Are you OK? Mental health in the Hospitality Industry.

The Royal Society for Public Health found that in 2018, 84% of those working in Hospitality stated feeling increased stress as a direct result of their job.


Are you OK? No, seriously I mean are you really feeling OK right now?


The majority of us will have been cautiously checking and re-checking our health for months: is that cough something more than a tickle? The day you felt really exhausted and wondered if you had caught something? Is it Hay fever – it must be! Then there was the day you scratched your nose in the supermarket before remembering not to touch your face after searching for hand soap for an hour. Or for some of us knowing that we have been in direct contact with someone who has been diagnosed with Coronavirus or – worse still – lost a loved family member, friend or colleague to the virus.

So, I think it’s fair to say that due to one of the biggest world-wide pandemics in living memory, our health and wellbeing has been at the forefront of our minds……. or has it?

“Health” used to be listed simply in the dictionary as “the state of being free from illness or injury.” The modern interpretation is more complex and wide ranging: “a state of physical, mental and social well-being in which disease and infirmity are absent”. 

In spite of having a fairly good understanding of mental illness from both a personal and work perspective, when someone refers to “being in good health” I instantly think of someone that’s physically well! I might be presumptuous, but I would guess that I’m probably not the only one who thinks like this?

In the first week of lockdown, in between wondering when our Client’s venues will reopen and counting the loo rolls, I began to think not just about the economic impact on Hospitality, but more seriously about another hidden challenge to our population: a silent threat creeping up on us that we weren’t on the lookout for that didn’t start with ‘C”…….our Mental Health.

Now regardless of whether you work as a busy Manager in a bar, Chef in a pub, Bartender in a nightclub, CEO of a leisure group, or a Consultant to the industry – we all experienced an abrupt stop to our work existence as we knew it. One moment we were thundering along at our usual manic speed, planning Spring bank holiday weekends, summer events and roof top bar openings, then the next: BAM! Everything stopped, completely. Unless you could ‘chameleon’ your business into a takeaway, the majority of us had a “Closed due to Covid” sign hung on our doors.

The causes of mental health problems within the Industry are well known: long unsocial hours; low pay; high staff turnover; and an extremely busy, high-volume, high-stress environment. Particularly true of the late-night sector if you’ve been running an event that had thousands of party goers through the door until 4am! None of it an ideal environment for Zen like living and a good night’s sleep. And this was before Covid-19 reared its ugly head!

The unexpected and sudden break in our work routine was, initially at least, a welcome rest for many. But a sudden withdrawal from our daily routine, no matter how manic, meant weeks of loneliness and anxiety – particularly for those who live alone or away from loved ones. Add to this the loss of earnings, and anxiety levels were bound to increase, especially for those of us working in a high volume sector where doors to customers are still closed after five months.  

What’s the good news?

The good news is that for every £1 invested by businesses in the wellbeing of its employees, they will see a return of around £4. Supporting our colleague’s mental health is not only desirable in itself, but also sound commercial practice because it translates into fewer absences, happier and more productive staff, and an improved bottom line!

So, as we all pick up the pieces of our businesses post lockdown and restore our restaurants, bars, pubs and hotels, we must all be better at putting our people first. We have a moral obligation to look after the teams who work hard to give you their best every single day. They give us their weekends, their bank holidays, their social life, and their family time – they give their absolute all to us, and some who have lost loved ones or worry about shielding if they – or a relative – are in a higher risk category, will be even more anxious.

The very least we can do as Managers, Business owners, and Colleagues, is take the time to ask: “Are you OK?” And if not, ensure they get support and – crucially – a genuinely listening ear.

You can find out more about mental health wellbeing at Mind online. Mind provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing mental health problems.

Click here to find out more.

Dee Sturgess

Dee is an Associate Consultant for Bums on Seats and specialises in training. She is the Bums on Seats Mental Health Champion. Dee has spent over 20 years working in the Hospitality industry managing multiple venues and teams in both operations and sales.

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