Today, Wednesday 10th October is World Mental Health. Mental health relates to a person’s psychological, emotional and social well-being. It affects the decisions we make, how we treat and relate to others and how we handle stress.
The hospitality industry can be a stressful place to work. It’s fast paced, the hours are long and sometimes anti-social and there is always pressure to deliver excellent customer service. If we let it, this can become overwhelming.
The newest client to join the Harri family is Caravan; a company that cares deeply about mental health and goes above and beyond to ensure their staff are well supported. We are so proud to have them on board!
Nicole Zachariah, UK Marketing Manager at Harri sat down with Elsa De Jager, Head of People at Caravan to chat about the importance of supporting mental health within hospitality, specifically the restaurant industry. Read the interview below:
Nicole: Why are mental health issues common in the hospitality industry?
Elsa: Working in the hospitality industry can often mean long hours, at times low wages and physically and mentally challenging working environments. Historically, there has been an expectation to just ‘get on with it’ e.g. chefs coming into work when sick, or never complaining even when doing back-to-back shifts.
Nicole: Do you think things will get better within the industry?
Elsa : Well, the positive news is that alongside a shift in the law to better protect employees, the culture and expectations of the industry are changing too. Career prospects, flexibility in the workplace and a culture of respect and well-being is emerging. Mental health should be one of the major things our industry focus on, collectively supporting each other to do better and facilitate improved working environments for our teams.
Nicole: What is Caravan’s position when it comes to mental health support in the workplace?
Elsa: At Caravan, we have always championed a culture of mutual respect, inclusivity, diversity and support. We are actively looking at ways we can improve how we support our teams, particularly when it comes to mental health and wellbeing. The owners of Caravan- Laura, Chris & Miles- have always fostered and focused on a really positive work environment for their teams- both for front and back of house.
Nicole: Why is fostering a positive working environment and culture so important when it comes to mental health?
Elsa: Creating a culture of teamwork and support among employees is key to supporting mental health. This is because there is no way we can expect our team to excel at work, if they don’t feel good about themselves in their role and in their place in the business.
Nicole: What initiatives have Caravan put in place to support mental health?
We are currently exploring how we can attract the best people who may not have the flexibility to do the traditional hours of restaurants. We have, for example, working mums who are managers, because we offer them flexible working hours and a supportive working environment.
We focus on great staff benefits, team development, staff parties and entertainment.
A recent focus of the business has also been to overhaul our process for internal communication by adding support roles (such as mine) so that if team members are suffering from mental health issues, they know they have someone to talk to who is equipped to help them appropriately i.e., what questions to ask, how to listen, and how to best support them.
In the future, we are looking to add a “well-being” segment to our Learning & Development annual calendar to include sessions on meditation, breathing techniques, stress control and life coping strategies.