One staff member with mental health problems can affect your whole organisation, so it’s better to take a holistic approach, says Kieran Waite
In 2018, as part of its Open Minds campaign, The Caterer conducted a survey that concluded that more than 78% people had experienced mental health issues while being part of the hospitality industry.
In my experience, change is one of the biggest triggers for anxiety and the nature of hospitality means there is high staff turnover and every day is different. If your employee is facing a mental hurdle, there is a ripple effect. First, he or she will be affected; second, the team is affected by that unhappy person; and third, your business will be impacted.
Like many other operators, we recognise the importance of wellbeing in our industry and we are introducing reactive solutions to the problems associated with mental health. We’re adding a mental health first aid course to our training programme for all seniors across the group, working both front and back of house. The course teaches managers to help staff with anxiety, depression and stress in the workplace, and how to recognise when a member of staff is suffering and how to talk to them – the most important step to finding a solution.
When we identify that a member of our team is suffering, we ask them about their alcohol and caffeine consumption, exercise routine, sleep deprivation, food habits and work-life balance before we collaboratively come up with a solution. This approach has gained good results so far, which is very rewarding.
However, anxiety and depression are big issues that need more help than just a good night’s sleep, so we’re also trying to be proactive about wellbeing. There is obviously a difference between how people approach it. We have many millennials working across our Bristol sites who are conscious about their wellbeing, but it’s not so easy for everybody and self-care takes work.
As operators, we might actually be the real perpetrators. As we are inherently hospitable, we like to give our team meals or, more often than not, a drink after their shift. But is this contributing to the problem? Being a good boss requires a careful approach, and maybe that doesn’t mean giving out staff drinks. If you give a drink to your team after every shift, you are buying them alcohol five times a week. And then what do many of them do on their days off?
We have calculated how much we have been spending on staff drinks and we are transferring that money to wellbeing. We’re looking into lots of options to re-invest it, from yoga to boxercise classes and organic vegetable boxes. Wellness needs to be part of the bigger company focus, especially if you want your business to flourish. If the people who work with you cannot rise above their mental obstacles, how can your company profit? It goes back to happy staff, happy business.
Kieran Waite is co-director of the Season + Taste Group