World Mental Health Day is an international campaign promoting better mental health by encouraging more conversations about mental health as well as increasing awareness of schemes designed to help those suffering.
Between juggling home and work lives with our own worries and pressures, life can feel really tough at times. And with a global pandemic in the mix, talking more about our mental health has never been more important.
Around one in six people report experiencing a mental health problem of some kind, like anxiety and depression, in any given week in England.
It’s a similar story for hospitality workers, with one in five suffering from work-related severe mental health issues according to statistics from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).
What’s more, around three-quarters have experienced verbal abuse from a customer, with two-thirds believing that the hospitality sector does not take care of its employees.
That’s why this World Mental Health Day we’re taking a look at the people responsible for providing hospitality from the heart.
What mental health challenges do hospitality workers face?
Think about the best holiday, weekend break or staycation you’ve had. What made it so special?
Your fellow travellers or a memorable day trip will probably feature high on the list, as will a particularly tasty evening meal.
But if you think a little harder, you may remember the friendly receptionist that gave you a warm welcome, the waiter that gave some great walking recommendations or the bar staff that went out of their way to make you your favourite cocktail.
It’s undoubtedly the little moments that can make or break a hotel stay – but while you might not think it from the smiley faces and personable service, working in hospitality can be extremely high-pressure and fast-paced.
“One of the best analogies I can think of for a hospitality professional is the comparison to a swan,” says Lee Melton, Head of People for Coaching Inn Group. “To any onlooker, they appear graceful, elegant and full of poise, however, beneath the surface, their legs go into overdrive to ensure the swan stays afloat.”
Though our teams work hard to exceed guests’ expectations, a goal they achieve the vast majority of the time, occasionally things don’t go to plan.
“This has a profound effect on our team members,” says Lee. “We work with people that are passionate and truly care.
“Add a guest that has had a disappointing experience to the high-pressure situation mentioned before and it can affect a finely balanced situation.”
Of course, with coronavirus restrictions and lockdowns shuttering business across the country, these last 18 months have been very different for everyone.
Hospitality professionals tend to be highly sociable people. Not only do they work in tightly-knit teams, but they are used to interacting with all kinds of people from all walks of life every day.
“To take someone with that mindset and put them in the situation we found ourselves in during lockdown is tough,” Lee explains. “We very quickly went from 100 miles per hour to a standstill and I think it hit everyone hard.
“What made this situation worse was the multiple times we came out of a lockdown to then go back into one, every time there was light at the end of the tunnel, we were suddenly set back.”
What help is there for hospitality workers suffering from poor mental health?
It can be difficult to talk about mental illness with a trusted friend or family member, never mind an employer, and because it can often hide behind a smile, it’s hard to know if someone is struggling or not.
Within an industry like hospitality, where the day-to-day pressures are often high and constant smiling is needed, issues are even more likely to be missed.
Because of this, the responsibility for promoting mental health awareness and opening the channels of communication lies on the employer’s shoulders.
In order to effectively deal with a wide range of mental health issues and help employees feel comfortable and able to speak up, the Coaching Inn Group works in cooperation with Hospitality Action.
Hospitality is a 24/7 industry, so Hospitality Action is on hand to offer 24/7 services including counselling and emotional support lines, debt and financial management and whistleblowing.
Alongside Hospitality Action’s Employee Assistance Programme, we also ensure that employees have access to mental health awareness workshops and financial wellbeing support, as well as a good work-life balance.
“For us, it is a constant process,” explains Lee. “We cannot just put an initiative in place and think that is a job well done. We are always reviewing and evaluating, ensuring that any strategies we put in place are effective and are having the outcome that we are aiming for.
“We believe that we are a progressive company that can offer a workplace environment that our team members can feel safe, comfortable and supported in, but that is ever-evolving and we will continue to innovate and deliver so that our team members can enjoy their work as well as their home life.”
You can find out more about Hospitality Action here.