BLOG: Wellness in the workplace

In light of Mental Health Awareness Week, taking place from 18th to 24th May, we explore how salons can implement strategies to enhance their employees' wellbeing...

For the majority of the population, the largest proportion of our waking lives is spent in one place – work. Yet, whilst we place great emphasis on maximising our health and happiness during our free time, how much focus are we giving to ensuring our working hours are just as fulfilling?

Over recent years, we've witnessed a growing movement towards open discussions regarding mental health, which is working to break down the social stigmas and misunderstandings that surround the subject. There's also been an increase in public conversations, thanks in part to many high profile names sharing their personal stories in a bid to encourage individuals to talk about their concerns, as well as seek the help and reassurance they need.

Health and happiness

Implementing a workplace wellness strategy to safeguard the emotional and physical needs of your staff is an approach which has long been adopted by multinational corporations. For example, companies such as Google and Microsoft take looking after their employees seriously. Benefits include onsite fitness centres, free gym memberships, cafeterias offering nutritious food and lunchtime massage treatments, as well as the option of flexible working hours, mentorship programmes and team bonding sessions to strengthen workplace solidarity.

Although you may not have the ability or expenditure to implement some of the practices offered by larger organisations, they can serve as inspiration when it comes to formulating a wellness policy with your own salon. Even small, simple steps incorporated within daily working routines to address your staff's wellbeing could go a long way in helping them feel valued and, ultimately, pay dividends for your business.

Many experts are in agreement that instigating an employee wellness strategy has the potential to lead to a more positive, harmonious and productive workplace, and as an employer, makes you highly desirable for prospective employees, as well as increasing existing staff retention rates.

“Workplace wellness programme benefits include greater productivity, reductions in work-related ill health and injuries, a decrease in absenteeism and staff turnover, as well as improving employee relations and enhancing your company image,” notes Liz McKeon, founder of Beauty Business Expert. “The retention of stellar employees ranks very high on the list of requirements for a successful salon business. Therefore, one way to invest in your team's happiness is to promote wellness.”

Plans in place

As highlighted, one of the driving forces behind a successful wellness programme and creating a positive work culture is to ensure that staff feel valued. From making sure employees know that they can approach their managers with any concerns to actively encouraging the formation of strong team connections, there's a host of strategies which can be easily put in place.

“Making sure staff feel valued and challenged at work is an important part of maintaining staff wellbeing, and a simple step to achieving this can be through supporting employees in their professional development,” suggests Jo Martin, marketing director at Sally Europe. “Sending your staff on regular training courses helps them to feel fulfilled as they become more competent, confident and grow their skillset. With staff up-to-date with the latest industry innovations and techniques, you will be well equipped to offer clients new, varied and superior services, and will help to further establish staff loyalty to the business.”

“At the end of busy periods, why not show your employees that you appreciate their hard work by letting them be the pampered ones?” Jo adds. “A great way to enhance wellbeing – and give your staff an informal chance to learn from other industry experts – is to hold an after-hours rest and relaxation session, run by someone external to the business."

Investing in your workforce

Prior to adopting a wellness policy in your business, why not begin by discussing with employees what they would like to achieve from such an initiative. “Create surveys that let employees share their health ‘wish list',” Liz recommends. “Such polls can include questions on topics like nutrition and exercise, while also asking how the business can support employee health goals. The more feedback you receive, the better you can plan your year around the employees' needs, whether it's sleep and stress management or healthy cooking and eating.”

“Select wellness champions,” Liz continues. “Sometimes all it takes is one inspiring, supportive person to positively influence others, and these can encourage co-workers, lead programming and promote wellness tips that have achieved results. Finally, reward what matters. When employees take a 15-minute group walk, incentivise that. People aren't always motivated by money – recognition can come in many forms, such as a designated parking space, an extra holiday day or a Saturday off.”

“Teach your team to support and help each other,” agrees Beata Aleksandrowicz, international massage expert and creator of the Pure Massage Spa Training Method. “As a manager, you need to truly understand the complexity of their work, checking if they really do have enough time between each treatment to prepare the room and talk to the client etc. Foster an open environment with your daily meetings which go beyond KPI's (key performance indicators) and targets by making them more personal and engaging, and set aside space for a staff room where they can properly rest and recuperate on their breaks.”

An inviting environment

As suggested, a wellness policy should encompass all facets of the business, including the working environment. This is the time to consider whether the existing break room is clean, calming and inviting for employees to switch off momentarily. Do you have plenty of healthy snacks and fresh water on-hand to encourage staff to make healthy choices?

In order for these policies to truly take effect, however, managers need to go one step further in supporting their staff's wellbeing by incentivising these habits themselves. “Consider offering healthy food and beverage choices as a standard part of the workplace environment,” says Liz. “Once healthy behaviours have been implemented throughout the salon, your buy-in is critical. If your team members see you drinking water, talking about health goals and taking stretch breaks, it signals to them that ‘we're in this together."

Although you may not have the capital to treat your entire team to gym memberships, could you look to introduce a mini mindfulness, stretch break or meditation session on-site? “Encourage a stretch start at every meeting,” advises Liz. “Studies show that you get better blood flow to your muscles during stretching, and everyone can do that no matter what age they are or their physical capability. Not only will the meeting be more efficient, but you have set the tone that you value everyone's health.”

The nature of the salon and spa environment means that therapists are often on their feet for most of their day, lifting equipment and leaning over therapy couches to perform treatments. Therefore, it's vital that your wellness plan takes into consideration the ways in which to reduce stress on the therapist's body, preventing them from developing injuries that may impede their ability to perform, such as Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).

“Help your team to understand that their body is their tool," says Beata. "They need to take care of it, which requires discipline and repetition in the same way an athlete would prepare for sport or a dancer prepares for a performance. I always advise therapists to breathe and stretch between treatments. Take a deep breath before each client and start from zero; see that person as a new person, starting every treatment like it is the first of the day."

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 18th to 24th May. For further information, visit