Tradies are Not the Only Manual Labourers: The Physically Demanding Work of Spa Treatments
Julianna scored her job 10/10 (ten being the most enjoyable job you can imagine).
by MK Ward
Julianna is a beauty therapist and the owner of Limon Health & Beauty Spa. She founded the business and answered our questions about how much effort she had to exert to create an effortlessly, relaxing experience for clients.
“People prefer to book with the owner so I’m 90% booked all the time, working 8-11 hours a day. At first I didn’t take a lunch break and would eat fast between appointments. My stomach said no, so I have half hour lunch breaks now.”
We see that physical demands of Julianna’s work context were too high at first. Even entrepreneurs need to eat! Sometimes loving the work can mean work engagement so high that it can be easy to forget to replenish your resources (e.g., eat, drink, take a walk) to meet the physical demands of a job. Yet it is critical for those who are highly engaged to adjust the work (just as Julianna protects her lunch break), to help them meet the demands of the job.
The physical demands of the job extend to the back due to hours spent bending over and/or massaging. These demands make it important to keep employees safe and healthy through ergonomics, equipment, and minimizing risks of accidents. This means paying attention to the physical environment as well as training employees.
“I do have to keep up my back to strengthen it, and most girls here get back troubles because in beauty school here they don’t spend enough time on posture and back strengthening to properly do it and prevent injury.”
Although Julianna has given hundreds of facials, she says her work does not feel repetitive. Her expertise gives her a more nuanced view of the treatments, saying that waxing for different body parts gives plenty of task variety. The different conversational preferences of clients, perhaps add to the level of perceived task variety. Thus, social characteristics of work can influence our perceptions of task characteristics, in this case, for the better.
Three Work Design Essentials When Your Job is to Produce
Care-free Experiences for Clients
Julianna, owner of Limon Health & Beauty Spa, knows from experience that three work design elements are essential parts of providing top-notch spa experiences to clients.
1. Emotion Regulation of Yourself and Others
As a service provider, clients’ perceptions of the experience are important. However, the better you are at inspiring relaxation, the more comfortable clients feel to release all of the stressors in their lives. In many instances, this means sharing deeply stressful and personal life events.
“I do feel sometimes like I’m a psychologist when they ask, well, what would you have done? You have to pick up on if people just like talking, if they want you to say something or not. You also have to treat everyone from scratch so just because something happened to me, I’m not going to be rude to you as a result. Obviously as a beautician my life is perfect and I don’t have any issues to deal with at all.”
Tongue in cheek humour aside, Julianna has intuitively picked up on the importance of emotion regulation in the service industry, including day spas. Emotion regulation generally refers to how people manage emotional experiences, which can include talking about them or not. Social emotion regulation, managing others’ emotional experiences, is something we can see as essential to service businesses. Emotions influence the interpretation of an experience, and emotions spread among people. Emotional contagion, the spread of emotional states from one person to another, occurs in all workplaces including spas. Managing your own and others emotions are a type of work demand and part of the experience of the jobs employees perform.
2. Scheduling autonomy
Unlike most entrepreneurs, autonomy in the work was not as prominent in Julianna’s answers compared to her passion for providing health and beauty treatments to clients. Scheduling autonomy doesn’t exist in this type of business where you must be open during times that are convenient for customers. This also means staying on time during treatments, so meta-cognition is needed for an accurate time perspective is important to prevent frequent interruptions to check the time.
3. Feedback from Others
The devil is in the details to create and maintain a successful spa. You need to care and pay attention to the physical appearance of the space, the people, and the words used as well as how they’re spoken—and for good reason too.
“If you get negative feedback, that client will tell 10 other people. That negativity isn’t needed, there’s enough out there, so we try to keep it positive.”
The feedback that is fed directly back to Julianna comes from their appointment system, where she can see who returns and rebooks with them. She also checks online reviews. Technology makes much of the positive feedback visible.
Emotional demands, scheduling autonomy, and feedback are three work design elements that influence the customer experiences that service providers and entrepreneurs like Julianna create.