Spa Workplace Wellness

6 Ways Spas Don’t Practice Workplace Wellness

This year’s Global Wellness Institute Summit in Mexico City will highlight Workplace Wellness as a key issue. Spas are all about wellness, right? We’re exemplars, right?

The reality is, a spa is a mentally and physically demanding environment that is built on the profit-challenged business model of selling services. Right there, you know that employee well-being may not be at the top of the list of priorities for spas. Here are six ways spas don’t walk their wellness talk:

1.  Spas who treat their workers as “independent contractors” instead of employees. Do you really espouse wellness when your therapists don’t qualify for worker’s compensation insurance if they get injured at your place of business? This is also one of the key reasons the playing field is not level in the spa industry: unfair competition from companies who misclassify their workers to save money.

2. Overworking your team. Whether your employees work at your front desk or in a treatment room, good people are hard to find. Many spas are burning out their A Players due to staffing challenges.

  • Watch out for estheticians who are super-skilled and in heavy demand with services like lash extensions or waxing, which involve a lot of repetitive motion. The same holds true for your deep-tissue massage aces. Make sure that their schedules have a variety of activities. Body treatments are a good way to add variety to the massage therapists’ schedule.
  • Set a limit of five massages per shift, even if the therapist wants to do more, while estheticians can perform up to seven facial treatments.
  • Provide the breaks required by law (and common sense)
  • I’m not a fan of the 50 minute “hour” as I think it contributes to injury and burnout, not to mention unrealistic expectations on the part of clients as to what can and should be accomplished in a treatment session. Provide 15 minutes’ breakdown/setup time between each full-session service. Yes, it reduces your earning capacity, but it also reduces burnout and injury (both of which can destroy earning capacity when good workers get sidelined.)
  • Don’t enable or ask employees to work while injured or sick.

3.  Using the wrong /cheap equipment. Yes, it’s more expensive, (but it’ll only hurt for a minute.)

  • Use treatment beds and tables with hydraulic lifts and buy equipment that is expressly designed for the service you’re providing, rather than improvising. Companies like Living Earth Crafts are continuously innovating new designs.
  • Keep your equipment in good repair. It’s no coincidence that one of the key indicators of employee satisfaction in the famous Gallup 12 employee engagement survey is having the “materials and equipment you need to do your work right”.

4. Not providing continuous education in body mechanics and workplace safety. Yes, massage therapists learn a bit about this in school. Do they practice it? With a few exceptions, no. Your other workers, including estheticians, nail techs and front line personnel have equally serious ergonomic challenges.

  • Include some education about ergonomics and working safely in every meeting.
  • Remind your team about body mechanics in your daily “huddle”, with a helpful hint, a new stretch, or a “group massage” before they go on the floor.
  • Identify your best body mechanics role models and hire them to coach their co-workers.
  • Retrofit work stations to make them more ergonomically sound.
  • Bring in outside educators to keep the safety message fresh and engaging.
  • Save Your Hands is the authoritative book and an outstanding program for all team members. They can even train a member of your team to be an Injury-prevention coach.

5. Not providing resources and tools for self-care.

  • Help staff members warm up hands and arms by providing a warm paraffin dip prior to their shift and ice packs to reduce inflammation following their shift.
  • Require that employees are on site 30 minutes prior to their first service
  • Enable them to purchase your great spa products at a deep discount, to encourage them to practice what they preach.

6. Not providing enough (high quality) support Spa employees shouldn’t be stressed out at work: their stress will translate into unhappy guests. But equipment breakdowns, communications mishaps, supply shortages and other operations “fails” create a stressful workplace. Think you can skimp on your support staff, designate “managers” who spend their day in the treatment room, or share your bad mood at work because you’re the boss? Think again.

Workplace wellness is a crucial issue in creating a well world, and it starts with us!

To learn more about ways to keep employees happy and engaged, visit us at Morale challenge? Trying to create a healthier team?  Contact us at or call 610.368.6660.

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