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Mental Health and Hospitality: Are you doing enough?

Lisa Chambers

Mental ill health costs UK businesses up to £42 billion each year. Long and often unsociable hours means that sustainability of health has always been an issue in the hospitality industry. And with increasing numbers of staff announcing they have mental health issues, this is a frontline topic that needs addressing urgently – by both individuals and employers within the industry.

In the past, the implications of poor mental health in the workplace would barely have been considered. But we’re now moving into a new world, and I think it’s great that we’re starting to explore the issue so that we can take steps to address it. The health of our respective businesses and employees depends on us taking the right action.  

I’ve always been interested in mental health – and that instinct to help people was heightened recently after attending a course on managing mental health in the workplace.

The course, jointly run by Bath Mind and law firm Royds Withy King, took place on 10 October 2018, which marked ‘World Mental Health Day’.

The morning session was about raising our awareness to mental health – spotting the signs and symptoms of ill health, and how to support and manage staff experiencing stress – and then in the afternoon we looked at our legal obligations as an employer.

Exercising ‘active listening’

Both sessions were extremely helpful – it was fascinating to share real-life examples and discuss how we went about providing support to staff.

One aspect of the day that really stuck with me was the exercise on active listening. Active listening requires the listener to fully concentrate, understand, respond when needed and then remember what is being said.

With so much going on in our lives, both at work and at home, it’s easy to mentally dismiss things and say to ourselves ‘I haven’t got time for that in my brain today’. However, when someone is brave enough to come and speak to you about something that’s affecting them, it’s crucial that you don’t ignore, dismiss or even interrupt them.

Let them talk. And instead of telling them what to do, guide them.

We’re now looking at training all our managers in how to exercise active listening, so that they can support their teams. Sure, we do a lot on the employee wellbeing front already – we offer yoga, flexible working, gym memberships etc, and we try to manage everybody’s workloads effectively – but we can all do more when it comes to listening.  

Banning mobile phones

One of the wellbeing initiatives discussed on the day was banning mobile phones in the workplace. It’s undoubtedly a contentious issue, with some believing a ban could help eliminate unnecessary distractions and take away a certain amount of stress, while others suggest it can cause something called ‘nomophobia’ – which is simply short for ‘no mobile phobia’.

A couple of people at the workshop said that they had implemented a mobile phone ban in their companies and that it really helped employees focus and be more productive with their working day. Employees actually stated that it was a relief.

I wondered if it helped employees switch off from work at home, too. Four in ten people check work emails at least five times a day outside of working hours and almost a third say remote access to work means they can never fully switch off*.

We never ask anybody here to have their emails on their phone, but that isn’t to say they haven’t set their devices up to receive them because they want to. It’s become a part of the always-on culture that we all live our lives by, but it can be unhealthy.

Historically, the hospitality industry has had a bad reputation for asking employees to work long hours and ‘put on a brave face’ to customers when they’re exhausted. While it might not always be able to offer flexible working or workplace yoga to help take some of the stress of the job away, it’s certainly capable of listening.

If you want to gauge how happy your employees are, listen to them, and if you wish, you could then get in touch with our team on 01225 470999 or enquiries@hgem.com, to discuss how our employee engagement surveys could benefit your business.

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