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Managing mental health in the workplace for salon and spa staff

Charlotte Thornalley on

The third Monday of January, or Blue Monday as it’s now called, has been identified as the most depressing day of the year. And as if that’s not concern enough, the usual triggers for feeling down in the dumps, such as miserable weather, dwindling bank balances, the festive fun comedown, and failed new year’s resolutions, have been intensified as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on salon businesses and their staff. But for anyone struggling with mental health issues, it’s just another day of the year. 

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Mental health charity Mind states that 1 in 6 workers will experience problems such as anxiety, low mood and stress at work – and Health and Safety Executive figures show that stress, depression and anxiety accounted for the majority of productive days lost due to work-related ill health in 2019/20. Aside from the personal struggles experienced by individuals and the need to address mental health in the workplace -so you have a positive, motivated and healthy team - this effect has huge economic implications too.

So, if one of your staff members was struggling, would you know the signs and how to deal with the situation? Here’s how you can recognise and support employees struggling with their mental health.

Spotting the warning signs

Mental health issues can be triggered by a wide range of conditions, and situations, that affect our feelings and behaviour. Depression, anxiety, addictions, bipolar disorder, grief, trauma, postnatal depression, self-esteem issues and OCD can all impact our mental health.

It can be difficult to spot the warning signs too. More often than not employees are reluctant to discuss what’s really going on through fear of being stigmatised or restricting their career opportunities. Unfortunately, this often adds to the stress and makes the situation worse.

So how can you spot employees who are struggling? As a business owner, you know your staff well, so trust your instincts and look out for the following red flags:

  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Procrastination and taking longer to complete tasks
  • Paranoia and anxiety
  • Increased absence from the salon
  • A sense of apathy, losing interest in their work 
  • Losing patience with workmates and clients

These signs could indicate that one of your team is struggling, and it could mean they need some help.

Support for you and your staff

Poor mental health can affect performance in the workplace – but proper care and support can prevent manageable problems turning into a crisis. Communicate with your employees and encourage them to freely discuss their mental wellbeing by creating a culture that’s both positive and supportive.

Acknowledge the good work they are doing and avoid micro-management, which can dent self-esteem and come across as discriminatory. Listening to what they have to say will help your staff feel valued, so ask if they want to talk about anything that’s bothering them, or if they would like any extra support. For more advice on how you can support your staff read Mind’s factsheet on How to support staff who are experiencing a mental health problem.

As an employer, there are steps you can take to promote good mental health and a healthy workplace including:

  • Flexible working hours

  • Mandatory breaks and quiet spaces

  • Additional training and support

  • Reallocation of duties

  • Leave to attend medical appointments, therapy and counselling if needed

Spotting vulnerable clients

Mental health is a part of everyone’s life and just because you can’t see it, it’s just as vital as physical health. This means that your clients suffer too and because of the privileged relationships that salons, spas and wellness businesses have with their clients, you and your team might be among the first to spot any concerning behaviour.

After losing his friend to suicide, well-known barber and mental health campaigner Tom Chapman founded The Lions Barber Collective - an international group of barbers trained to recognise symptoms of mental health illness in clients, and signpost them to the relevant support services. “The reason why hairdressers, beauticians and barbers are very good at this kind of thing because we know our clients pretty well. We’re a familiar stranger. If somebody is normally very happy to see you, and then the next time they aren’t – something has happened. If someone has a change of behaviour, it’s an opportunity to ask, ‘I’ve noticed you’re not yourself, how are you feeling today? Is there anything you would like to talk to me about?”

To educate salon and spa staff, Tom has created Hair & beauty talk and BarberTalk – bespoke training programmes specialising in suicide prevention and how to spot the signs of mental health problems. “The idea of the training is not to turn barbers, hairdressers and beauticians into therapists or councillors. It’s a befriending and listening service - that we do anyway - but it’s about doing it safely. It’s essential that we learn about physical health – but we are not taught about mental health. So it’s really important that we’re educated and confident to have these conversations safely.

“If we all take responsibility a bit earlier because of things like Blue Monday, then hopefully people wouldn’t get to the point where they are so far gone that they need to sit on a waiting list to discuss mental health issues or receive mental health services.”

Further information to help you support the mental wellbeing of your employees is available at mentalhealthatwork.org.uk.

Find out more about Tom and his work at thelionsbarbercollective.com. Tom also recommends the resources at hubofhope.co.uk and mypickle.org.

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