Mental health of your team members can play a bigger role in your salon than you might imagine. Not only is it challenging for your service providers to create the ultimate client experience when they are struggling themselves, but mental health also plays a strong role in overall workplace absenteeism, employee retention and long-term profitability. As owners are coming to understand the impact of mental health on their team, they are embracing different strategies to address it. 

As one of the biggest employers in Leicester in the United Kingdom, George’s Hairdressing is used to setting standards, and that’s just what they are doing by introducing a mental health first aider within their salons.

The company has been inspiring the ladies and gents in the community for almost 40 years. With three salons, they offer a unique blend of artistic creativity, expertise and excellence within a friendly, yet intimate atmosphere.

Employee training and development has always been a priority within George’s Hairdressing and looking after staff well-being is an important element within this. The introduction of a trained mental health first aider is just another indication of how seriously this forward-thinking group take the subject and how committed they are in supporting their workforce.

Katie Katon, managing director of George's Hairdressing in the United Kingdom, attended a...

Katie Katon, managing director of George's Hairdressing in the United Kingdom, attended a professional course in Mental Health First Aid, and now offers her team a different kind of support.

Katie Katon, who serves as the managing director of George’s Hairdressing and its sister salon London Road, attended a professional course for Mental Health First Aid. Through the experience, she gained a deep understanding of the subject, what factors affect it, how to spot the signs of trouble, and how best to step in and offer support.

Combining knowledge and learned practical skills, Katon will now be the go-to person for anyone experiencing mental health issues. As well as being that important first port of call, she will then be able to help employees seek relevant advice--be it self-help, workplace guidance, National Health System support or a mix of all three.

With the UK Office of National Statistics stating 1 in 4 people will experience mental health issues every year, and depression, stress and anxiety are the largest causes of workplace absence, the problem is a significant one for employers.

Katon already is a recognized employee champion, and the team at George’s Hairdressing know she has their best interests at heart. The mental health training has simply given her additional key skills: confidence to step in; understanding to reassure; interpersonal skills to listen in a non-judgemental way; and practical knowledge to access further help.

“It’s easy to think that everyone is happy in hairdressing,” Katon says. “We work in a creative environment and, being customer-facing, we are always seen smiling. I know this is sometimes just a façade hiding true feelings and that’s why I want staff to be confident to come to me for help if they are struggling.”

The team from Five Senses Spa, Salon and Barbershop in Peoria, IL, in an exhibit of strength.

The team from Five Senses Spa, Salon and Barbershop in Peoria, IL, in an exhibit of strength. 

Across the pond, in the United States, one salon is tackling employee mental health by bringing the experts into the salon and making them available for employees. When Five Senses Spa, Salon and Barbershop moved to a larger location in Peoria, IL, three years ago, Owner Paola Hinton started looking at some the employee services larger corporations in the community offered and how her small business could recreate something similar.

Through her membership in the National Association of Women Business Owners, Hinton identified a counselor who specialized in family and grief counseling, another who tackled stress management through Neuro Emotional Therapy or (NET), and a money manager who helped clients establish budgets, manage money and tackle financial issues. She invited all three counselors in to present their areas of expertise and services at an employee meeting.

For the past few years, Hinton has brought in each expert once a month for a few hours and invited her employees to make personal appointments with them. While Hinton pays for the professional services, she simply asks interested employees to block the time on their calendars and clock out for their time with the counselor.

“We actually call them coaches, because some people have a negative reaction to seeing a therapist, but the two counselors are social workers and therapists by trade,” Hinton says.  “They can help identify and address mental health issues or life struggles, including relationship problems, dealing with stress of even something simpler like strategies for getting a child to do their homework.  And if there’s a bigger issue, they can help connect the employee with additional experts.”

For employees who are resistant to seeing one of coaches while they are in the salon, Hinton has negotiated a fixed lower rate for employees to visit them in their own offices.

Hinton said a few years ago, she had an employee who would bring up the topic of suicide, and it was stressful knowing how to handle it as a manager. “Salon owners know employees will bring up personal issues in the breakroom and discuss them with each other, but I thought instead why not offer them a professional outlet instead,” she says.

While a different topic, the money manager can help employees set a budget for a big goal like purchasing a house, getting out of credit card debt or saving for their children’s education. “I once had an employee pull me out to the parking lot, show me her new car and tell me she’d need a raise to help pay for it—and I thought is this your new car or mine?” she laughed.

Hinton estimates she pays $400 to $500 a month to bring the experts in, but as long as those sessions are full, she’ll keep doing it. “Not only does it help with workplace absence, I think it’s a good employee retention strategy and it helps our employees stay focused on the guests who are in their chair.”

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Originally posted on Salon Today