During the pandemic, we were confined to our homes, hanging off every new announcement from the government, praying to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The pandemic left people feeling lonely and understandably anxious for the future, seeing a rise in numbers suffering from mental health. Now the pandemic is over, is the number of those suffering from mental health reducing? Evidence suggests not.
Regrettably, we are seeing the aftereffects of the pandemic in terms of inflation and the cost-of-living crisis. Gas and electric prices have soared leaving some people simply unable to heat their homes throughout the winter months. The stress and anxiety that the cost-of-living crisis is having on us as a nation, is enormous. The NHS being free health care and the primary mental health care provider to the many, is dangerously close to collapse, so where does that leave people who are fighting their own demons? Are they waiting three or four months to see a health care professional to get the help they need?
We should ask ourselves if there is more we can do as an industry to look after our people in a time of mental health crisis. The hospitality industry by nature, requires employees to work long hours of being socially present and delivering customer service to guests. It can be exhausting. Research has shown that the power of community and a sense of belonging and meaning is so powerful in reducing mental health issues. Employers can formulate a structure in the workforce that focuses on their sense of community, and making each employee feel valued and meaningful in their job, helping them to feel a sense of purpose. Weekly meetings with employees checking how they are feeling with the workload and whether they are needing any more support would lay the foundations for an open, trustworthy relationship between employer and employee. Creating a safe space of openness is an important structure that can assist in understanding your employees, in order to recognise when they may need more support. By the leaders and managers of the hospitality industry being open and honest about any personal experiences with mental health it can demonstrate to employees that their leaders are brave, human and relatable. In other words, it is a way to set a encouraging example that we should all be able to share our personal struggles with others. Implementing more training in mental health for managers within hospitality is imperative in tackling the mental health crisis in the workplace. With more training, managers would be able to know the signs of when an employee is struggling in order to be able to interject and offer the necessary support.
Burn-out is a conceptualised syndrome that us humans can experience from excessive mental, physical and emotional stress. Most often understood as ‘occupational burn-out’, however athletes within sport similarly can suffer burn-out. Coaches in sport regularly mention burn-out to their athletes as they know once you have reached this level of exhaustion, it can take a month of no training, to return to ‘normal’ levels within our body, both emotionally and physically. Therefore, together coaches and athletes must constantly be open, honest and reactive about whether training must be adapted in order to protect their wellness and avoid burn-out. Afterall, taking time out due to burn-out will only hinder sport performance, leaving you in the dust behind competitors. Comparably, in this way, the hospitality industry is very similar to sport. Managers must work together with their employees to avoid burn-out. Otherwise, as a business you may be faced with the consequences of higher sickness days, presenteeism, high turnover, and lower productivity. This is when offering a more flexible, healthy work-life balance as a progressive approach will in turn protect employee’s wellness whilst simultaneously driving productivity and revenue up.
“If you do not take time for your wellness, you will be forced to take time for your illness.” – Joyce Sunada