How hospitality businesses can look after staff wellbeing

Article in partnership with PerkBox

As we enter a period of time where consumer demand increases hospitality business, there’s lots for businesses to think about. Top of the list should be the wellbeing of their people. To paraphrase a famous saying: “Ask not what your employees can do for you, but what you can do for your employees.”

Working in hospitality can be a demanding job at the best of times, but when there’s high demand, the pressure on employees - both physical and mental - can escalate.

Employee wellbeing has become a much bigger focus these days, and many businesses reading this will know how important it is to take care of their staff.

At Perkbox, we work with businesses across the globe to help them care for, connect with and celebrate their people. Wellbeing is a core part of this, and here are a few tips that may help you during this busy season.

Show wellbeing isn’t just an add-on

It’s important that your business has a very visible culture of wellbeing. Employees need to know that you take this seriously. As with all things culture related, this needs to be embedded throughout the business.

Employees need to feel comfortable discussing any challenges they’re having — so why not get managers and senior staff members to set the tone? Get them to be open about any wellbeing challenges they’ve personally had, and reinforce the fact that it’s okay to ask for help. This can have a major impact on the rest of the business.

When it comes to mental health support, make it clear who your staff can turn to. Managers are an obvious port of call, but see if there are any trained Mental Health First Aiders within the ranks. If not, try and get a couple trained up. Some employees will find it easier to talk to a peer, rather than a manager, so cover all bases.

Provide structure

The relationship between line managers and their staff is always key, but even more so during a time where employee anxiety levels could be heightened. Many of them are probably already thinking about the challenges that lie ahead, such as managing big crowds and demanding customers.

It’s easy for managers to think about commercial and revenue related things — but their people come first. Get them to implement team huddles at the start of each day, with regular individual check-ins throughout the day. Even if it’s just a quick five minute chat, it can provide some structure amongst all the challenges.

It’s also important that shifts and breaks are properly planned and communicated well in advance. Of course, you’ll always need to be flexible — but people will be more comfortable if they know exactly when they are and aren’t working. This in turn reduces people having ‘fear of the unknown’ and gives them the peace of mind of knowing they’ll have a chance to relax and catch their breath.

It’s also good from a team morale perspective. It’s not uncommon for tensions to flare up over who should be covering someone’s area, and when breaks are supposed to be taken. By getting ahead of the game and communicating clearly, you reduce these tensions — and let’s face it, that’s good for your wellbeing as well as theirs!

Create a comfortable and welcoming environment

You’ll probably spend a lot of time thinking about the environment from a customer point of view. What layout will maximise footfall? What will look most attractive to people? How quickly can you clean up spillages?

But what about the staff environment? Whether you have a small area for them to take breaks, or perhaps a full on canteen, it’s important to realise that this will be their sanctuary. It’s where they’ll start and finish their shifts, and most likely where they’ll go to take some time out.

Try and get as much natural light in as possible. This is proven to help with people’s physical and mental health. An area for socialising is great as well. It doesn’t need to be packed with games consoles and pool tables - just somewhere comfortable where people can relax and talk will do the trick.

You could also get some plant life in the area. These can improve people’s moods and stress levels, and you can find something to suit no matter how big or small your workspace is.

Provide healthy food and drink for all employees. Things like fresh fruit, fresh juice and smoothies will help them feel good before they get back to work.

To really go the extra mile, you could also have a designated nap area, for people to rest and recharge before going again.

Educate employees

It’s important to be honest and upfront — busy times can lead to things like workplace stress. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Acknowledge it and then help employees prevent it. A key part of this is signposting them to educational resources.

Examples include online webinars or useful brochures. See if you can get an expert in at some point to speak to employees about ways to alleviate stress.

Line managers should also be trained to spot the signs of things like burnout and anxiety, so they can be proactive.

Offer wellbeing solutions

Education is great, but tangible solutions are even better. We gave some examples earlier in terms of providing structure and a good quality environment, but wellbeing benefits should also be a key part of your toolkit.

Look for things that are comprehensive and cover physical and mental wellbeing.

Now, a big misconception about benefits is that they’re things the business needs to administer and constantly stay on top of. But this isn’t necessarily true. With today’s tech savvy workforce, it’s often a case of giving them a variety of tools which they can use as they see fit. When it comes to something quite personal like wellbeing, this is often the best option.  

For example, there are plenty of apps out there which help with anxiety and general mental health — why not provide free or discounted access to them? Similarly, can you offer free or subsidised access to counselling or membership at your local gym?

There are also guides and audiobooks which help people with challenges like stopping smoking or losing weight. Again, you can provide the tools and promote them, but your people have the freedom to choose.

Celebrate your people

Recognition is a powerful tool at any time of the year. But during a high pressure period, it becomes a very useful way to look after your staff. It enhances their motivation and gives them an all-important ‘pick-me-up’ which can help mental wellbeing.

Before employees start their shifts, why not give them something small like a box of chocolates, along with a personal note thanking them for their upcoming efforts? This gives them a boost just when they need it. Alongside this, you can also give them something like a stress ball. Not only is this something practical they’ll probably use, but it shows you understand the strains they may go through.

Keep recognising hard work throughout the shift. It doesn’t have to be formal - just a simple “well done” or “thank you” can go a long way. You can even set some fun games throughout the day to keep spirits up.

One idea is to create a bingo ticket with key things you’d like employees to do. Some could be linked to business goals (selling a specific product, or serving X number of customers), whereas others could be more quirky (singing a popular summertime song!). The aim of the game is - you probably guessed - to tick off all the boxes on the ticket.

At the end of each day, send a more formal thank you message to people. This can be done over email, your internal communication platform, or your recognition tool if you have one. It’s more efficient to use tech  — in the hospitality world, it’s unlikely all of your staff will be in the same location at the same time.

Finally, why not surprise them with a reward? Maybe you could give people a gift card, or a day’s paid leave they can take after the busy period is over? In the grand scheme of things, these will cost you a little, but have a big impact on wellbeing, motivation and productivity.

Encourage healthy habits

As an employer, you can’t control what people do at all times, but you can definitely encourage healthy habits.

For example, make sure everybody takes the full break they’re entitled to. It’s easy for people to keep pushing themselves (especially when there’s overtime money which they could get), but this takes its toll eventually.

If you offer food and drink in-house, try to make sure the options are nutritious and filling. If employees tend to buy lunch elsewhere, why not provide gift cards to somewhere that offers healthy lunches? The choice is down to the individual employee, but this reduces the chances of them eating junk food.

Finally, make sure there’s plenty of water filling options available (a given for most hospitality businesses!). This is especially important during the summer — perhaps you can also give people a reusable water bottle too? Considering people spend most of their day at work, you want to make hydration as easy as possible.

The key takeaway

Employee wellbeing isn’t just for one part of the year — it’s something that should be baked into what you do all the time. But there’s no question that peak times are when you need to give your people a little bit more care. It’s both the right thing to do, and it makes good business sense in terms of productivity.

About Perkbox

Perkbox is a global benefits and rewards platform that allows companies to care for, connect with and celebrate their employees, no matter where they are or what they want. We ensure that companies with a diverse and multi-locational workforce can still have a harmonised EVP and culture, and keep each employee happy, healthy and motivated.

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