Over the past month, most of us couldn’t wait until our lives returned to normal. And here we are, finally! It looks like it is about to happen… Our lives are going to return to normal. Some states have begun to allow schools and salons to re-open, and most likely the rest of the states will begin to follow suit.
I know we are so excited to return to normal—I’m with you! We miss each other. We can’t wait to get back to school and be with people again. We can’t wait to hug everyone who walks in the door. We can’t wait to get our hands on a head of hair. We can’t wait to stand up to teach!
Yes, life is slowly going to start returning to normal. But is it really going back to normal? Or, rather, is there a new normal? What is the return to school and student salons really going to look like?
As an industry, focusing on safety and infection control is really nothing new to us. We are all competent about cleaning and disinfecting our tools and facility, and we always take proper precautions when it comes to customer protection during services. It’s nothing new. We are professionals. We have always done it, and we will continue to do it!
That is normal. But we aren’t going back to normal, we are going to a new normal… At least for the time being.
New normal means we continue to practice the high standards of infection control. We’ve always practiced proper infection control and client protection, but now we take it up a notch. In addition to disinfecting our tools and work areas, we must also make sure that we are disinfecting high-touch, high-traffic areas such as door handles and front desk counters. Consider having disinfecting wipes nearby for use on areas such as credit card machines, cash registers, tablets, etc., and place hand sanitizers around the school for easy access.
New normal means we must hold off on all those hugs. As much as we have missed each other and we are longing to hug everyone who walks in the door, we can’t do it. Hugging isn’t allowed. Shaking hands isn’t allowed. High-fives aren’t allowed. Even a fist bump isn’t allowed. Seriously, how is an expressive person supposed to say hello? We need to find new ways to say hello to everyone. Use elbows bumps, a simple head nod or even an air high-five. I promise you, this won’t last forever—it’s just the new normal right now!
New normal means we need to rethink how we check services. Social distance guidelines are not going to disappear overnight. Keeping our clients, students and ourselves safe includes keeping our distance. The student and client are already in each other’s space, the last thing that is needed is for a third person to get involved. I know we want to get our hands in the hair. You might be thinking, How am I supposed to check a haircut if I can’t comb through it? The simple answer: You don’t need to touch the client to check the service. You can stand a safe distance away from your student and client and watch the student check the cut or color or perm or whatever service they are doing, and you can clearly see from a distance how well they did. Part of your responsibility as an educator is to teach your students how to check their own services. Now is the time to make sure they know how to do that, and let them do it while you watch from a safe distance. To be honest, this is really something that all educators should embrace regardless of whether we are in a global pandemic.
New normal means we are going to have to up our game when it comes to personal protective equipment. The use of gloves isn’t changing. Gloves are still used according to proper infection control purposes. A new pair of gloves each time is still recommended. What is new in terms of personal protective equipment is the use of masks. The coronavirus is a virus that impacts the respiratory tract. Wearing masks is critical to prevent spreading respiratory droplets through coughing, sneezing or even talking. Masks are critical. I was just talking with my sister this morning who lives in Germany, where wearing a mask is mandatory if you are out in public. Masks aren’t mandatory in the USA (yet), but they should become mandatory in your school for a while.
To be honest, I think this will be the hardest of the new normal for us to get used to! I, for one, hate wearing them. Several months ago, my mom was in the hospital with the flu. Because of this, we had to wear masks while we were in the room with her. As I sat there visiting with her, I constantly kept pulling my mask down while I was talking to her, simply because I didn’t feel what I was saying was coming through the mask. I’m so used to communicating with my facial expressions that I was convinced the mask was preventing my mom from really understanding my message. Silly, I know, but also very real.
We know that 55% of our communication comes through nonverbal means. How much of what you are saying is expressed through your smile?
There was a recent study completed on how patients perceive a doctor who is wearing a face mask during a consultation. The study showed that it had a significant negative impact on the patient’s perceived lack of empathy from the doctor.
The key takeaway for me is that it was a PERCEIVED lack of empathy from the doctor. It wasn’t real, it was perceived. There wasn’t less empathy from the doctor, the patient just felt there was because they were not able to see the doctor’s reassuring smile.
We communicate so much to our students through our smiles. The mask is going to…well, it’s going mask it!
What that means, as we wear our masks while working with our students, we must use other communication skills that are available to us. Make sure to project your voice and enunciate your words so there are no misunderstandings. Make greater use of other nonverbal communication such as eye contact, body language, hand gestures, nodding, and moving your eyebrows. This is a great excuse to go get those eyebrows taken care of before returning to work!
The other important thing to mention is that masks work only if they are worn properly. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen in the grocery store that have their mask pulled down below their nose. That doesn’t help! Make sure the mask is secure and properly covers your nose and mouth. Put on and take off masks with clean hands in order to prevent cross-contamination. Touch only the strings and not the front of the mask.
So our new normal is going to be wearing a mask. OK, that is fine. We will wear our masks, we will adapt, and we will learn to communicate effectively while wearing our masks.
But let’s have some fun too!
I think there is some fun to found here. Look for the upside and make it enjoyable.
The last thing I want to mention is that this isn’t just about us as educators. You must teach your students to follow all these guidelines as well. Ensuring they are practicing high standards of infection control and client protection has never been more important. Stay on them about properly using personal protective equipment. Remind them daily that they are the professional and they have a responsibility to the community to help prevent the spread of disease, including the coronavirus.
As we head back into our schools and student salons, embrace the new normal. The last thing we want is to have to start over again with another quarantine. Welcome back to your new normal!