The third Monday in January is now known as 'Blue Monday': the most depressing day of the year. Blue Monday seems especially relevant now due to the extremely tough times the hair and beauty industry continues to face with more lockdowns and huge financial and psychological challenges caused by the pandemic.
The months of lockdown and loss have had a huge impact on our mental health. According to research from MIND, more than half of adults (60%) and over two thirds of young people (68%) said their mental health got worse during lockdown. Many have developed new mental health problems as a result of the pandemic and for some existing mental health problems have got worse.
Find out how you can help to promote good mental health for yourself, your employees and your clients.
This blog post covers:
- What does mental health refer to?
- Mental health in the workplace
- Promoting good mental health
- Supporting an employee with mental health problems
- Employees with OCD
- Member case study: Code Hair Consultants
- Mental health and discrimination
- How to get help if you’re concerned
- Supporting a grieving employee
- Look after yourself too
Mental health refers to our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing.
Mental health issues can range from feeling mildly unhappy to common problems such as anxiety and depression and more severe diagnoses such as bipolar disorder.
Look out for the signs that one of your employees may be experiencing mental health problems. For example, they may be:
• Unable to concentrate and easily distracted.
• Irritable and aggressive.
• Less talkative and avoiding social activities.
• Tired and/or tearful.
• Unable to control their emotions.
• More prone to drink alcohol.
• Physically ill, for example, with headaches or fatigue.
• Overwhelmed and unable to perform to their usual standards.
The Mental Health Foundation reports that mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental health problem in Britain and the cause of one fifth of days lost from work. The Foundation also highlights that one in 6.8 people experience mental health problems in the workplace and women in full-time employment are nearly twice as likely to have a common mental health problem as full-time employed men (19.8% and 10.9% respectively).
The Royal College of Psychiatrists reported that mental health problems have a greater impact on people’s ability to work than any other group of disorders.
The mental health charity Mind highlights that 60% of employees say they’d feel more motivated and more likely to recommend their organisation as a good place to work if their employer took action to support wellbeing.
Stay in contact with employees during lockdowns when your business has to be closed and ensure they are receiving the pay and/or benefits they are entitled to. Make sure your employees know you're still there for them and be ready to pass on sources of further help and support (see 'more resources' below) if appropriate. In addition, there are a number of other steps you can take to support your employees and encourage good mental health in your salon or barbershop:
• Make it clear that the mental wellbeing of all your employees is a top priority.
• Raise awareness of mental health issues via your internal communication channels, for example, staff noticeboards, newsletters and your intranet pages.
• Hold regular one-to-one staff appraisals and informal chats to help monitor your employee’s mental wellbeing.
• Raise any concerns you have with individual employees confidentially and in a non-judgemental way. Make it clear you want to help and support them.
• Have an ‘open door’ policy so your employees know they can have a confidential discussion with you at any time.
• Make sure your employees are clear about their job role and what’s expected of them – being unsure can raise anxiety levels.
• Consider offering flexible working arrangements to help your employees with their work/life balance. Find out more in our Members-only fact sheet. Encourage your staff to work sensible hours, take full lunch breaks and make sure they rest and recuperate after particularly busy periods.
• Keep an eye out for any bullying or harassment in your salon or barbershop and tackle it promptly. Find out more in our blog post about bullying.
• Have regular staff meetings to invite feedback and discussion and make time for a regular health and safety slot, including the importance of mental wellbeing among your employees.
• Make sure your employees know you value their ideas and input – especially at times of change when anxiety levels can be raised if staff feel they have no say about what is happening to them.
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.
- The employer’s responsibilities.
- The employee’s responsibilities.
Most employees who experience mental health problems are able to continue working successfully.
Individuals with mental health problems are often encouraged to develop strategies to help them cope as part of their ongoing care. This involves being aware of the signs of becoming unwell and taking action to prevent a relapse or make it less severe. For example, this may include working fewer hours, avoiding alcohol, doing more exercise or taking periods of relaxation.
Make sure you fully support your employee’s coping strategies. You will want your employee to get back to full health as soon as possible and your support will also help to prevent a potentially long period of sickness absence.
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.
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.
If your employee does need time off sick, arrange to stay in contact and keep them up to date with what’s going on. This will help them feel less isolated and make it easier for them to return when they are feeling better.
Making reasonable adjustments and supporting your employee will also help to ensure you comply with discrimination laws (see more on this below).
The salon’s colour director and senior stylist Katie Williams qualified as a mental health first aider and uses her new skills to train her colleagues in awareness and advanced listening skills for the benefit of clients, the salon team, and hair professionals more widely.
Says Katie: “'Recognising that there is an epidemic of mental-health-related issues in young people and the power of our industry go hand in hand for me. We have complete control of how someone wants to portray themselves to the rest of the world and we can make or break the next six months of someone’s confidence. It’s a heavy weight to bear.
“We are a point of call for our clients to talk out problems or vent. And being able to share the different avenues of help or support available from charitable and professional organisations is a tiny point of difference which can alter someone’s life.
“Supporting staff members and the next generations is also imperative if we want our salons to remain busy and bustling. Having a support network, resilience training & self-help tips will ensure we all maintain our own positive wellbeing too.”
Signs and how to respond
“Changes in personality/behaviour or mood, physical appearance or withdrawal are the most obvious signs of mental health issues,” says Katie. “We are not a diagnosis facility, but an avenue of direction and a trusted professional confidant. The best way to respond initially is a non-judgmental listening ear. Making time for someone and showing that you care about them can go a long way.”
The salon’s #cutoutthestigma scheme led by Katie has also included:
- Building relations with other salons and providing training to with the overall aim of getting salons onboard with the scheme nationwide.
- Private or silent appointments for clients with access to support initiatives including complimentary sessions with a CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) counsellor.
- A fundraising wellbeing/catwalk event using models who had experience of mental health issues.
- Creating a community support hub with a range of local organisations involving keep fit, meditation, yoga and many more.
The Equality Act 2010 says it is against the law to discriminate against employees because of a mental or physical disability.
You must treat employees with mental health problems in exactly the same way as you treat all your other employees, unless:
• They ask for help.
• There are clear signs that they need help.
It is discrimination to make assumptions about an employee’s capabilities, their suitability for promotion, or the amount of sick leave they may need due to their mental health problems.
Free legal support for NHBF Members
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.
The Mental Health Foundation advises that anyone whose mental or emotional state deteriorates quickly should get help as soon as possible. If you are worried about one of your employees but they do not want to speak or engage with you, advise them to speak to someone they trust and/or go to their GP or A&E if they need urgent support.
If you are dealing with an employee who needs immediate medical help call the NHS on 111 or dial 999 for an ambulance. For example, you may need to do this if your employee is hallucinating or disturbing other employees or client and refusing to accept help.
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.
Don’t forget to take good 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.
- Every Mind Matters offers ten tips to help if you are worried about coronavirus and advice about mental wellbeing while staying at home.
- The NHS offers a range of help and support for those who are stressed, anxious or depressed.
- The Mental Health Foundation lists a number of organisations that offer help and support and advice on how to look after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak.
- You can access free ten-minute work outs from Public Health England to help stay fit and healthy.
- For those with existing mental health problems you can access comprehensive guidance provided by Mind.
- The government has published guidance on mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak.
• Mental health problems have a greater impact on people’s ability to work than any other group of disorders.
• Look out for the early signs of mental health problems among your staff.
• Take positive steps to publicise and promote mental health wellbeing in your salon or barbershop.
• Most employees who experience mental health problems can continue to work successfully.
• Support an employee who has mental health issues and help them with coping strategies.
• Take care not to discriminate against an employee who has mental health problems.
• Always get help if your employee’s mental health quickly deteriorates and you are concerned for them, their colleagues or clients.
• Don’t forget to take good care of yourself too.
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Are you having problems with staff taking too much time off? Our free Members-only guide offers clear advice and information about how to manage absence from work and what procedures you should have in place.