An Operator’s Guide to Looking After Your Employees’ Mental Health

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5 min read

May 31, 2023

An Operator’s Guide to Looking After Your Employees’ Mental Health

A Guest Blog by Kelly’s Cause

Hospitality is a fast-paced and often intense environment to work in. As an operator, it’s important to ensure you are prioritizing the mental health and well-being of your teams so they can succeed in these conditions.

Having happy, supported, and valued team members is also great for business. The more supported teams feel, the more engaged they will be, which can lead to improved productivity, motivation, and performance at work. Customers are also more likely to return to a venue where they have been met with a friendly and happy team.

Here is a guide to help you create a workplace that actively supports your team’s mental health and wellbeing:

Taking care of basic needs

The first thing to look at when creating a mentally healthy workplace is assessing if the basic needs of your team are being met. Are they able to get enough sleep? Are they able to eat well? Are they drinking enough water? 

The long hours, physical nature, and intensity of working in hospitality often mean that even our most basic needs aren’t being met. Working in hospitality often means we’re so busy feeding everyone else that we forget to feed ourselves, both literally and figuratively. As an operator, it is important to carve out time for your team to look after themselves both inside and outside of work. 

Some simple steps you can implement:

Healthy staff food is provided at consistent times, and there is a designated time for all staff to sit down and eat
Ensuring staff take breaks
Creating rotas and shift patterns that ensure people aren’t working back-to-back double shifts and have plenty of time to get a good night’s sleep in between shifts
Ensuring days off and holidays can be taken as completely undisturbed time away from work
Encouraging staff to regularly exercise and, if possible, providing gym memberships, yoga classes, or in-house exercise class options
Providing information and resources around the importance of sleep, exercise, and eating on an individual’s mental health

Create an environment in which people feel they can speak openly about their mental health.

Due to the stigma that persists around mental health, especially in hospitality, it is important to create a working environment where people feel they can openly speak about their mental health. The language we use to talk about mental health is one of the key ways that we can either add to or challenge stigma. We often use words like ‘crazy,’ ‘mental,’ and ‘nuts’ in our day-to-day vocabulary, but these words can add to the stigma people experiencing mental health conditions feel. Continually hearing these words used in a negative context can also prevent people from talking about their experiences of poor mental health or seeking support. Refraining from using these words and thinking carefully about the language we use around mental health can help challenge stigma at work. 

Another way to challenge stigma is by having leaders and managers within the business speak openly about their own mental health.This will demonstrate a level of vulnerability, which will help to build trust and allow others a safe space to open up. It is also important to foster a safe environment where confidentiality and privacy are respected and everyone is listened to. 

Once an environment where people feel comfortable to open up has been created, the next step is ensuring that active and non-judgmental listening is being practised. Listening is the most important part of communication, but it is often not something we learn to do very well.

Active listening involves asking open ended questions to encourage someone to speak freely, and listening without interrupting. Maintaining comfortable eye contact and appropriate body language can also help someone feel listened to, a nod or two can go a long way. Often we jump to sharing our own experiences as a way to connect with someone however this can actually prevent us from actively listening as we are thinking about our own experiences not those of the person we are listening to. 

Mental Health Training

Once people have been able to open up and share how they are feeling, you need to be equipped with the knowledge to signpost them towards appropriate mental health resources. This is where mental health training comes in. It’s vital to equip leaders, managers, and team members with the skills to support their own and others mental health. By providing mental health training such as Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) you are not only demonstrating a commitment to the wellbeing of your team but also equipping them with skills and knowledge that can literally save lives. 

Mental Health First Aid training is a practical, action-focused solution to create a mentally healthy workplace during which participants will learn the skills to spot the signs of poor mental health, the appropriate resources to signpost people towards, how to challenge stigma, and how to look after their own mental health. 

An investment in MHFA training is also an investment in your business, as it is estimated that for every £1 spent on mental health training, there is over a £5 return on investment (Deloitte, 2022). Considering it is estimated to cost over £1,000 to replace a team member at line level, and over £5,00 at management level it is far more effective to spend money on retaining the team you have by providing mental health support than having to recruit new members of staff.

Implementing a Mental Health Policy 

Along with mental health training, it is important to have a formal mental health policy in place. Just like a sickness, maternity, or harassment policy, a mental health policy demonstrates a commitment to your team’s wellbeing and ensures that provisions for support and expectations are outlined in writing. A mental health policy should outline the steps a business is taking to ensure they are creating a mentally healthy workplace, as well as what they expect of their team in looking after themselves and their colleagues. 

It should also highlight the importance of confidentiality, that mental health issues can be experienced by anyone, and the different avenues of support and resources available through the business and/or external organisations. 

Further Support

These are just a few steps operators can take to support the mental health of their employees. If you’d like to know more about creating a mentally healthy workplace, hospitality specific Mental Health First Aid training, or a mental health policy, please get in touch with our friends at Kelly’s Cause by emailing [email protected].

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