Any role that is customer-facing and people-oriented can leave employees feeling emotionally exhausted.
Lending others a comforting ear can take its toll, leading to a phenomenon described as ‘compassion fatigue’ where the stress of others burdens the individual trying to help.
One profession that often lends itself to the ‘agony aunt’ role is hairdressing, which is why the manager of hair salon Vision Blonde is sending her employees on counselling courses.
Lauren MacKellin, Manager of the Melbourne-based salon, told Daily Mail Australia: “Everyday, my staff are taking on my clients' problems and each day is an emotional rollercoaster.
“When people are sitting in the hairdresser's chair for four or five hours, many of them just want to vent.”
MacKellin said that many of her staff members have provided advice to clients who have been through traumatic experiences such as depression and divorce, despite having no training to do so.
“It can be pretty full on,” she added. “Just recently I had a 50-year-old asking me for relationship advice. I thought how am I supposed to know?
“What my staff need is a hand in how to effectively help, to know how to nurture our clients’ emotional needs along with their own. At the end of the day, my employees are as important to my business as my clients. I need to look after the needs of both.”
Clinical psychologist Georgia Foster was asked to come in and help. She told the publication: “The best strategy is to find ways to ‘brush off’ clients’ problems by taking proper breaks where possible, going off-site or after work, and finding ways to break the state such as a big walk or an exercise class.”
Foster adds that ways to deal with emotional burdens from others include listening and avoiding judgment, putting a positive spin on the situation and finding funny things to talk about that break their emotional state.
This is not an isolated incident either.
Research from Bupa UK highlights that people are finding workplace pressures increasingly difficult to manage, with people comparing the stress of workplace demands, such as presenting at an important meeting (71%) or managing a project (65%), to buying a first house (69%) or getting married (66%).
HR needs to take a leaf out of MacKellin’s book and educate staff in ways to alleviate the pressures that burden them – inside and outside of work.