As the professional beauty industry rebuilt itself after the pandemic, owners of salons and spas faced a new worry--an overburdened staff in need of help with mental wellness. Tammy Coakley, owner of two Spa Bleu locations north of Chicago, took action, contracting with counselors in the area and providing a new benefit to her staff members. Find out how she did it.
“We could feel the heaviness in the salon.”
Every salon owner can identify with that description of life during the pandemic. Tammy Coakley, owner of two Spa Bleu locations north of Chicago, says the heaviness weighed on both her team and the guests. One staffer even came to the management team with concerns about depression, telling Coakley she faced a 30-day wait for an appointment with her own counselor.
“We felt this was not okay,” Coakley says. “If somebody needs help, they need it now. So we found counselors in the area and created a care team.”
Comprehensive Health Benefits Package
Coakley and Salon Chief Operating Officer Heather Hazlett contracted with Marketplace Chaplains, a national company that provides mental health care locally. Although the three members of Spa Bleu’s care team are chaplains, Hazlett says they do not initiate any discussion of faith.
“They do an outstanding job without bringing in religion,” Hazlett notes. She explains that the entire Spa Bleu staff and their families have access to the care team through an easy-to-use app that lets them indicate whether they need a phone call, text conversation, or in-person visit. If a face-to-face meeting is requested, the care team member can meet the person at the salon or offsite. For example, if the person is visiting a family member at a hospital and experiences stress, the care team member will go to the hospital for the session.
If the care team determines that someone’s problems are serious enough to warrant more intense professional counseling, the team helps the person to navigate that process and locate an appropriate service provider.
“The counselors are basically first responders,” Coakley says.
All staffers, full-time and part-time, have access to this help—and even the guests can use the service. If a salon guest expresses the need for help, the Spa Bleu service provider has permission to pass along the care team information for the guest to access.
The business pays 100% of the $545 monthly cost. Already offering medical and dental insurance to her team, Coakley added the mental health benefit to create a holistic benefits package.
The Marketplace app offers additional features like articles on mental health, and the salon has printed up brochures that staffers can take home and leave out for a family member if that’s more comfortable than having a conversation.
On a rotating schedule, someone from the care team stops in weekly just to say hello and remind the staff that help is always available. Coakley and Hazlett meet with the team more formally on a quarterly schedule to receive reports about how many people from each location reached out for help. They track the phone calls, texts, and in-person visits, as well as general categories of help sought—such as financial stress, depression, or marriage counseling—but the care team does not disclose the names of the people who reached out or their specific reasons for seeking help. All of that is confidential.
“Our first quarter was one of those bittersweet moments,” Hazlett remembers. “We were shocked at how many people were utilizing the service. You know people are hurting and need support, but you don’t realize how widespread the need is. Of our 65 team members, 24 asked for help that quarter. It was heart-wrenching, but it also gave us a sense of calm to know that now we have this available for them.”
“It’s Who We Are”
“This may not be for everybody,” Hazlett says, “and people can’t believe we offer it. We don’t force it on our staff, but there’s nothing worse than having someone on your team struggling and not knowing what to do with that. This benefit shows who we are—how we really care about each team member as an individual not just as our employee.”
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