I’ve heard it three times in conversation in the last month: Sitting is the new smoking. The message is that inactivity is killing us, which we’ve known for quite some time, but “sitting is the new smoking” makes the point in a way that is dramatic and imminently clear. (There’s some push back on this idea that sitting is actually as damaging to your health as smoking, but I have to agree that it got my attention.)
I work in the corporate office of Great Clips, so I know this point all too well. It’s easy to get so engrossed in a project or computer work or meetings or phone calls that I find that some days, the only time I take a walk is for a bathroom break or to get to the next meeting. The good news is that at the Great Clips home office, it doesn’t have to be this way, thanks to adjustable desks, a nearby room with treadmills to use at any time, and a culture that encourages face-to-face communication with colleagues.
It’s a completely different picture at any Great Clips salon where the only sitting in chairs is done by the customers who are getting their hair cut! Unlike office workers—who spend too much time sitting—hair stylists have the opposite problem: They are on their feet most of the day. And they can be vulnerable to specific ailments involving shoulders, arms and hands.
Great Clips recognizes these potential problems, and addresses them in its training program for stylists. We instruct stylists on the proper way to hold shears when cutting hair, the best way to stand so as not to overstrain the back, and exercises that can help relieve muscle tightness and prevent injury. Salon owners also purchase adjustable chairs and floor mats that make a stylist’s job safer and more comfortable.
The No. 1 reason we do this is to help our franchisees ensure the safety and health of their salon staff. That alone makes good business sense. But we also do this because we know that encouraging employees to take care of their bodies can lead to less sick time, improved productivity and reduced stress.
Physically active employees take fewer sick days—as much as two full days fewer than inactive workers, according to numerous studies. They are more productive, suffer fewer injuries, report higher levels of satisfaction with their jobs and tend to stay with their jobs longer. These factors often contribute to higher profitability levels.
You don’t have to build a gym or ask stylists to run marathons in order to encourage better physical health. Making small changes is more manageable than dramatic transformation. Your reward will be a happier, more productive workforce. Here are some tips for franchisees and managers who want to encourage a health-focused culture in their salons:
- Urge stylists to stretch their arms, shoulders and lower backs during breaks. Put up a poster illustrating effective stretches.
- Organize salon challenges, such as meeting a certain number of steps per day, and provide rewards for those who meet their goals.
- Provide pedometers or Fitbit activity monitors as incentives for health and productivity efforts.
- Arrange challenges, such as an eight-week commitment/contest for employees to spend 150 minutes each week in physical activity. Set up competitions with other Great Clips salons.
- Practice what you preach. Show your stylists that you have made a personal commitment to physical activity.
The Centers For Disease Control has created guidelines for assessing your company’s commitment to wellness and a structure for creating or improving a workplace health program. Both your workers and your organization will be healthier and happier.