Mental Health and Hospitality: Promoting that we care


Mental Health and Hospitality: Promoting that we care

Mental Health and Hospitality: Promoting that we care

The stats around mental health say a lot: as many as one in four British workers are affected by conditions like anxiety, depression and stress every year, according to the Time to Change campaign. Yet 95% of employees would prefer to call in sick with a made-up reason, rather than reveal the truth about their poor mental health.

Those figures have taken on a new meaning for me following a life-changing incident at work a couple of years ago. Without going into detail out of respect for those affected by it, the event prompted me to not only have a greater awareness of my own mental health, but also the wellbeing of my colleagues and friends with whom I come into contact with on a daily basis.

I like to think that HGEM has always been a people-friendly place to work; an environment where people can be honest with each other and share their personal thoughts and experiences.

But my own traumatic experience, together with an utterly inspiring course I recently attended on managing mental health in the workplace, has taught me that we can’t afford to be passive when it comes to our mental wellbeing. As an employer, we have a duty to make ourselves available to staff for support, whenever they need it or choose to seek it.

Practice what you preach

On a daily basis, we encourage our clients to take care of their teams as they are their USP and the reason that guests return and at HGEM we are no different. We recognise how important our people are and therefore how important it is to ensure we care for both their physical and mental wellbeing every day.

So, following a 2-day course, run by Bath Mind, I hosted a day with the senior management team at HGEM, teaching them amongst other things about ‘active listening’.

Active listening requires the listener to fully concentrate, understand, respond when needed and then remember what is being said. As I’ve said before, it’s so easy to be ‘elsewhere’ mentally when somebody is talking to you – we’re all busy, after all – and dismiss what they’re saying or not fully engage with the conversation.

But we can’t afford to be so flippant. It takes bravery and courage to speak about what’s troubling us – the least we can do is listen.

Extending the challenge

I’m proud to say that the senior managers have embraced the challenge, as I knew they would. They’ve started rolling out our mental health peer support programme to their teams, so that everybody knows that this signposting service is available to them and they can speak to someone, at any time, in complete confidence. The management team are best placed to notice any changes in behaviour in their teams as they work so closely together.

Since the rollout, people have reported back to me about how much they appreciate the supportive, caring environment that they work in. One employee even went as far as to say that no one, not even a family member had ever asked about their mental health before and that it was remarkable for an employer to recognise this as important and take action to do this for their staff.

I think this is the start of a new era for HR professionals and so I now extend the challenge to you. The hospitality industry especially is littered with people struggling with exhaustion, which is often the first sign of anxiety and depression. They, as much as anyone, need a safe and open environment where they feel comfortable getting the necessary support and advice.

Initially, all they’re asking for is somebody who will listen. Remember, they’re not expecting you to have all the solutions but what they do need is empathy and time.

Back to Blog