Why I have loved my career in Spa - Helena Field, CEO, SpaPulse
With National Spa Week just around the corner it got me thinking about how lucky I have been to have a career working in the Spa Industry.
What is a Spa experience? Thinking about it from the customer’s perspective, it’s a combination of the general ambience, the treatments, the attention that the staff provide and, yes, enjoyment of the various equipment, whether it be pool, gym or massage chairs. When all these factors work in harmony, it’s a pleasure to see the effect they have on customers who may have arrived stressed, worried and generally in need of some TLC. But when one of those factors isn’t as it should be, the effect can be lost – that’s where the staff come in, I have truly loved being one of them and being able to make a difference!
Make no mistake, any work environment can be challenging at times. There are always going to be moments when things go wrong. Anyone who works or has worked in a Spa can vouch for that, especially when you have facilities to maintain such as saunas, steam rooms, swimming pools and fitness suites. I have certainly had my fair share of challenges including a winter when the boiler went down and my staff and I wore coats, scarves and hats inside the Spa for five days, or the time the swimming pool emptied itself into the plant room below, or when a swarm of flying ants flew in on a summers day and upset my many Spa guests enjoying the sunshine.
All that said, whenever I was having a more challenging day I would always have a moment of time out and take in the ambience of the Spa. There are not many work environments where you can look around and feel totally at peace. There’s usually a lovely scent, soft lighting, perhaps fresh flowers, decoration and stylish design. A pretty unusual work setting by most people’s standards and yet we are privileged to enjoy it every day.
As Spa Operators it is all too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running of a Spa, frequently challenging and very often manic! While our customers experience the serene surroundings and enchanting treatments, behind the scenes there is always a hive of activity and it’s far from serene! I always remind myself of the first impression our guests have, the admiration when they enter the Spa and the immediate sense of relaxation. How many people can actually say they work in a beautiful, spiritual, calm and peaceful environment? As Spa professionals we truly can.
One of the main reasons that most of us work in Spas is to truly make a difference to someone’s life. Over the years I have had the pleasure of seeing thousands of people pass through the Spas I have run. People choose to visit a Spa for many reasons such as simply taking time out from their busy lives, some seeking pure pampering, some to grieve, some to recover from illness or injury, some wanting to spend quality time with loved ones and others just in need of a great treatment. Whatever the reason, as an Operator it has always been the most rewarding part of my job to receive amazing feedback from my guests. To be able to provide a service and experience for an individual that makes them happy and able to leave rejuvenated and relaxed is the most incredible feeling.
One memorable experience for me was working as Spa Manager at a very well known Spa in Hertfordshire and was in the privileged position of meeting many of our guests on a daily basis. One day I encountered a mother and daughter who were visiting the Spa for a very personal reason, they had just lost a loved one and were taking time out to be together, grieve and gain some perspective. The mother hadn’t enjoyed her treatment and had complained to the front desk who consequently asked me to step in. I sat with the lady and listened to her grievance and quickly understood that the issue wasn’t our treatment it was simply that she wasn’t able to switch off and relax into the moment, she was showing signs of stress, anger, bitterness and disbelief, her grief was consuming her and the treatment she had experienced hadn’t ‘done enough’ for her, it hadn’t relaxed her as she had hoped it would, she didn’t switch off as she had wanted and she became angry that she had therefore not got the outcome she had hoped from the Spa experience. I sat with her for sometime and gradually started to understand why she had chosen to come to us, what she wanted from the experience and how she expected to feel when she left. I realised in that moment that she hadn’t just come to the Spa that day for some pampering and time out, she had come to start the healing process. I also recognised that she had absolute belief in us that we were the right people to provide this. I decided there and then that I would do my utmost to fulfil her wishes and personally arranged a schedule of appropriate treatments for her, many with our variety of holistic therapists, I prescribed time with our yoga/meditation teacher, quiet time for her and her daughter and sleep, country walks and mindful eating. I checked in on her throughout her visit and at the very end met them both to wish them well on their ongoing journey. I was met that afternoon with two women who were still very broken but both hopeful. The mother hugged and thanked me for the time they had spent with us and turned to me with such sincerity and said that by giving them an ear, time and demonstrating warmth I had in a small way brought comfort to them. I have never forgotten the impact we as a Spa had on them and the impact they had on me.
Finally, for me the biggest reason I have loved my career working in Spa is because I have had the pleasure of working with the most wonderful people. From Therapists to Personal Trainers, Receptionists to Spa Attendants, I have met the most inspiring and hard working people. They are often the unsung heroes who quietly deliver exceptional customer service, demonstrate passion, dedication and enthusiasm for their role and all because they too love working in Spa!