Because of the pandemic, ensuing shutdown and now reopening, many stylists haven’t returned to their chairs. Those who are working in your salon today are putting in longer hours and servicing more clients. You, as the owner, are working longer hours, too, and are unable to find qualified talent to fill your vacancies. Clients who have taken beauty into their own hands need color correction and other time-heavy appointments to get them back to beautiful. On top of it all, add in the stress of working with the public during a pandemic and navigating all of the regulations, and you’re left with a recipe for disaster.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Because of this all-too-familiar scene, burnout is a topic on many salon professionals’ minds — and hearts. What can be done to help you and your staff navigate these feelings of overwhelm and get back to a place of optimism at work, and life? We’ve got some ideas:
Steve Gomez, owner of Steve Gomez Business Coaching, thinks it starts with schools, manufacturers and distributors, suggesting that they add classes that address aspects of scheduling and time management.
“Ultimately, as an industry, we must commit to supporting salon and spa professionals to see that there are better ways to manage their books other than being booked so solid they have no time for anything else,” he says.
Then, there are some tweaks you can make personally to help manage your schedule and ensure that your mind is in the right place.
For one, Gomez suggests, owners and stylists alike should plan their vacations at the beginning of the year. These breaks are necessary for recharging and restoring.
Also, for owners, Gomez says it’s important to add health and wellbeing into the business plan for the year.
“Schedule yoga sessions; host a team picnic; have a massage therapist do seated upper back, neck and shoulder massages every other week; bring the team to a workout with a personal trainer; bring in a nutritionist to teach about diet; take a team hike; or even offer paid vacation and have contests that reward with paid days off,” Gomez suggests. “Most of all, check in with the team and ask them what they think is needed to support a more balanced approach to life in your salon or spa.”
For owners who are facing burnout, consider really analyzing what behaviors, habits and beliefs got you to this point, Gomez suggests. Then, ask yourself which will serve you and which need to change. Look at the long-term benefit of making the change, too; seeing where you are and where you want to be is always a great place to start.
For stylists, Gomez suggests making a list of clients that you struggle with and be willing to part ways with them. “You simply do not have the time or emotional bandwidth to deal with people that suck the life out of you,” he says.
Also, stop saying ‘yes’ all the time: “If you need to have a break, then take it,” Gomez says. “Squeezing in a client at the last minute shouldn't be a guaranteed thing.”
There are some structural changes you can make within your business to address staff burnout as well.
David and Nicole Barnett — the husband-and-wife team behind High Performance Stylist Business Coaching — say that the burnout problem was already happening in the industry, but the pandemic magnified it.
“We've got to acknowledge that this is real, that mental health issues are real,” David says. “For the longest time, we've been fighting against what stylists have been saying to us. They've been leaving the industry, leaving salons, and going to work from home or a suite so that they can have the luxury of their own schedule.”
Something, the Barnetts say, needs to change if salons want to survive.
Enter “We Don’t Do Saturdays,” which is a cause the Barnetts have put forward that champions closing on the weekends. By only opening Monday-Friday, the idea is that salons can change their schedules, yes, but also give the staff their weekends back and more time with their families.
As Nicole says, where work-life balance used to be a desire, now it’s a demand, and individuals are making big decisions in order to have it — especially those who are burnt out.
“If people aren't getting that balance today, they're full out,” Nicole says. “They're leaving the industry altogether. They're leaving their place of work to go work somewhere else. They'll work for less money as long as they feel that this balance is happening.”
But it’s not even guaranteed that stylists, or the salon, will make less money if it closes on Saturday. As Nicole has been running numbers with the Barnetts’ clients, exploring if this concept will work — which is what they suggest you do before jumping in — she’s discovered that Saturdays are coming in across the board at number four out of a five-day work week in terms of profit. This is because services being performed on Saturdays were not those that had the highest profit margin.
If closing Saturdays isn’t feasible, consider raising your prices, or implementing a system like prime pricing instead.
Jason Everett, co-founder of High Performance Salon Academy, says he and his partner have been rolling out prime pricing with the academy’s clients to great success. The idea, which came from a member of High Performance Salon Academy — Danielle Cherewyk, owner of The Headroom in Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada — offers pricing like airlines, where certain times of the day and days of the week are more expensive than others.
“Prime pricing can solve the burnout problem,” says Everett. “What if you had a stylist who was sick of working Saturdays? Well, what if they got a 25% raise on Saturdays? Think they might want to work Saturdays again? The idea is that you’re not asking a stylist to do something they don’t want to do without rewarding them.”
Everett warns though, that while prime pricing can create a massive shift in your business, it requires finesse. “There’s a right way and wrong way to roll this pricing structure out to your team and your clients, so make sure you seek out support before you pull the trigger. When it’s done correctly, it addresses the burnout problem, creates more income and allows you to balance out your workload for your clients.”
Environment Matters, Too
Keeping morale up during challenging times — in the world, and within your own walls — can be arduous. Add in the layer of COVID protocols, with masks and limited interaction, and the salon you once knew may be a shell of itself.
Jeff South, owner of Intrigue Salons in suburban Atlanta, says that during these periods, they try to keep people engaged as best they can — for one, they keep the music loud, with messaging and ads in the sound system.
“It’s important to keep the energy up in the salon,” South says. “That’s why people go to a restaurant or salon — to be around people, around that kind of energy. Hairdressers are good at hiding it, but the emotional toll has been tremendous. Creative people want physical contact and need to show their emotions.”
And there’s certainly nothing wrong with showing your emotions. The topic of mental health is a serious one; if you or someone you know needs help, visit https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/tools-resources/individuals/index.htm.
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