Five ways to support your hospitality staff - The Mind Map
By Ellis Toner

Five ways to support your hospitality staff

One in five hospitality workers will suffer from work-related mental health issues.

Published 07/09/2021
According to the mental health charity Mind, approximately one in four people within the UK will experience a mental health difficulty each year. And of course, hospitality workers aren’t exempt.

In-fact, a survey of more than 1,100 UK employees found that 70% said they feel overworked, and 45% have taken time off work due to stress in their career

Depression is also very common among hospitality workers: Food preparation and serving workers have highest prevalence rate of all types of hospitality workers.

Their mental health may be poor because of the heavy workload, long and unsociable working hours, and fear of failure.

Despite their poor mental health, many UK hospitality workers do not reach out for help, which may cause or exacerbate mental health problems.

One reason UK hospitality workers do not ask for help help is shame about having mental health problems.

Indeed, hospitality workers are expected to work efficiently under stress.

Experiencing mental health problems has real stigma attached in such a fast paced industry.

When absent for mental health problems, fewer than half of employees would be honest with their employer about the real reason for their absence (Kuhn, 2012).

Shame not only causes people to avoid accessing support, but is also related to other mental health problems

The Emotional Demands of Hospitality Work

Hospitality work is unquestionably emotionally demanding.

Many hospitality workers have direct contact with customers, which requires quick responses, quality service and a customer first attitude.

Of course they also have to deal with thoughtless or abusive customers, while maintaining a publicly observable, calm demeanour.

This ‘emotional labor’ (i.e., a type of labor that demands a worker to suppress a certain feeling in order to maintain an acceptable facade) is a big cause of occupational stress and burnout.

Working long and anti-social hours causes more depression than working regular hours and shift work at random times is very common in the hospitality industry and also contributes to poor mental health.

Depression is prevalent among hospitality workers, food preparation and serving-related occupations (e.g. chefs, bartenders, hosts/hostesses) and hospitality office and administrative support workers.

Hospitality is a less stable type of employment.

Workers report having less control over work environment and processes, lower income, and less benefits than other types of employment

Instability is a notable characteristic of the hospitality industry.

Indeed, unstable employment contributes to the recruitment problems within the hospitality industry:

This type of precarious, casual, and temporary employment of hospitality industry staff was reported to cause mental health problems.

Nestlé conducted a survey. They found that eight in ten chefs have experienced poor mental health at some point throughout their  their career.

48% of chefs believe the support offered to their mental health and wellbeing in the workplace is insufficient.

Top contributions to stress in their role included staff shortages, lack of time, pressure and limited budgets to stick to.

Furthermore, many kitchen areas do not have windows. Lack of natural light can also greatly affect a person’s wellbeing in a negative way.

Those working in hospitality also tend towards addictions, as a way of coping, such as alcohol, as an unhealthy coping tool to deal with the stress of their day to day role.

A professional kitchen is a demanding environment. It thrives on adrenalin, busy services, fast movement.

In part, this is the appeal of choosing a career in hospitality for many people –  yet it is also the contributing factor to developing poor mental health and other wellbeing issues.

Poor work-life balance, extended hours at low pay and tension and shouting in the kitchen are just some contributing factors to everyday stress for those in the hospitality industry.

Working in hospitality is a challenging profession.  It demands a unique skill set, resilience and great mental focus.

The word hospitality comes from the same origins as hospital.

It essentially means taking care of people with goodwill – whether they are guests in your home or in a professional environment such as in a hotel, restaurant or cruise ship or anywhere else that receives guests and visitors.

As-well as doing a job to high standards, hospitality staff also have to consistently put the needs of their clients before their own.

The aim is to put your client’s needs before your own.

Whether you’re a waiter, chef, barman, hotel receptionist or working in any other hospitality position, you are expected to provide service with a smile.

This is expected no matter how long your hours are, or how pressured your job is. This can obviously be extremely difficult.

If not looked after hospitality workers can find mental health issues worsening quickly.

Early intervention and support and proper preparation for this kind of job is essential.

So is discussion and openness between colleagues, managers and staff at all levels.

What about hospitality training? Does it prepare you for the mental pressure of the job?

Many workers will have undergone training courses to comply with the technical aspects of this industry

However this does not prepare you emotionally.

The pressures of the hospitality industry can make this an extremely challenging career path indeed.

Many people working in the hospitality industry suffer from anxiety, stress and depression.

Many others just burnout completely and leave the industry.

So, what can be done? Mental Health First Aid training is a great starting point.

Those that work in hospitality often enjoy the environment, and the interaction with others.

Often, staff are accepting of the fact that the challenges the role can bring are a normal part of the hospitality work life.

Thankfully however, more and more organisations are recognising the link between a good working environment and contented staff.

Measures introduced have included installing open kitchens to encourage a more harmonious work environment, paid overtime and openly discussing mental health issues in the kitchen.

Our MHFA courses encourage awareness, compassion, and discussion, in the workplace, as well as imparting crucial knowledge. To browse our courses click here.

The Royal Society for Public Health estimates that 1 in 5 hospitality workers will suffer from work-related
severe mental health issues.

In fact it is highly likely that everyone reading this article is working alongside someone who is experiencing a mental health issue of some kind.

Five steps you can take:

There are no straightforward solutions, but here are some great constructive and positive steps to guarantee you are supporting your staff.

1) Make a commitment

Ensure that there is transparent commitment from the senior team members that mental health matters in the workplace.

Confirm with them that they will strive to encourage good mental health, support those who need it and tackle any stigma or judgemental attitudes.

2)Make it clear

A company should assess the mental health needs of all its employees.

This will help them to understand where improvements are needed.

It is also essential in order to identify clear objectives for development. This is beneficial for staff, and the business.

3) Create a positive work culture

Ensure that the workplace environment encourages the promotion of healthy behaviours.

Ensure it restricts the potential for it to cause ill health.

Systems in place, such as risk assessments, can help and reduce stress in the long term.

Meanwhile, check job roles and responsibilities regularly, to be sure that they are appropriate and help your staff to be at their most productive.

4) Provide the right support

Managers should be trained and feel confident in how to handle sensitive conversations around mental health.

MHFA training can do just that. Check out our courses here.

The business should also be prepared to make any reasonable and fitting adjustments to work patterns, for anyone experiencing struggles with their mental health.

5) Help people recover

Any hospitality worker who experiences ill health and has to take time off work should be fully supported.

This is necessary if they are to make a speedy and appropriate return.

Adjustments should be made for when they do return to work if needed.

Regular contact with their manager will enable them to feel supported long term and colleagues who are educated and aware about mental health will provide a great environment for recovery to happen in.