Mental Health Awareness Week gives us an important opportunity to stop, take time out and be mindful of the issues and indeed stigma’s surrounding so many people in our industry struggling with mental health problems.
The latest research by industry charity, Hospitality Action, found an alarming 80% of our workforce found their job to be stressful some or most of the time. Over half (51%) said their work was stressful all of the time. The charity believes the research reveals a ticking time-bomb beneath the UK hospitality industry, regarded by those in it as a fast, unrelenting and sometimes unforgiving place to be. The charity also cited that workers encountered pressure, adrenaline peaks and crashes, plus long hours, which it warns could make for a dangerous cocktail.
Talk to any operator and they’ll say the pressure on front, back and head office teams to deliver a consistent service and experience every day is hugely stressful and no easy feat. However, delivering a great experience should never be at the detriment of those who make it happen and it definitely shouldn’t be bad for anyone’s health. Stress = depression = anxiety, which are three of the key issues our industry faces.
Employers can go a long way towards creating an open and positive culture, one which ensures employees don’t struggle in silence and feel supported. We’re seeing some great examples set by the likes of Caravan Restaurants, Rick Stein and several other operators, who are striving to make the modern hospitality setting a more open, inclusive and inviting place to work.
Elsa De Jager, Head of People at Caravan, says: “The company actively champions mutual respect, inclusivity and diversity across front and back-of-house.” The operator believes creating a culture of teamwork and support among employees is key to supporting mental health. Elsa continues: “How can brands expect their team to excel at work, if they don’t feel good about themselves in their role and in their place in the business?”
Similarly, Rick Stein is another operator focused on supporting and nurturing his team. The company has dedicated part of its employee experience to the concept that “small things make a difference”. It offers staff accommodation when it can, rewards for long service and social events. The brand also actively promotes its Employee Assistance Programme provided by Hospitality Action, with a 24-hour helpline and resources to promote health and wellbeing within the industry.
Increasingly, employers are recognising the overwhelming pressures a career in hospitality can bring, and are actively seeking to balance those pressures with a more flexible and inclusive approach to work, whilst demonstrating empathy, understanding and providing access to help and advice.
Here are our top tips to creating a happier and more rewarding workplace:
At the start of each shift, operators should be asking managers to take a moment to connect with each member of staff to ask how they’re doing. Consider a pre-shift meal to get everyone talking and bonding. Operators need to take a top-down approach to leadership and ensure everyone gets a chance to check in.
Foster a warm, friendly environment and promote an open-door policy for employees to voice concerns with the reassurance of full confidentiality. Hospitality can be a stormy environment, which is part of its highs and lows. However, teams should know there’s a safe, supportive harbour when they need it.
Employees like to know when they’re doing a good job and operators should be loud and proud of each person’s achievements – on and off-shift. Owners and managers who take the time to acknowledge and say thank you for an employees contribution to the business, will be the ones reaping the benefits of a happy, contented workforce.