7 steps to a healthy working environment
1. Treat therapists as clients
At Gaia Spa in Plymouth, group spa director Shelley Hepburn encourages each member of the team to enjoy the environment they treat clients in. “We believe in looking after the people who look after our guests,” says Hepburn. “We encourage our therapists to use the heat experience areas and swimming pool and give them complimentary access to our fitness studio for classes.”
In addition, each employee gets a 60-minute treatment of their choice once a month. This is an easily implementable alternative for smaller spas or salons that don’t have heat and water facilities, and gives therapists and other employees a chance not only to take some time off from caring for clients and rejuvenate themselves, but also to engage with the treatments they provide. Occasionally treating employees as clients works towards creating an environment of inclusivity and pride in their workplace.
Similarly, The Massage Company, which operates a membership model, includes a free monthly massage in its job offers. “We do this because the wellbeing of both our therapists and front desk staff is paramount,” says Charlie Thompson, founder and operations director, adding that therapists’ advice to clients to visit for regular massages is diluted if the client asks when they themselves last had a massage, and it wasn’t recently.
2. Open lines of communication
Any initiative you put in place to create a healthy, happy and productive working environment for staff will count for nothing without a culture of open communication. “Communication is key; we believe this is integral to the success of the team and in turn the business,” says Melanie Philbin, managing director of the two Beauty Matters salons in Leeds. Philbin organises monthly one-to-one meetings with each staff member “to open up effective communication, allowing for goal setting and creating a clear channel for feedback.”
She adds, “We invest time into getting to know team members on a professional and personal level. We identify needs and assess skills and knowledge levels in our appraisals, giving them an opportunity to discuss any additional support requirements or any barriers they may have.” To continually manage performance and track goals, Beauty Matters reviews each therapist on a weekly basis and provides ongoing feedback and coaching. Take a leaf out of Philbin’s book and try producing a weekly communication update “which outlines changes and accomplishments within the salon”, to keep all staff members feeling listened to and involved in the business as a whole.
3. Provide nourishment
Help therapists out by providing healthy snacks to keep their energy levels stable on busy days. Nutritionist Kim Pearson suggests having food and drinks available in staff areas for therapists to refuel and stay hydrated to support better performance. “Foods that contain a lot of sugar might provide energy in the short term, but that’s quickly used up by the body and will result in a noticeable energy dip later on,” she says.
Pearson recommends energy-sustaining snacks such as dairy-free protein bars, vegetable crudités with guacamole, unsalted, unroasted nuts, apples, tangerines and plain coconut milk yoghurt. She continues: “Dehydration can lead to fatigue and lack of concentration. Water is the best hydrator – make it more appealing by adding slices of fruit, berries or mint and cucumber.” Pearson also suggests providing herbal and green teas or cold brew green tea in the summer months, made by leaving some green teabags in a jug of cold water overnight.
4. Share professional products
“I believe that the strength of a beauty business is linked to the passion that the therapist displays for the salon’s products,” says Faye Layton-McCann, head of salon Skin3, which is owned by IIAA and uses its ANP, Environ and Jane Iredale brands. Layton-McCann encourages therapists to use the products themselves so they understand how they work and what they can do for clients. In particular, she feels therapists are in a better position to communicate the benefits of supplements from nutrition brand ANP if they’ve trialled them.
“I have ANP Skin Omegas and Vit C Plus available in a cupboard in the staff room for the team to take,” she says. “Having these available allows the team an opportunity to speak to clients from personal experience. Therapists come to see the benefits to their own skin and wellbeing, which creates a enthusiasm within the working environment.” Layton-McCann also feels this promotes the importance of looking after personal health and wellbeing to both therapist and client.
5. Teach work management rituals
Irish spa skincare brand Voya recently launched its 8 Steps to Wellness Programme with Center Parcs’ Aqua Sana spas, an initiative designed to teach clients and therapists alike to take control of their thoughts and minds. “As a wellness brand, we understand the struggle that therapists are faced with each day, having to be empathic with their guests and extremely giving with their energy,” says Emma Roberts, Voya’s global head of sales and business development. “It’s very important that therapists protect themselves and ensure they are not taking home guests’ problems that they may have absorbed throughout the day”.
Voya’s therapists are taught to perform grounding methods prior to treatment, such as breathing, focusing and stretching techniques. Post-treatment and before the next appointment, Roberts recommends teaching therapists some rituals to remove any energy they’ve absorbed from the client and prepare to welcome the next. “Something as simple as washing your hands can be very effective,” says Roberts.
6. Give staff their own space
It’s important employees have their own space in the workplace to disconnect from clients and have some time to themselves on breaks. When expanding her salon, Lorraine Anico, owner and manager of Clarity Health & Beauty in St Neots, knew that a properly equipped staff area was paramount to creating a good work environment for her therapists. “We had a choice to either build two single treatment rooms and a large staff area or one single treatment room with a large double couch room that a few clients had asked for,” says Anico.
“With a growing team of 11 and therapists running a column at 90% capacity, I knew my choice. The team now have a large area of their own and energy levels are up. I now never hear the words ‘I’m tired’.” Clarity’s staff area is a quiet space with a sofa and dining table, plus a toaster, grill, microwave and utensils for staff. You can create an area for therapists to relax and recharge, even with limited space and funds; a quiet, clean space with comfortable seating and fresh air could make the world of difference.
7. Learn how to deal with conflict
As in any environment, conflict will occasionally arise in your business, whether between management and an employee or among staff members. Dealing with these situations confidentially and fairly will help create an overall environment in which employees feel safe and equally respected among their colleagues. Confidence coach Janet Tarasofsky, who works with Aromatherapy Associates as the brand’s courageous conversations expert, says that when dealing with conflict in the salon it’s important to remind yourself that there is more than one right answer: “Everyone sees a situation differently and everyone is entitled to their opinion. Acknowledge all and try to find common ground.”
She also encourages approaching difficult conversations in a way that sets a positive example for employees’ personal growth. “Work continues to be a learning environment and it is important that we give employees a chance to grow. Think of a time in your career when you had a similar issue. Can you remember how you felt? Approach the conversation with both empathy and curiosity; never blame.”