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Are You Killing Your Employees

Akshay Shetty

Mental Health is an undermined issue in most sectors, and the hospitality industry is no different. Long hours, lofty straining work environments and a need to be always on your toes can take a toll on the mental condition of even the most healthy minds! Then, to add to the misery comes the never-ending criteria of customer satisfaction. The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), states that people working in hospitality and food services have the highest rates of substance abuse disorders, at approximately 17 out of every 100 full-time employees. About 20 per cent of full-time industry employees are involved in illicit drug use. Heavy alcohol use is a prominent issue affecting roughly 12 per cent of employees.

survey of London chefs by the Unite report that 51% claim to suffer from depression due to being overworked, and approx. 27% said they drink alcohol to see them through their shift. Another survey conducted by The Caterer in 2018 revealed alarming statistics. 80% of respondents stated their work was stressful either sometimes or most of the time, while 51% said it was stress-inducing most or all of the time. Furthermore, 59% distinguished themselves as having psychological health problems at the moment, and 71% had encountered negative mental well-being at some point. Of these, 56% of respondents admitted their employer was unaware, corresponding with their finding that 70% feel there is a disgrace around mental health in the industry.

In the same year, a research conducted by The Benevolent established that 40% of hospitality workers had never addressed anyone at work about their mental health issues and 49% believed their organisation had no mental health support in place.

So, as bar managers & restaurant owners, what should you be doing to ensure your employees have the right mindset at work and are not facing any mental health issues?

Red Flags

Keeping an eye out for any signs that may lead to mental health problems is crucial. If you observe any of the following signs its time you address the issue sooner than later and have a personal conversation with your employee:

Tiredness and loss of energy

Complaining of sleeping problems

Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem

Changes in personality

Difficulty concentrating at work

Increase in errors

Not being able to enjoy things that are usually pleasurable or interesting

Avoiding other people

Loss of appetite and weight

Serve As A Model

Long hours of work and below-average salaries will aggregate the problem of mental health amongst your staff. In the worst-case scenario, they will quit leading heavy rotation of staff. Start by improving your staffing. Instead of making them work extra hours hire freelancers in case of absentees. Come up with a standard procedure to follow if anyone wants a day off without creating a fuss about it! Make sure your employees have an excellent work-life balance. Stop underpaying your staff and introduce a performance-based incentive program. There is no harm in having a little healthy competition amongst your team. You can also give yearly bonuses which is a common practice in Asia. Always be the person you would want to work for!

Invest Time In Your Employees

Time spent understanding people is never wasted.” — Cate Huston.

Treat your staff as employees, not workers. The more you communicate with your staff, the better you will be able to understand the problem and help them. Have an open-door policy to build confidence amongst your staff. Encourage them to share a word with you without hesitating. Provide them with appropriate training and use shadowing so the newbies can learn from those with experience. Introduce a mental health training program as a part of the onboarding process. Let your employees know that they can confide in you if they are facing any issues currently.

Additionally, provide them with time off or short breaks between working hours. The restaurant environment is usually loud and strenuous. Providing your staff with time offs and some quiet will help them concentrate on work better and keep your customers happy.

Staff Meals

Most restaurants provide meals prepared by leftover raw materials to their staff to avoid wastage. Though it’s easy on your pockets, providing healthy meals to your staff will make them feel appreciated and bring out an informal vibe to your work culture. Moreover, conducting your staff meetings during or after the meals can be a great way to bond with your staff. Staff meetings don’t have to be boring. Simple things like a funny story can go a long way to set a positive, fun tone for your session.

Treat your staff as your family, ask for their opinions and give your staff the freedom to make customers happy in their own way. Your staff is the first point of contact with your customers. Having an informal environment and letting your staff know that their opinion matters could be vital for their mental well-being and a long-running profitable business for you.


Provide your staff with valuable feedback about their work. Remember to start with all the positive things first and be open to getting feedback on things you can improve on. A little appreciation goes a long way to make your staff feel extraordinary. Lastly, treat your employees with respect.

Akshay Shetty