in overall productivity, it’s also a way to invite more people into your center to experience what you do. Some customers actually want to help out and see what happens behind the scenes at a center.
Part of what makes all of this so confusing is there isn’t a one-size-fits-all set of actions that differentiates a standard employee from an independent contractor. Your State regulators, the federal Department of Labor, and the IRS all have their own criteria for what constitutes an “independent contractor”. Here, we’ll just be using the IRS definitions as a sort of jumping off point to the issue. If the status of employees is ever challenged, the IRS determines the status on a case-by-case basis over several criteria by a panel of judges, very similar to American Idol.
Basically it comes down to who is in control of the work. How much control does the company have over the type of job being done vs. how much control does the person providing the service. This manifests in different ways, but to fit the definition of an independent contractor, a service provider really does have to be independent. Beyond just using this guide, you should always consult an HR lawyer if you feel like there’s any confusion or ambiguity.
Basically, the rules fall into three main categories…
We’ve seen lots of float centers that aren’t just float centers.
Many have massage, some offer counseling, some have yoga classes next door. Lots of people start out either by incorporating float tanks into a larger business, or with float tanks only being one of many modalities at their center. Being specialists in floating, Float On has not mastered anything else.
So, to help gain insight into this growing aspect of the industry, we contacted our old friend, Sandra Calm. She started up The Float Shoppe here in Portland with her husband and podcast sensation, Dylan Calm, back in 2011. When they first opened, they had just two float tanks, and slowly added acupuncture, massage, counseling, along with two more tanks. Talk about expansion!
She was more than happy to take some time for the industry to help us understand just what it’s like to run a center with multiple services by answering some questions.
Almost three years ago, we discussed the merits of running overnight floats from an employee’s perspective, focusing on the opportunities of this unique experience as well as its challenges. We’d like to take a deeper dive into this issue because, while the majority of floaters come through our tanks during “normal” business hours, overnight floats form an important part of not only Float On’s identity, but also its business structure and broader culture.
You step into the elevator and shuffle to the side to make room for the kind-eyed, old woman with the miniature poodle.
“Good morning,” you say with a smile.
“Good morning,” she beams back, her gaze resting briefly on your water bottle with the logo from your float center’s annual party.
After a brief pause, she asks, “What is Float-a-Palooza?”
You take a breath, smile, and launch into your literal elevator pitch.
So, what do you say?
Whether you are a small or large float center, you most likely have other employees working for you. Regardless of the size of your staff, for reasons of efficiency and legality, it’s essential that your organization has clear and straightforward policies and guidelines. No matter how good employee communication is, it’s always safest and cleanest to have clear parameters and expectations written down.
This is why Float Tank Solutions has created a customizable Employee Handbook Template. Free for anyone to download, it contains federally compliant language (current as of October 2016) and contains a multitude of sections, from employee benefits and compensation descriptions to job guidelines and discrimination policies.