Blog “Mental Health Awareness – what makes hospitality a stressful environment?”

By Esther

Blog “Mental Health Awareness – what makes hospitality a stressful environment?”
Panel event hosted by Mark Lewis CEO Hospitality Action (a force for good helping hospitality staff in crisis). HR in hospitality event Thursday 17 May 2018 (Esther O’Halloran)

Hosted in collaboration with charity partner Hospitality Action at the Royal Lancaster London
I was sat next to an amazing volunteer Denise Haugh who has volunteered for Hospitality Action since 1976 she has fully supported the charity since then and continues to do so today. Mark Lewis shared some interesting statistics on our industry to provide context to the discussion.
1. Is your job a stressful one? Only 5% said rarely, over 50% said most of the time!
2. 34% said colleagues had suffered stress and 33% were resigned to it, it is part and parcel of working life!
3. Has stress increased in your organisation over the last 3 years? Over 70% said yes!
4. When asked the main cause of employee stress 76% said work pressures
So, are we creating a pressure cooking that is about to boil over?

Here are some of the key messages that resonated with me and our HR audience from the panel;

Do you have the right work structures?: Sally Beck, General Manager of the Royal Lancaster London recognises we are a 24 hour business that does not stop, shift work and late nights are the norm, but over the years expectations of 12-15 hour shifts are diminishing. Look at your structures, something is wrong if it requires those long hours. Hawksmoor HRM, Sofia Gassne says they have worked hard to drive a culture of 52 hours maximum and they do not allow a “Hell’s Kitchen” environment to emerge in their restaurants.

Building a culture of trust: 39% cite poor management as a cause for stress! It is a pity that GP’s cannot simply sign a prescription for “get a better boss”! Take the fear out of discussions introduce mediation as an approach with disciplinary action being a last resort. Both the Royal Lancaster and Hawksmoor have trained their managers to mediate to resolve difference or conflict and creating a culture of trust has made a massive difference. Once managers are really on side and open to talking you will find that the number of disciplinaries will drop significantly. Take the stance and insist they sign a trust contract after mediation.

Is hospitality any different to other sectors? Karen Archer MD at Law Express sees a greater prevalence in mental health issues being brought into work conversations. It may not always be stress at work it is often what goes on behind the scenes at home that can tip into the workplace. It is good to know the sector is no different to other sectors. In the service industry you are ‘programmed’ to help others and no often ask for help for yourself. Home and work overlap, life is complex and the world of work is changing so you need to know what goes on behind the scenes in your employees lives, what are they worried about, what is bothering them that can impact on their work. Set up support mechanisms that can help them.

How can you identify that tipping point? Training is critical, we promote people into management but do not fully prepare them to take that step up. Managers are in a powerful position if they can spot those early signs. Prevention is often better than cure. You need to get buy in form leaders to raise awareness of EAP and hw that can support employees and managers do not wait for a crisis to happen.

Is there an age difference to stress? Levels of depression are high among young men the social fabric of the millennial generation and the new digital natives or IGen (I want, I need, I must have, IPhones!) has added a different dimension to stress in the workplace. How will you deal with employees who expect to have their phones with them 24/7 when you inform them to put it away in their locker? How will you deal with their expectations that they will be head of the department within 6 months of joining at entry level? Adopt work practices and approaches that consider the needs of the next generation and how you will manage them.

So the key takeaways Mark and the panel gave us to think about mental wellbeing were;
1. Mind healthy = Mind wealthy: Work to remove the stigma still associated with mental health
2. Trust: acknowledge and share to build trust
3. Conversations: Create moments where honest frank open conversations happen.
4. EAP: Our advice is make sure you have one and promote it in your workplace
5. Watch: Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace, they are tough to manage and are accused of being entitled and narcistic YouTube video clip
6. Read: Mark Lewis blog on the HA website ‘Recovery through positivity’ a story of a young hospitality worker at Le Manoir getting back on track.