On Wednesday I did something for the first time in 2021: I had a haircut… I had wanted to darken the doors of 6 Upper Goat Lane in Norwich for some months, but when I called Flint Hair in March to make an appointment I was dismayed to discover they had a three month waiting list.
My hour spent chez coiffeur provided me with an opportunity to think about any lessons I might learn from my lack-of-haircut experience.
First, it reminded me of the value of taking an hour from time to time to do nothing: to provide oneself with agenda-free space to think and see what comes to mind. This is often when I have some of my best ideas or simply benefit from the perspective it brings.
The fact that it had taken so long to get my hair cut also reminded me of the way in which it can be easy to prioritise the urgent over the important. There was never a day when having my Barnet chopped suddenly became a necessity, so it was easy for me to get on with other more pressing things until the point was reached when, frankly, things were little bit out of hand.
It was only after my cut that I realised my hair was starting to become something of an irritation to me. I’ve not been through some post-cut transformation in my productivity, but I think that at the margin there has been some imperceptible benefit.
From Flint’s perspective it is fortunate that they seem to have no shortage of clients, because I suspect I shall be visiting them less frequently in the future than I did pre-Covid. Incremental changes in consumer habits like this, when extrapolated across the economy, are doubtless costing many businesses whilst benefiting others.
Possibly the biggest difference for hair salons, however, is in changeover times. In the past a cutting station could be prepared for the next customer in about five minutes, but that changeover now takes closer to 15 minutes due to the various Covid-related protocols. That adds around an hour of ‘down time’ to the working day: one less booking with all that implies for the bottom line.
In addition, the salon now has higher costs for cleaning materials and additional protective equipment for both staff and customers. The layout of the cutting stations has also had to be changed to allow for greater space between each one, a challenge Flint has met ingeniously by finding new spaces into which to put stations.
So my hour in Flint gave me time to think, reminded me of the need to prioritise what’s important and pointed up the risks of not being alive to unchecked incremental changes. It also served as a reminder of the myriad ways in which the pandemic has changed businesses and required them to demonstrate adaptability and ingenuity.
My next appointment is on the 8th September – much better!