Ruth Langley is a hospitality people specialist, training manager at Scarf and the Course Designer here at Typsy. She has worked in various restaurant and hotels, headed the operations team for a London event catering company and managed the training and marketing departments for a group of Melbourne event venues.
During some downtime, we had a chat with Ruth and asked her for her take on mental health in the hospitality industry. Here's what she shared with us:
How has the perception around mental health changed in the hospitality industry?
I think, really positively, there is more awareness and open conversations about mental health now than there has ever been and overall the industry is waking up to the fact that mental health is a real thing.
But I think there is still a long way to go. Not everyone is on the page of taking mental health seriously yet. And I think businesses are only just really getting started with figuring how to support their teams with mental health.
Do you think it is the responsibility of the employer to support mental health in the workplace?
Yes, absolutely. I think it’s the responsibility of employers and leaders in a business to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their staff, and this means for both physical and mental wellbeing.
What are some practical ways managers can support staff with mental health?
I think a good start is to recognize that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to supporting people with their mental health, everyone is different. And also remember that ‘support’ is the key word here, there is no pressure on you as a manager to ‘fix’ someone’s mental health problem any more than you’d be expected to fix their broken leg. I think sometimes the idea of supporting someone with mental health can seem a bit overwhelming as it can’t be seen and it’s still not that well understood, so can lead to people trying to avoid it altogether.
If one of your team is experiencing mental health problems and comes to you for support you don’t need to pretend you have all the answers, just be human - have a conversation with them and work with them to find out what they need or want from the business in terms of support. They may not need anything from you, or it could be as simple as a day off occasionally to attend a mental health appointment. Don’t assume that you know what they need, or that what worked for you or someone else will be right for them.
As a manager, a key thing you can do is be open about mental health in the workplace and show that you take it seriously through the things you say and the actions you take. Make sure your team know that they can come to you (or someone else in the team) if they are experiencing mental health problems and that they feel comfortable to do so.
I also think it’s really important that as a manager your focus isn’t just on supporting people that come to you with a problem, but being aware of how the day to day work environment you’re creating can impact people’s mental health and making sure you’re managing in a way that will have a positive impact.
How can company culture support positive mental health?
I think there are lots of ways you can build a culture that supports and promotes mental health and wellbeing.
Like I said before, encouraging open communication and normalizing conversations about mental health is a really good start.
In our industry, I think a couple of big ones for culture are around workloads and health habits and understanding the effects that these can have on mental health. So making sure your team aren’t overworked, that they’re getting the correct breaks and regular days off are important. As are encouraging healthy lifestyles, not actively encouraging a culture of partying or drinking within your workplace, promoting healthy eating and finding ways to champion exercise and a social life outside of work.
And of course creating a positive environment that people feel they want to come to work in, where they feel supported, respected and involved, and where negativity, uncertainty and things like discrimination aren’t present.
Need help or want to learn more? Here are some useful resources:
R U OK? - Australia
Mental Health - USA
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