From Burnout to Balance. VR Beauty Consulting founder shares personal journey to better mental health and how it impacts the work she does.

While the beauty industry is an exciting and vibrant space in which to work, there are many challenges that lead to beauty professionals experiencing high levels of stress.

As an industry operating within the retail space and offering services that are in high demand, many salons are faced with exceptionally long working hours – mostly six days a week, in some cases for 10 to 12 hours a day. Furthermore, the industry is plagued by complaints of salary deductions, low pay and unclear commission schemes, as well as lack of communication and respect – all factors which create fear and stress for employees. Sadly, without structured salon policies as well as a corporate and personal plan that ensures balance and wellbeing, burnout becomes inevitable for many.

Poor mental health is becoming a worldwide crisis, and at VR Beauty Consulting we have chosen to be part of the solution by helping the GCC beauty industry, by creating solutions and practices that ensure a healthy work culture across the industry.

The drive to prioritise a healthy work/life balance and to create a beautiful life is part of our business culture which stems from our founder, Valerie Reynaert, who struggled with exhaustion and burnout in 2019.

“Hitting rock bottom taught me that I was the only one responsible for my life and how I was living it. I now understand, from first-hand experience, how important it is to take care of your mental wellbeing, to listen to your mind and body to live a balanced and happy life,” says Valerie.

“I had to do a lot of work on myself, figuring out why it happened and how I could prevent it from happening again. It was not an easy road, but it was a very insightful and interesting one to walk.”

The benefits of prioritising employee wellbeing are numerous. Happy employees are more productive and generally perform better; team spirit and morale results in better service levels; and when your salon has a reputation in the market as an employer who prioritises wellbeing, you will attract better candidates who will remain loyal to you. By investing in an employee wellbeing policy, you will see fewer cases of employee burnout, absenteeism, and employee turnover.

When it comes to establishing salon policies, VRBC champions the importance of creating an environment where people feel safe, respected, and motivated; establishing open communication channels through daily briefings, weekly meetings and an open-door policy; treating employees with respect; organising team building events so people can connect outside the workplace; incentivising employees, paying them on time and praising them for good work.

“At VRBC, for example, we encourage our team members to switch off the moment they leave the office. We could work 24/7 but as an employer I don’t believe this is sustainable. The team is free to use their lunch breaks to go for a swim, a walk in the park or go to the gym. It is important to take a break as it is hard to remain fully focused an entire day. This is what I missed in my previous roles, so I wanted to do things differently and create the company culture I always longed for in the past,” says Valerie.

Another issue VRBC sees frequently when speaking to clients in the region, is the culture shock experienced by beauty professionals who come to work in the GCC from other countries. We often find that they have not been educated on how to deal with the cultural differences and are expected to just know how to behave. This causes unnecessary conflict between staff and salon owners as well as clients. ‘’To this end, we are also offering culture training going forward,” says Valerie.

Valerie advises a thorough onboarding process for every new joiner so they know exactly what is expected from them.

“Set clear goals and KPIs, provide clear job descriptions and have policies and procedures in place to avoid uncertainty. This will go a long way towards creating a sense of belonging and comfort for your employees, as well as avoid any unnecessary mistakes or conflict going forward.

Very early on in Valerie’s journey back to mental health, she says she realised that creating a happy life has a lot to do with the environment you create around you.

“If there are people who do not treat you well, you should determine if you want to accept this or not. If you don’t agree with the work culture you are part of, do you really want to stay? All those decisions are yours to make. Taking time out to reflect on what is happening in your life and if you are living your best life possible is crucial to being able to create your own beautiful life.”

On a personal level, Valerie chooses to prioritise exercise, journaling, and self-care. She also travels often and spends time with loved ones. To unwind and re-energize she heads to the ocean to go diving.

“Very importantly, whenever something triggers me in a negative way, I analyse the situation to understand what has triggered me and how I can avoid this in the future. I focus on the positive and make sure I surround myself with positive and inspiring people,” she says.

In conclusion, in our industry where burnout and stress are prevalent, we must join together to do the work necessary to build a positive work culture across the board. At VRBC we remain committed to assisting salons implement quality training and empowering employees to reach their full potential, and in so doing assist in creating happy employees and work environments.