Supporting the emotional wellness of your team is a complex business because we are dealing with people. People who have hopes and fears, dreams and dilemmas. We are also dealing with sensitive people. Young people (in the main) and we have to act as a boss, confident and guide. But believe me – if you do this with passion and commitment and maintain this as an on-going practice, you will benefit with a more engaged team and a more passionate and revitalized team.
We are all individuals
The most important element when supporting the emotional wellness of your team is to acknowledge the unique personal tools that they bring to the role – their character, attitude, energy and sense of spirit. These are invaluable assets to be nurtured and respected. On another hand those assets can also be their biggest enemy, making therapists over sensitive, fragile and vulnerable. Therapists can feel everything…both empathy and sympathy is their strongest point but it can totally exhaust them as well. The impact of therapists’ wellbeing can affect everything from client engagement to professional performance.
Managers need to be fully aware of the complexity of therapists’ characters. They are not warriors (at least not most of them). They are givers, often introverts that would rather touch than talk.
It takes a special person who can spend day after day, treatment after treatment - usually massage - in the room often without a window, massaging naked strangers who can be nice or not, hygienic or not, respectful or not and so on. How many of us would voluntary agree to do it? For how long? Exactly!
What is their purpose?
Each and every one of your team will have a reason – a purpose behind why they came to this industry. What is that deeper purpose? Why do people choose to become therapists? It is fundamental that Spa Directors find out what that purpose is, through one-to-one meetings. To tap into this and take it as the base of your therapist’s performance.
Because deep within, there is a real diamond. A person with hopes and dreams, where they possess a deep inherent desire for helping people.
That place, deep inside each therapist should be seen as a reservoir from which their personal growth can start. They also have a need for self-improvement, a need for more beauty in life.
The role of the therapist is changing and becoming more demanding. The purpose of spa now goes beyond pampering; people want knowledge and guidance. Therefore, transformation of the therapist from ‘passive provider’ to ‘active advisor’ is a must.
It would be great if during the morning briefings you can instigate a conversation with the team that goes beyond the general update on the selling of product and targets. I recommend to managers that I work with to include simple exercises like: what to advise the client in specific situation, how to recommend specific treatment, what kind of home remedy to offer.
I recommend that the Spa Director introduces weekly explorations on topics like depression, panic attacks, gluten free diet, raw food, and the importance of movement. This will take the discussion onto another level and begin to address their wellness needs. It will also allow them space and time - let them be the initiator of the discussion too.
I haven't seen, even in one spa I have visited, a library for therapists with set of books related to their profession, starting from a good anatomy atlas and ending on mediations or communication. None! Why?
Engage with them on specific topics, encourage their exploration, help them to build their bank of knowledge. Encourage them to share their experiences, breakthroughs, realisations - this would support so much their self-understanding and help them to realise how important their work is.
This is a place from which their humanity will grow and this will lead to better team engagement and a more authentic relationship with the client, based on their real interests and concern.
Listen and learn
As a Spa Director it is important to listen your therapists. We are living in very uncertain times, life is changing so fast. Therapists are mostly young people, not yet fully shaped. They have their concerns and questions to ask. It has to be acknowledged and addressed. They are not machines giving one treatment after another in quick succession. It is difficult to balance this with meeting targets and selling a certain amount of product each week. They are humans. Complex. Not easy to manage. And they are the core of this industry.
They need to be healthy, they need to know how to recharge themselves, they need to stretch and breathe. Not from time to time, but each and every day. They need to have physical, emotional and mental hygiene and as a Spa Director you can help and assist with this.
Their techniques, especially around massage needs to be revised, and constantly developed.
The most popular techniques used in massage are based around the classic Swedish approach which cannot support a 90 minute treatment because it was designed for 15 minutes maximum! Such a vast number of therapists tend to avoid giving massages not because they don't like it, but because they are scared of being injured. We need to adopt a different approach to massage and completely redefine it.
It’s not easy – but it’s worth it
Caring for the emotional wellness of the therapists is not an easy process. The whole system of the operation in the spa doesn't help at all, with a schedule based on maximum occupancy with little breaks, little time to think, very little time allowed for them to connect with their client and to relate to them, and of course, very little time to prepare for the next treatment. There is precious little budget for advanced training either. Investing in them and their knowledge base will help them to stay fresh, committed and responsible.
Without therapist awareness of the depth of the positive impact they have on their clients, it will be very difficult for them to relate to their work and to engaged. And what a pity it would be! As they literally can change somebody’s life! With such a profound realisation the sense of pride will come, passion for their work, willingness to make this extra mile.
Spa operators need to be actively involved in caring for the emotional wellness of the team. And I mean from the upper management level down. I don’t believe managers receive enough training in how to work with their teams and not enough understanding and support from the directors and owners. We really need to redefine the meaning and purpose of the spa in order to help therapist to thrive, to feel part of much bigger picture, empowered and happy.