By Megan Sowney, UK Managing Director at Wrkit (www.wrkit.com)

The gradual reopening of the hospitality sector has been a welcome relief to businesses and customers across the country, but behind the scenes a staffing crisis is prevalent.

Hospitality’s reputation of long, antisocial hours and challenging customers coupled with the physical demand and often minimum wage pay could turn people off jobs in the sector, but Covid’s effects have exacerbated the problem. A year of uncertainty, furlough, increased risk of infection and last-minute closures has led job seekers to avoid the sector in search of more stable and safer employment. In addition, Brexit has caused many European nationals who worked in the industry to return to their home countries.

As the country recovers from the pandemic, hospitality and tourism will play a key part in economic growth, so an adequately staffed hospitality sector is crucial for the industry, supply chains and the wider economy.

To attract and retain staff, employers must make a conscious effort to strengthen employee wellbeing and offer additional, value-adding employee benefits. Some businesses have increased wages or offered other financial incentives and while this is positive for an industry that is known for lower wages, support for hospitality employees should reach further into quality of culture and addressing the needs of the employees as people, not just workers.

By being creative with benefits offerings, employers will improve staff satisfaction, morale and retention which may be crucial to the survival of their business.

RESILIENCE

Hospitality staff frequently face challenging customers and these exchanges can be difficult for staff to deal with, leaving them somewhat members upset, low and feeling less resilient. Similarly, amid busy service tensions between staff can run high and lead to stressed encounters between colleagues.

Offering stress management and resilience training will give staff the tools they need to handle difficult situations, reduce lasting effects, protect mental wellbeing and develop confidence. Sessions typically provide advice on managing mindset, and most importantly, leaving work behind at the end of the day.

Employees can take an active part in developing their own resilient mindsets by discussing issues with supervisors, reframing challenging situations to look like a learning opportunity and discussing ways to grow and develop individually and as a team.

Employers can support staff resilience by recognising that they have handled difficult situations well and reassuring them that it is not necessarily a reflection of them or their capabilities. In combination with mental health resources, stress and resilience training will go a long way in protecting wellbeing.

RECOGNITION

Recognition is not just a tool to build resilience. It makes employees feel valued in their role which improves overall morale and job satisfaction.

Employers should create a culture of mutual support and celebration by encouraging colleagues to recognise each other’s good work.This should span from management down and between front and back of house staff.

SWITCHING OFF

Spending hours on your feet, working busy shifts and keeping on top of what customers need and want throughout the day sounds exhausting, but it stimulates the brain and makes transitioning out of “work mode” difficult.

Employers should encourage staff to unwind at the end of their shift, whether that is sitting down and having a drink before going home, providing a quiet space to sit at the end of the day and process the shift before leaving, or giving access to mindfulness or meditation tools.

These switching off practices are especially important for employees working late night shifts as failure to do so could leave them awake until the early hours of the morning and not getting enough rest.

SLEEPING AND RESTING

The hospitality industry is known for long, late hours and often, during busy periods, a lack of breaks.While it is understandable, especially in the face of a staffing crisis, that staff cannot always take a break during a busy service, managers must ensure they are doing everything in their power to give their staff a reasonable amount of downtime.

Getting a good amount of sleep is critical to performing well at work and maintaining mental wellbeing. Late-night hospitality venues must consider this and avoid putting staff on shifts that require an early start after a late finish.

Hospitality staff face challenging situations every day, but these challenges have been amplified in recent weeks.

More than seven in 10 (73%) hospitality workers have suffered from mental health problems during the pandemic already, so the need for employers to offer extra support is clear. Businesses that fail to take care of staff could end up losing them to other businesses or industries, which would have dire implications.The hospitality industry needs staff to operate, and it needs staff who are not burnt out to run well

Businesses that look after the wellbeing of current staff, re-evaluate the current industry standards and offer an attractive employee benefits package will enjoy higher levels of retention and an improved employer reputation, aiding recruitment.