The search for meaning in our work as therapists
Last week we reviewed some of the wellness trends from the Global Wellness Institute. Those that are set to impact the spa industry going forward. One hot topic is recruitment, but it goes far beyond a skills shortage and into a much wider world of self-reflection that employers and employees are engaging in across the board. It’s about finding purpose in our work.
During the pandemic, spas and spa therapists were unique amongst employees. Sure, lots of people were on furlough last year, but the spa industry shut down, largely without respite for a solid 18 months. Almost no other sector faced quite the same level of downtime - except possibly nightclubs, a juxtaposition we won’t be going into right now.
Reflecting on our jobs
Lots of people have been discussing the introspection that went on in that time, and as we know, it has led a lot of people to reconsider their career paths. For those returning to or considering joining the spa industry, we are doing so with one of three mindsets, or a bit of all three:
Many spas have fantastic ways of supporting and enticing therapists to come and work for them as well as stay in their jobs. The business owners that we know put an enormous amount of time, care, and compassion into creating fantastic employment packages. However, one thing that came up in the wellness trends was that more money and ‘cosmetic’ wellness (such as free counselling or free yoga courses) don’t seem to help. What people are searching for is meaning in their work.
Although there are of course financial reasons for getting back to work, most people don’t become spa therapists just for the cash. There’s an inbuilt desire to nurture. We know what we do matters, especially when we’re providing support to vulnerable clients like cancer patients. However, that same work can take a lot out of us. We need to feel valued in our roles, know we are doing good, and find a renewed sense of purpose in it.
For many, that sense of purpose had waned pre-pandemic, but it’s more important than ever that we recapture it for those staying within the world of spa and joining it for the first time.
We have been blown away by the way some business leaders in the spa industry have handled the last couple of years; it’s been with phenomenal grace and strength of character. Returning to the industry demands no less. Most of us take our lead in our jobs from those in charge. They have the power to give us a sense of meaning in our work.
“Truly good leaders don’t just manage, but exceed expectations under a lot of pressure.” - Forbes
Steve Charlton, the Founder of the The REAL. Leadership Consultancy, said: “we’re advising business leaders, is to speak to individuals in the team - don’t just take the temperature of staff as a group. Take the time and do every type of communication you can. As a manager, you’ve got to be more open than ever to feedback and communication on a regular basis.”
That brings us onto our next point. Communication has been cited by multiple business leaders in our industry as one of the key drivers in supporting their teams, ensuring camaraderie and a sense of meaning in our jobs. It won’t come as a surprise that we all need motivation, but perhaps more importantly, we all need a sense of appreciation as well.
As Steve highlights, for business leaders, communication also provides us with the ability to understand how individuals within our team are feeling, what they need in their work and what they are enjoying. The same goes for communicating with clients and understanding their wants, needs, anxieties and frustrations.
Like all areas of wellness, feeling as though our work has meaning isn’t really about big moments; it’s about all the little ones. It’s about the validation you get from each treatment or interaction (or at least most of them).
Most therapists have a particular treatment area that they are most passionate about. What we have found over the years is that specialising, really honing our skills in a particular area and knowing that the service we’re delivering is exceptional, is essential for daily validation and job satisfaction. Maintaining a specialism is an ongoing exercise, it requires ongoing learning, training and staying aware of new information that comes into the industry; it’s something to really get involved with.
Of course, our specialism is oncology touch treatments, and in particular oncology massage. For us, specialising in an area where we know we are making a difference to every person we interact with, constantly gives us a sense of purpose and drive. Some of the therapists who train with us even find that giving the treatments is a form of therapy in itself.
Anna Garnett said: “As a therapist, the whole routine is a joy to give as well. There’s very little pressure, it’s just lovely and soothing and I feel relaxed doing it!”
There is a general change in what individuals want from their work, which is probably very much overdue. We all want to be paid appropriately, but we also know we need more than that. What the trends, but also what we know as an industry point to, is that most of us need a sense of meaning and connection in our work. We get that through delivering a service that we truly believe in and empowering therapists with the knowledge to do that work themselves.
If you would like to find out about our training programmes in oncology touch treatments, you can contact us any time or follow the link below to our courses guide.