Managing mental health in your business
The conversation surrounding mental health has opened-up even more so throughout the pandemic; it’s a topic that has become more significant and more is now being done to encourage people to be open about something that has been traditionally and notoriously stigmatised.
According to mental health charity Mind, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime, whereas a survey conducted by trade union, Unite found that over two thirds of London chefs believe that the long-hours synonymous with professional kitchens are damaging to both workers’ physical and mental health.
Of those surveyed, 14% claimed to spend in excess of 60 hours a week in the kitchen. Perhaps not surprisingly, 51% of those surveyed said they suffer with depression due to being overworked, while 27% said they drink alcohol in order to see them through a shift.
Then the pandemic happened and with it the statistics soared. A recent Government study found that:
- average mental distress (measured using GHQ-12) was 8.1% higher in April 2020 than it was between 2017 and 2019
- after accounting for the increasing trend since 2014, average mental distress was 0.5 points higher than expected in April 2020(on the GHQ-12 scale)
- the proportion of adults who reported a clinically significant level of psychological distressincreased from 20.7% in 2019 to 29.5% in April 2020, before returning to 21.4% in July 2020 and 21.5% in September 2020
- all demographic groups examined (age, sex, race/ethnicity, income) experienced increases in distress after the onset of the pandemic followed by decreases, but the change was larger for younger adults (aged 18 to 30), women, those identifying as ’non-white’ and those with higher income (over £50,000)
- the proportion of people experiencing sleep problems increased from 16% before the pandemic to 25% in April 2020
Mental health problems were already widespread in the hospitality industry before Covid-19 and having to make continual changes to the way hospitality works has compounded this. Establishing and managing a business in the first instance is no mean feat- in fact, it’s utterly relentless; never more so than when we’re talking about a food business. Although local communities have supported their independent food & drink businesses throughout the pandemic, as restrictions are lifted so will mindsets which will naturally lead to industry employers and employees alike, working long, unsociable hours with additional challenges. From masks to table service, risk assessments to track and trace and everything in between, there is even more pressure on an industry that was already high on the mental health agenda.
It’s good to talk
Being open about your mental health struggles can be difficult, especially when you’re a business owner and you feel you need to carry on going regardless of how you feel. However, if you are struggling, we would always urge you to seek help, whether that’s from a medical professional such as your GP or speaking to a service such as The Samaritans (116 123 is their free phone service) and Mind (0300 123 3393).
Every little helps:
We appreciate that these things aren’t going to so much as scratch the surface if you’re experiencing a mental health crisis – what they can do however is mitigate stress, a massive contributor to anxiety and poor mental wellbeing in the workplace:
Ensuring you have ample staff to cover your business’ needs is crucial in preventing both you and your staff from becoming overworked. Be realistic about how many staff you’ll need for an event and establish responsibilities ahead of time so that everyone feels prepared and ready to tackle the shift.
Carrying out an induction of sorts (though not always easy when you’re rushed off your feet) helps your team member to feel competent and confident in their role. Making sure they have the right training as required by law is important but it’s not what makes them feel part of your company family. Taking the time to show a new staff member the ropes – the menu, the brand, ‘they whys’ behind your business will go a long way in alleviating any anxiety they may have about their new role and will set them up for success.
If something goes well – whether you’ve added something new to menu to rave reviews or you’ve killed a queue in record time, make sure to acknowledge the little things that go right. This job is hard – really hard so taking the time to acknowledge that you’re doing well at sometimes feels like an impossible task, is important for everyone who makes running your business possible.
One of the things we love most about this industry is the sense of community. Building a network of likeminded people who you can lean on, is indispensable. Building relationships with other vendors not only gives you the chance to talk to people who understand just how hard your job is, but it can also be handy at events for food swaps or a helping hand if your fridge claps out on you mid-event.
Need to talk? On the NHS website (www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/), you’ll find lots of useful numbers for charities and organisations with dedicated mental health helplines. You can also find lots of useful information here on the Mind website: www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/seeking-help-for-a-mental-health-problem/where-to-start/
Coping with mental health is better together, we’d love to hear from you if you would like to share your experience or even any tips and strategies that you feel could help other members. Get in touch by emailing [email protected]