How the hospitality industry impacts mental health and wellbeing

Working in bars, clubs and pubs is an amazingly rewarding job. There’s no doubt it can bring some amazing highs, working with great teams enjoying fun times with customers and just being part of the business of hospitality.

But there is a but. It can be challenging with unsocial hours, unfriendly customers and the physical and mental demands the job can put on people. There’s no doubt that working in hospitality, working in bars, clubs and pubs can be extremely stressful.

It’s something we as an industry need to be aware of, we need to help each other and that starts by being aware of what is going on around us.

As a whole mental wellbeing across Australia is on the decline. A recent study found the financial cost of mental illness on the Australian economy is $60bn every year. But the confronting reality is that for many, the cost is much greater with suicide taking eight Australian lives every day in 2018. That’s nearly 3000 people a year.

There are simple steps that we can all take to help our friends, our colleagues as Katherine Newton, CEO of R U OK? Australia’s leading suicide prevention charity explains.

“Whether it’s front or back of house, everyone has a part to play in looking out for those they work alongside… chances are one of your work family needs to talk. We can all have our eyes and ears open to notice the signs that someone may be struggling, consider the right space and time to genuinely ask someone, ‘Are you OK?’, and learn how to navigate a conversation if that person says, ‘No, I’m not’.”

Newton has been campaigning to normalise conversations around mental health, and it’s an essential campaign as last year, R U OK? found 80 per cent of hospitality workers in Australia said that mental health issues are challenging the industry.

The food service industry has led an initiative called #FairKitchens this aims to highlight the importance of mental health in the industry and in partnership with Unilever Food Solutions provides resources to help foster a supportive culture in the workplace to improve employee mental health.

Yezdi Daruwalla, Managing Director of Unilever Food Solutions and former professional chef said: “Working in bars and pubs can be a pressure cooker for factors that undermine mental health. It’s common for late nights and unsociable hours to cause work-family conflicts and sleep deprivation, which can also disconnect the individual from their most important personal relationships.

“This isolation combined with a burnout culture that’s common when working in pubs and clubs that are typically high-stress, fast-paced, and competitive results in an individual paying a serious cost to their mental health.

“We need to lead the industry away from these toxic cultures and embrace more supportive and collaborative environments.

“We’re asking pub and bar owners to align with #FairKitchens and sit down with their staff to encourage a safe space for open conversation around mental health.”

This is a start, this is something that can help and that’s the most important thing. We need to look after each other help build positive cultures that can will help to improve mental wellbeing.

You can find out more about #FairKitchen here, and here’s more information about how to become a supporter of the initiative. Good luck!

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