The Mental Health Foundation says that 16 million people experience a mental health problem each year, with stress being a major factor.

The pandemic has added to this problem by creating huge financial and psychological stress for many people. Going back to work is also causing additional anxiety for many individuals who are worried about workplace safety, different working practices and the possibility of catching the virus.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, over 11 million working days are lost each year due to stress. So how can you tell if an employee is stressed? And what should you do?

Find out about bullying in the workplace and how to support your employees.

This blog post covers:

What the law says

The law says you have a legal duty to protect your salon or barbershop employees from stress at work (this doesn’t apply to stress that isn’t related to work). As part of this, you should carry out a stress risk assessment.

NHBF Members have 24/7 access to our free legal helpline which can help with stress-related risk assessments. Join us today.

NHBF Members can download our free staff handbook for use with our free contracts and apprenticeship agreements. The staff handbook includes:

- A statement of commitment to protecting the health, safety and welfare of employees.

- A statement that bullying and harassment are unacceptable.

- Clear examples of bullying and harassment.

- A definition of stress.

- The employer’s responsibilities.

- The employee’s responsibilities.

Spotting the signs

It can be hard to know if someone is experiencing stress or related problems such as anxiety or depression.

And it’s important to remember that stress may not be work-related – it could be something to do with an individual’s personal life, or a mixture of home and work. But whatever the cause, you’ll want to help the person concerned; stay within the law; and minimise the impact on the rest of your team and your business. So what should you look for?

Here are some signs of stress:

  • Performing less well at work.
  • Taking more sick leave.
  • Tiredness, irritability or mood changes.
  • Becoming quiet and withdrawn.
  • Being self-critical.
  • Indecisiveness and poor judgement.
  • Loss of sense of humour.
  • Physical symptoms such as sleeping badly, weight loss or gain, headaches, nausea, aches and pains.
  • Experimenting with drugs or alcohol.

Read our blog post about creating a happy salon or barbershop team.

What to do

Your first step will be to arrange a confidential meeting and give your employee the opportunity to discuss any concerns or worries they have, and how this is affecting the way they feel.

You must be prepared to listen and be totally non-judgemental. Be aware that your employee may raise criticisms of you or the way you manage. If so, don’t react negatively. Listen as carefully and objectively as you can.

You must also be prepared to listen to personal issues about your employee’s home life that you may find difficult to hear. 

Also – remember that your employee is not obliged to share personal information with you, so don’t probe them. 


If your employee is unwilling to confide in you

If your employee is unwilling to talk to you, make it clear that you are there for them if ever they do want a confidential chat. Mention that they might find it helpful to see their GP.

Continue to keep an eye on them and support them in any way you can.

If you feel it might help, offer them the list of resources on the Mental Health Foundation’s website or the Health and Safety Executive’s website (follow the ‘useful links' tab).

Make sure you have carried out a stress risk assessment. 

If you are concerned about your employee and they reject offers of help and support from you, NHBF Members can call our free 24/7 HR legal helpline for expert advice on what steps to take next. Not yet a Member? Join now for less than 80p a day.

How to respond to home-related stress

  • Show empathy and understanding.
  • Ask if there is anything you can do to help support them.
  • Consider practical offers of help such as flexible working hours or time off to deal with things.
  • Confirm the absolute confidentiality of your discussion, but ask if they want any information shared with colleagues.
  • Offer a follow-up meeting to discuss how things are going.
  • Pass on the list of resources from the Mental Health Foundation’s website. Find more resources to share on the Health and Safety Executive’s website (follow the ‘useful links' tab).

Read our blog post about how to support a grieving colleague.

How to respond to work-related stress

  • Explore with your employee the cause or causes of their work-related stress (see more on this below).
  • Be aware that other employees may be having similar feelings that you will need to address.

Remember – you have a legal duty to assess the risks to your employees’ health from stress at work. Find out more.

Common causes of work-related stress

Work-related stress is mainly caused by the issues listed below. You can use these points as prompts to explore your employee's feelings.

Demands: employees often become overloaded if they cannot cope with the amount of work or type of work they are asked to do.

Control: employees can feel disaffected and perform poorly if they have no say over how and when they do their work.

Support: levels of sick absence often rise if employees feel they cannot talk to managers about issues that are troubling them. One possibility is the common problem of bullying – perhaps a member of your team is a bully and you are completely unaware? (See our separate blog post on this.)

Relationships: a failure to build good working relationships based on trust can lead to conflict and unacceptable behaviour.

Role: employees will feel anxious about their work if they don't know what is expected of them.

Change: change needs to be managed effectively or it can lead to uncertainty and insecurity.


Our guide to recruiting and employing people is available to NHBF Members only. 

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Work-related stress: what you can do

  • You may need to develop an individual action plan to help your employee deal with stress, and/or address wider workplace issues. Find out how other companies have met this challenge.
  • Ensure employees understand what is expected of their job role and provide a clearly written job description – NHBF Members can download our free template.
  • Offer hair and beauty training courses for employees to attend – for example, the NHBF’s workshops (open to Members and non-members).
  • Consider offering flexible hours to help employees improve their work/life balance.
  • Involve employees in the way work is carried out.
  • Consult employees about decisions.
  • Carry out staff performance reviews to identify strengths and weaknesses and have clear procedures in place to both recognise achievements and manage poor performance. Members can download our free guide to managing performance.
  • Give all your employees the opportunity to talk confidentially about any issues that may be causing stress. Have an ongoing ‘open door’ policy.
  • Keep employees informed about what is going on within your business.
  • Tackle any bullying and harassment and make it clear such behaviour will not be tolerated (see our separate blog post on this).
  • Provide a thorough induction for new employees using a checklist to make sure you cover everything.
Barbers chair

This Members-only guide explains what procedures you should have in place if an employee is off work due to sickness, injury or any other reason.


Employees coping with OCD

OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) is a serious anxiety-related condition. These anxieties can relate to obsessive fears around germs and contamination and at the current time may lead to intrusive thoughts about passing the coronavirus on to loved ones and other related worries. 

These are worries that most people will have, but for those with OCD they can cause additional anguish. (Although it’s important to note that not everyone with OCD will be affected in the same way.)

The national OCD charity has published some survival tips to help those with OCD cope with the coronavirus outbreak. 

Do all you can to support your employees’ good mental health including those with mental health issues. 

Supporting a grieving colleague

You will want to do all you can to support an employee who is grieving for a close family or friend. Read our blog post for detailed information and advice on how to best help your colleague through such a difficult time. 

From a practical point of view, make sure your hair/beauty salon or barbershop has a clear policy in place for compassionate leave and that all staff are aware of it. Remember that even if your employee was on furlough at the time of their bereavement, they may still need to take some compassionate leave when you reopen. Find out more about compassionate leave. 

Look after yourself too

It can be easy to neglect your own wellbeing when you're looking out for your employees - but it's vital to take care of your own mental health too.

If you feel you have a problem, get professional advice from your doctor as soon as possible before things get any worse. Here are a few top tips for taking care of yourself:

  • Most people with mental health problems are treated by their GP and can continue to work productively, so don't hesitate to book an appointment if you need to talk through how you're feeling.
  • Check your health insurance policy if you have one - therapy may be included.
  • Tackle one task at a time so you don't feel overwhelmed. Big tasks can be broken down into smaller ones.
  • Exercise and a health diet can help to reduce stress.

NHBF Members can access a free NHBF Rewards app called 'Health Assured' which provides a wide range of support materials covering a number of key topics, including anxiety, depression, stress, work/life balance, sleeping well, general wellbeing, and eating healthily.

Every Mind Matters offers ten tips to help if you are worried about coronavirus  and the charity Mind also offers a range of ideas to help you take care of your mental health

Help and resources

The charity Mind offers advice on how to access treatment and support during the current pandemic. Mind says: 

Remember: it’s always ok to ask for help for your mental health. The NHS still wants you to do this during coronavirus. You are not wasting anyone’s time, whether you are continuing ongoing treatment or seeking help for the first time. 

Find out more on Mind's website.

The Mental Health Foundation lists a number of organisations that offer help and support on its ‘Getting help’ page. Find more resources on the Health and Safety Executive’s website (follow the ‘useful links tab).

The Mental Health Foundation also advises that anyone who feels they have a mental health problem should go to their GP, or A&E if they need urgent support.


  • You have a legal duty to protect your employees from work-related stress.
  • Carry out a stress risk assessment.
  • Know how to spot the signs of stress.
  • Offer your employee confidential help and support.
  • Bear in mind that other employees may also be suffering work-based stress.
  • Be prepared: understand the common causes of work-based stress.
  • Take steps to prevent work-based stress among your employees.
  • Make the most of the resources available from the Mental Health Foundation and the Health and Safety Executive.

More from the NHBF

As a Member you’ll have access to our friendly and knowledgeable membership team who can help you out with everyday employee, client and business issues. For trickier challenges, you can call our free 24/7 legal helpline for expert advice. You’re never alone with the NHBF. Find out more and join now for less than 85p a day.