Shooting from the hip

Wellness at work - why aren't spas leading the way?

15th Jun 2018
Wellness at work - why aren't spas leading the way?

Helena Field, GM at the UK Spa Association is shooting from the hip about Workplace Wellness


The Global Wellness Institute recently released a paper entitled ‘Ten Shifts Driving a new Thrive Revolution at Work’. Companies are recognising that humans thriving is the core to sustainable success. The paper discusses how competition for talent is growing globally and a thriving work culture is becoming a key strategy to attract and retain the best staff.


As spa and wellness professionals, we have the opportunity to inspire this movement in the UK, by supporting companies to consider what it would mean to incorporate a comprehensive wellness at work programme, to consider the impact of mental as well as physical health and create a culture of thriving employees. An exciting prospect for our industry, yet I can’t help but ask the question: how can spas lead the way when their staff aren’t entirely living these values?


A thriving work culture is becoming a key strategy to attract and retain the best staff


The UK spa industry has evolved considerably over the past 20 years. It has customers who attend a spa to enjoy a day of pampering with friends, those that want to take time out alone, those that want a digital detox and those who seek wellness activities. It’s very challenging for spa teams to facilitate such variety while at the same time managing consistency and standards, and ensuring every customer has a bespoke, memorable experience. Spa teams must constantly learn, adapt and evolve.


Many of the people making up that team are trained as beauty or holistic therapists or from a fitness background and many spa managers and directors will also have started their journey from a similar background. It’s unlikely that at the point they were beginning their career they thought about what their remuneration would be, what benefits they would be entitled to or if they would have a suitable work life balance. The reality is that the role of the spa team is incredibly diverse and expectations are high. Shift work, in dark rooms all day, conducting hours of tiring physical work on low pay scales… surely spa teams need supporting and nurturing if they are to be the ones to lead the thriving movement and inspire other industries to follow suit?


Expectations of spa teams are high… but they need support and nurturing if they’re to be the ones to lead the thriving movement


Some spas are recognising that successful staff retention is about keeping staff wellbeing at the top of the agendas and some spa managers are already coming up with creative ideas to keep staff engaged, such as conducting yoga, meditation or circuits classes at work, or offering mental health counselling and mentoring onsite. Massage limits are certainly being considered and additional training is, in some cases, being offered to encourage correct therapist body positioning and the use of elbows and forearms to take the pressure off the wrists.


But real change will only happen if the leaders in this industry recognise modifications need to be made and implement them; if the spa industry stops talking and does it! Believe it or not, remuneration isn’t the biggest reason spas lose staff. Working for a caring, supportive company is far more important than money and spa teams will stay loyal and engaged if you lead by and live these principles.


Staff culture must be considered as paramount. Spa teams are nurturing, kind and considerate people; they must be respected in the same way. A simple thank you can go a long way in supporting a respectful culture. Incentive schemes rewarding and recognising achievements all reaffirm a culture of care. It’s also vital spa managers ask staff what motivates them; perhaps one therapist is completing a college course one night a week and would like that day off. Adapt and support your staff wherever possible.


Real change will only happen if the leaders in this industry recognise modifications need to be made and implement them


Have you considered investing time to run regular Personal Development Reviews (PDRs)? These are not the same as performance appraisals, to measure targets. Instead they are a standardised written document that, once completed, is signed by both the employee and the manager. They provide therapists with the opportunity to reflect on their successes, failures, strengths and weaknesses, discuss concerns they might have and highlight areas they enjoy. This gives managers the chance to agree an actionable plan to bring the therapist’s development requirements to life. The key is, it’s all documented, with each party agreeing to do their bit to make it happen. It gives employees the reassurance that they are being heard, taken seriously, and someone is also taking accountability for their future development. 


The examples I’ve given are all entirely feasible and cost very little but sadly they’re not used consistently across this industry. Owners, general managers and directors all need to consider whether small changes could make all the difference. A happy, motivated team would then be inspired to lead the way with the ‘thriving work culture’ movement and inspire our own customers to follow suit.


This is why the UKSA is calling for our own industry movement called ‘Work for Wellness’. Over the next few months we will be releasing more information about the ‘Work For Wellness’ Campaign – so watch this space.

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