Looking after your team's mental health as hospitality reopens

After months of lockdown, hospitality has finally restarted dine-in services. How can you support your teams as they get used to a new way of working? 

As part of our #TakeTwenty Instagram live sessions we spoke to members of the FairKitchens community for advice on looking after each other, and ourselves.

What can I do as a manager?

"This is a really good chance for employers to normalise mental health conversations and find opportunities to ask people ‘hey, is everything alright?’ 

“Work can be a full on, adrenalin-fuelled place where people might not be comfortable having emotional conversations. It's about getting that culture in place of asking after each other. Slowly but surely building that sense that there is a will to listen.”

“Everybody is feeling disconcerted by what’s going on. We need to show flexibility to our team members. As employers we can’t necessarily expect that they can work in the way that they have done in the past.”

Mark Lewis, CEO, Hospitality Action

How can I spot if a team member is struggling?

“With the majority of people, anxiety and depression shows itself in the way people hold themselves, their ability to communicate, the way they talk. Or they’re looking down a lot and giving short ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers and not wanting to engage in conversation.”

“These are the times that you want to start asking open-ended questions. Stuff they can’t just say a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to. And then you need to really listen.”

“Don’t try and diagnose people’s problems. Don’t say ‘oh this is probably happening because of this’. Just say ‘ok’ and then ask ‘what can we at work do to help?’. Then, try and encourage them to seek outside help. We’re chefs, don’t try to be a therapist if you’re not one, it doesn’t help!”

Chef Doug Sanham, Pilot Light Campaign

How can I look after myself?

Looking after your team starts with looking after yourself. As well as starting each shift full of energy, managers who prioritize their own wellbeing set an example for everyone they work with.

“Mental health, anxiety, depression - it’s not just a mental thing, it affects you hugely physically too. So understand that you’ve got to calm that self within.”

“I used to use HeadSpace, which is an app you can download and allows you to meditate. Podcasts work well for me too. If I listen to a podcast, it can calm me down a bit, I’m distracted by something. This can be done sitting on the train or in the break room before a shift. There are little things you can do subtly for yourself to relax.”

Mitchell Collier, Duty Manager, Belmond Cadogan Hotel

Mental health support

Hospitality Action runs an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) offering independent and confidential support services to hospitality professionals whose employers are signed up.

This offers 24/7 support and consultations with clinicians specialising in a variety of mental and physical health issues. Its range of benefits includes personal counselling, legal guidance, addiction support, debt and money advice, parenting helpline, elder care helpline and a whistle-blowing service. Created by hospitality people, for hospitality people the EAP already supports over 130,000 industry professionals. Employers can find out more about signing up here.