Hospitality Action on protecting workers' mental wellbeing

Mark Lewis, chief executive at Hospitality Action, shares his advice for hospitality workers on how to effectively recognise and manage anxiety during challenging times

The implications of the pandemic have completely transformed how hospitality businesses operate; for those working in the industry, this means adapting to significant long-term changes, which not only affect their careers but daily lives as well.

With government advice constantly changing as the situation evolves, there is still a lot of uncertainty ahead for workers in the industry. The feeling of powerlessness in a new situation can be difficult to manage and it’s normal to experience feelings of anxiousness, to some degree.

Added financial strain, worries about job security, maintaining relationships and even grief, brought about by the pandemic, have the potential to significantly impact our mental health. What’s more, for those with pre-existing mental health issues, these feelings can easily become heightened.

Acknowledgement has to come first. Anxiety can manifest itself in many forms and before being able to manage or alleviate anxiety, the first step is being able to effectively recognise it. Key signs to watch out for are: continual worry, feelings of dread or fear, irritability, poor concentration and sleep disturbance. A full list can be found here.

Careful management can help keep feelings of anxiety at bay. It can be difficult to remove anxiety completely during the pandemic, but it can be controlled in a number of ways. These include:

  • Stay informed: It’s important to be empowered by knowledge, without letting it consume us. Try limiting news intake to certain time periods in the day and ensure you’re following reputable sources of information.
  • Be open: If you’re suffering with feelings of anxiety, tell someone about it – whether that’s family, friends or co-workers, whoever feels most comfortable. This is especially pertinent in a work environment as it can bring people together. By encouraging an open dialogue within a team, you might find that others are sharing the same concerns, which can be a great comfort in times of difficulty.
  • Be sure to take breaks at work: We all know how easy it can be to work through our lunch break or stay late when we are stressed and busy. Try to avoid overworking and ‘burning out’. Time in the working day should be kept sacred for breaks, getting some fresh air, enjoying a meal and staying hydrated by drinking water regularly.
  • Practice healthy habits to stay resilient: Take responsibility for looking after yourself by getting enough rest, exercise, staying nourished and hydrated. What’s more, remember to keep talking to others to help build a support network for you and others around you.

Finally, it’s important to remember that we’re all in this together. By having the right tools to look after our own mental health, as well as those around us, the industry can pull together to weather this storm.

Mark Lewis collaborated with Brita Professional to share this advice on recognising and managing anxiety. 

Brita Vivreau’s head of key accounts Rebecca Fairfield adds why it is important to maintain your working environment to avoid stress in the kitchen:

"During stressful periods, it’s easier than ever to let regular jobs and processes fall by the wayside," she says. "Be sure to keep on top of equipment maintenance so that it doesn’t cause breakdowns and limited efficiency further down the line, leading to stress and frustration.

"In fact, Brita Professional’s research highlighted staff shortages and unreliable equipment as the biggest factors which contribute to a pressured working environment. So much so that 70% of hospitality workers feel stressed in the kitchen and for 41%, this is a daily occurrence."