Why Mental Health Support is Critical in the Hospitality Industry

COVID-19 affected every person and industry, but few were hit harder than the world of restaurants. The guest is typically at the center of the experience in the hospitality industry, but there also needs to be an emphasis on our staff.

During the pandemic, our focus was largely placed on our physical health. Restaurants integrated PPE and enhanced sterilization efforts to limit the spread of germs and help prevent the spread of a dangerous disease. While this was critically important, such measures don’t address mental health needs.

With many employees were/are laid off or furloughed at the same time that owners and managers were/are struggling to keep their doors open, it’s important to consider the mental health toll these unprecedented times have taken on your team. The need to support the mental health and well-being of restaurant employees was amplified during the pandemic. This will need to be addressed long-term in the post-pandemic world.

Getting mental health support isn’t always easy for those who wish to pursue it. Demand for mental health support rose in 2020 since we were enduring a collective trauma. Many individuals didn’t have access to counselors or therapists. Additionally, many who may have wanted support had added anxiety about doing so during the pandemic when limiting contact with others was advisable. Seeking help can also be expensive, and with many out of work, this created a barrier to entry.

Thankfully, more resources are emerging for restaurant owners to help encourage and support their team’s mental health needs. For example, the National Restaurant Association’s partner UnitedHealth Group compiled a robust selection of FREE mental health resources for all restaurant industry employees to access.

How can you help spread the word about these options? Many of our clients have put up flyers highlighting free mental health resources around break rooms and other areas where staff congregate. Publicly backing these kinds of resources helps make them more approachable and helps to break down unnecessary stigmas surrounding mental health. Some have even implemented QR codes that link directly to resources– this makes it incredibly easy for team members to simply scan the code on their phones and get the support they need.

Some great options for hospitality-specific resources include:

  • Sanvello is the #1 app for stress, anxiety, and depression. Get all of the support you need to help improve your mental health — on your terms.
  • PatientsLikeMe is the world’s largest personalized health network. It helps people find new treatments, connect with others with similar experiences, and take action to improve their outcomes.
  • Ben’s Friends is a hospitality-focused substance-abuse support network. Ben’s Friends is the food and beverage industry support group offering hope, fellowship, and a path forward to professionals who struggle with substance abuse and addiction.
  • Active Minds offers resources to stay mentally healthy during this crisis time. It is the nation’s premier nonprofit organization supporting mental health awareness and education for young adults.

Other ways restaurant managers can help destigmatize mental health is to offer mental health days. Asking for days off can be scary but allowing your staff to take mental health days can help prevent burnout and give employees a needed break or chance to decompress. You can also explore options to improve physical wellness. For example, see if local gyms can offer group discounts for employees. Planning team happy hours during slower days can help boost morale, too.

Employees should feel safe and supported returning to work. Organizations like Red Flag Reporting exist to empower companies and their teams to detect and anonymously report unethical or unsafe behavior. Employees should feel empowered to report anything they deem questionable. Managers should also provide information for organizations like Red Flag so employees feel safe bringing red flags to light.

Proactive training is also beneficial. The California Restaurant Association offers a variety of trainings for supervisors and nonsupervisors on various relevant issues including sexual harassment. Conducting trainings and providing resources also helps prevent lawsuits. Workplace harassment comes in many shapes in sizes.

As the food and beverage industry ramps back up, there will be a lot of pivoting and adjusting to the “new normal.” There’s no one-size-fits-all way to do things; however, taking steps to create a safe environment will help your team and business thrive long-term.

Take care of your people so they can take care of your guests. Together we will create a better restaurant experience for everyone.

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