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Hair Stylist Burnout: How to Avoid Burnout Behind the Chair

By: Christine Turek (@painthatmane)

If you’ve ever felt burnt out at work, you know what it feels like. You start to snap at your loved ones, your coworkers, your clients over what are really silly things. You have difficulty concentrating or staying organized both at work and at home. Your sleep and your diet get thrown off, and it just feels like you’re always walking around in a mood.

To put it simply: Burnout sucks.

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The weirdest part about burnout? You love your job. You love the industry and all that it stands for. You love what you do. That’s why when you start to dread going into work each day, you should know that you’ve got a problem.

And yet, in our experience, burnout is the number one reason that people fail in this industry!

Below, we’ve gathered together advice that you can use to avoid burning out as a stylist, as well as methods you can use to cope if you find yourself burning out. And for salon owners, we’ve identified a number of strategies you can use to help your employees avoid burnout.

Listen to Episode 15 of our Hair Goals podcast to listen to Christine discuss everything you need to know about identifying and resolving burnout in your life and career.

How to Avoid Burnout as a Stylist

As a stylist, it’s easy to fall into the burnout trap if you are not prepared to recognize and avoid it. Here are some tips and strategies that you can use to prevent yourself from becoming burnt out as you juggle your work and professional life:

  • Set boundaries with everyone in your life. Establishing strong and clear boundaries with everyone in your life—your clients, your boss, your coworkers, your family and friends—can help you nip burnout in the bud. Your clients need to understand that they do not own you; your boss and coworkers need to know that you’re not available at every waking hour; your family and friends need to understand that you have work obligations and that you can’t always offer your services for free. The sooner these boundaries are established, the better. 
  • Remember that life is about balance. Work is important, but there is more to life than work—even if you truly enjoy what you do for a living. This is an easy fact to overlook. One way to help yourself maintain this balance is to set hours of operation. Outside of those hours, try not to answer calls, texts, emails, or DMs. The less you blur the boundaries between work and personal life, the happier you will ultimately be. 
  • Maintain clear and open communication. Once you’ve set these rules and boundaries, you need to be sure to maintain open communication with everyone in your life. Remind them—and yourself, from time to time—that these are your boundaries and that you’re not willing to break from them.

How to Cope with Burnout as a Stylist

If you’re already experiencing burnout, there are some steps that stylists can take to help get out of the funk and back to a balanced life:

  • Schedule a week off. If you can afford to do so, taking some time off can be one of the best ways to recover from burnout, because it allows you to get out of the stressful areas of your life. Use this time to reevaluate where you are and where you want to be from inside your heart. Sometimes the answer is simply, “I want to be home more.” This is generally an easy fix, but stylists are people pleasers. What about Susie who can’t come at any other time? Guess what. Susie will survive, and so will your paycheck. Your mental stability is worth more than, and I can guarantee you that Susie probably wouldn’t adjust her schedule to meet your needs if the roles were reversed.
  • Ask someone for help. No one can help you unless you make it known that you’re struggling. Turn to the people who you look up to and trust, and ask them how they would deal with the situation. This should be someone in the industry who has more experience than you do. It’s imperative at this moment to choose wisely who you take advice from. 

How to Help Your Salon Employees Manage Burnout

Stylists aren’t the only people who should be concerned about burnout. So, to, should managers and salon owners. If you’re employees are burnt out, they’re not going to be as productive as they otherwise could be, and might even risk damaging your brand or hard-built relationships with your clientele. And besides, you love these girls! You want to make sure that they’re as happy as possible. 

  • Start having one-on-ones. Whether you choose to have them weekly or monthly, consider having one-on-one meetings with each of your employees, where you can discuss anything that’s on their minds—whether it’s work related or not. Making yourself open and available to listen is what most employees are looking for. Ask questions about where they see themselves in the company and give them ideas of where you see them. Tell them what they’re doing well and what you appreciate about them. People need to be encouraged and rewarded in order to stay motivated.
  • Be flexible with scheduling. Every person has a different idea of how much time they need off. As an owner, when you’re deciding schedules you need to make sure you’re evaluating each stylist on a case-by-case basis. Try not to compare your employees in terms of how much time off they have. All you should care about is that they perform at their best when you’ve got them. Employee #1 could bring in just as much money in one day as employee #2 , but employee #1 may need more time off. I think adjusting to people’s needs is very important.
  • Ask your staff what they need. As a business owner, there is nothing more important than communication—and yet it’s an area where people are often at their least comfortable. If you notice someone struggling, reach out to them and see if there is any way that you can help. If one of your girls has a book that seems overfilled, check in and see how they’re managing or if they need some help. Make it a point of habit to ask each one of your employees whether or not they need support.
  • Fall back on salon culture. Your salon culture should permeate everything that you do, and that includes how you manage your team and how you expect your team members to get along. While you’re never going to have a team that gets along 100% of the time, if you notice a big issue you should sit down and talk with each person. It’s crucial that you help make the environment as safe for everyone as you can. Put out the smoke before it turns into a fire. Sometimes it really is a simple conversation with one another.

The Role of Self-Care

In the hair business, as in any business, self-care is incredibly important. Knowing how to spot burnout in yourself and in your employees, and knowing what steps you can take to get out of the rut, is one of the most valuable skills you can develop. 

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