Mental Health in the workplace

This week saw World Mental Health Day 2018.  According to the mental health charity Mind, one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. This blog addresses the relationship between mental health and working in hospitality, and identifies strategies to support mental health in the workplace. 

The Caterer Magazine, which focuses on news from the catering and hospitality sectors, published a report earlier this month which focused on the prominence of mental health issues within the hospitality sector. The industry can be a tough one to work in. In a recent survey, it found that 7 out of 10 hospitality workers have or have had a mental health challenge – while 8 of them are regularly experiencing stress. Hospitality Action, Chief Executive Mark Lewis writes, “Hospitality workers regularly weather a perfect storm of stress-inducing influences: pressure; long hours; split shifts; adrenaline peaks and crashes; the need to wear your ‘game face’; having to guard against negative review.” This can often lead to negative impacts on mental health. It’s important not to dismiss this as just ‘part of the job’, which in turn risks normalising the mental health issues which can arise as a result.

We believe being able to talk through difficult times and feeling equipped with the skills and support to overcome these are essential for better mental health. The Caterer report surveyed workers within the industry and found that 56% of respondents stated they would be more willing to discuss their mental health with their employer than previously, however, the remaining 44% stated they felt unable, using vocabulary such as ‘stigma’ ‘taboo’, ‘embarrassed’ and ‘scared’. This highlights the real need to reduce the shame and stigma that still surrounds mental health within the industry.

What’s the solution?
Mark Lewis goes on to note that “Employers need to create an environment in which hospitality mental health concerns are as valid as a bad back or broken leg.” A lot of the time because mental health doesn’t necessarily show physical symptoms, it can remain ‘hidden’. The Caterer suggests a way to invest in employee mental health is to introduce an Employee Assistance Programme, which offers care packages and assistance to those struggling.

What’s our approach?
We work with a range of people from diverse backgrounds, many of whom have struggled or are struggling with their mental health.  Well Grounded provides a holistic approach to training and development. We believe equipping trainees with workplace skills such as resilience and self-awareness is vital to prepare them for employment in the coffee industry. Alongside our technical coffee training, we provide mentoring to our trainees to help them with their own mental health both throughout their time with us and beyond. A large part of this mentoring involves talking and listening- providing a support network to our trainees and graduates. This support network is vital, sometimes providing a lifeline for individuals who feel isolated and lonely. We also link our trainees to additional services, such as counselling, so they can get the specialist support they might need.

One of our graduates, Sarah, wrote a beautiful poem, as if she were a ‘coffee bean’, that highlights how Well Grounded hopes to help our trainees unlock their full potential: 

“I existed on a dishevelled, weedy, pitiful looking Coffea plant,

In a bitterly cold, murky and damp unbecoming place.

I don’t quite know how I became to be there, but I knew it wasn’t for me…

One day I awoke to find a hand, not sure if it would help, but it was hand.

It took off that awful coat, and delivered me to a place of warmth, enriching soil and freedom to

find myself.

I thrived, I could grow…”

What’s next?
We know that the practices we put in place during training means are trainees feel better supported in work. Our ongoing mentorship programme for our trainees means they have a constant network and safety net if times get tough when they transition into work.

Mental illness can seem a lonely place but it doesn’t have to be. We urge all our employers, hospitality friends and colleagues to continue to have the conversation, acknowledge the problem and tackle it in order to uplift and empower individuals.

If you feel like you may want to talk about your mental health, organisations such as Mind (www.mind.org.uk), Time To Change (www.time-to-change.org.uk) and Samaritans (www.samaritans.org) can offer help. If you are a Graduate reading this and you need a helping hand, reach out to us, we’re always here.

Written by Sareeka Linton, Marketing & Content Officer. Published 15st October 2018