Professional Comment

The Benefit Of Taking Wellbeing Seriously

By Richard Stockley, Managing Director of RRC International (

The Factories Act of 1833 kickstarted a culture of health and safety in the UK, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Health and Safety at Work Act. But hospitality employees aren’t just risking their physical health and safety when they go to work. Richard Stockley makes the case for taking workplace wellbeing and psychological stress seriously.

Slips, trips and falls, contact with hot surfaces and harmful substances, injuries from lifting, cuts from knives or dermatitis from cleaning chemicals there are plenty of examples of health and safety risks for those working in the UK’s hotels, pubs restaurants.

But thankfully the sector has developed an extremely good health and safety culture over time. According to HSE data, among accommodation and food services businesses, the rate of fatal and non-fatal injuries per 100,000 is among the lowest of any industry.

We have broadly got our collective heads around protecting our physical health and staying safe from harm, but we are far less familiar with our psychological needs. The next frontier for health and safety, therefore, is mental wellbeing, where the data is less promising.

In a study for the Royal Society for Public Health over four out of five hospitality workers reported increased stress as a direct consequence of their job. Almost three quarters (74%) had experienced verbal abuse from a customer and only around one in ten had received training to support health and wellbeing. This was back in early 2019. Since then COVID, worker shortages due to Brexit and inflation have all piled on the pressure. As a result, the remaining workers in the sector are among the most stressed in the UK.

But is it the business owners’ responsibility to address this?

Regardless of your views on mental health and your responsibility to your employees, if you care about being profitable, you need a psychological health and safety provision.

The fact is 13.7 million working days are lost every year due to work-related stress, anxiety and depression, according to NICE. This equates to a loss of £28.3 billion every year. As of 2022, 55% of workers believe work is getting more intense over time, so there is the potential that this cost could grow.

Getting psychological health and safety right could therefore mean a more present and productive workforce, and ultimately more profit. You will also see other benefits, like higher staff satisfaction and retention, and you’ll find it easier to attract younger people to start careers in hospitality, which we are all desperate to do.

Creating a process to make worker wellbeing more robust and less woolly is the key to realising these benefits. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. It takes training, a long-term commitment, and continuous improvement to manage it effectively.

Start by acknowledging the seriousness of psychological wellbeing at work, and formally recognise common triggers of stress in the workplace, such as an increasing workload, a lack of clarity on roles, our working relationships, the culture, tough shift patterns, isolation and exclusion, and external pressures like bereavement, a house move, or getting divorced.

With this acknowledged, we recommend setting a foundation with training. Relevant NEBOSH health and safety courses include the HSE Certificate in Managing Stress at Work, and Working with Wellbeing.

It’s then a matter of looking at your policy statement and assessing how much weight is placed on psychological wellbeing. Identify the specific risk factors at your organisation, prioritise quick wins, assign long-term actions, and ideally appoint a steering group to ensure your continuous improvement.

Much like physical health and safety, managing our wellbeing is about changing the culture of your organisation, which is no easy task. But creating an environment that prioritises open conversation, where it’s OK to raise issues, will pay all sorts of dividends. Protecting the psychological wellbeing of your workforce will protect your organisation. It’s not simple, but it’s well worth the effort.