Business Insight
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Building A Healthier Workplace: Make Sure Your Staff Know What Resources Are Available

With lockdowns having once again hit NSW and Victoria, the mental health of foodservice operators and staff is back in the spotlight, with support services such as those operated by Beyond Blue and Lifeline reporting that calls from hospitality workers are on the rise.

Many in our industry are doing it tough, so it’s it’s important to know what resources are available and to ensure your staff are feeling supported and looked after. By following the Covid-19 Safe Workplace Principles, you can ensure the lines of communication are kept open.

There are also many online resources available, such as those provided by the Black Dog Institute, which has an Online Clinic that provides a clinical assessment for common mental health concerns and navigates users to a range of resources.

The institute’s ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ lists five simple and effective ways to improve your psychological and emotional health day to day:

1.     CONNECT with people around you; think of social connections as important in your life and spend time developing them. Catch up for a zoom or phone call, ask people how they’re going and really listen to their answer, schedule a time to talk to someone.

2.     BE ACTIVE – find something you enjoy and do it regularly. Exercising makes you feel good and helps to clear your mind.

3.     BE AWARE – take time to stop and be mindful of your surroundings and the moment you’re in, paying attention to your thoughts and feelings. Doing this can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.

4.     KEEP LEARNING – try something new or rediscover a past interest. Learning is about challenging ourselves to do something in a different way to what we’ve done before.

5.     HELP OTHERS – this can give you a sense of purpose and belonging, build friendships and make your community a better place.

“It’s important for all business owners and managers to be able to have effective conversations with staff, and know what signs and symptoms to look out for,” points out Black Dog Institute’s Workplace Development Manager Margaret Gardoll. “We know that it’s better for people to seek help sooner rather than later, so you need to be able to identify changes in behaviour. It’s about knowing your staff and noticing little changes – they might be less talkative than usual, more talkative, irritable, pessimistic – that’s when you need to discreetly take them aside and have that ‘how are you going?’ conversation. Take time to really listen and encourage people to share how they are feeling. Make it clear that you are there for them should they need help.

“Businesses tend to feel incredibly responsible for their staff, both professionally and personally, so employers in foodservice do tend to take on an extra burden. But as an employer you should remember your primary responsibility in these situations is to help staff get the help they need – and one way to do this is to provide as many resources as possible to help them look after themselves, along with encouraging them to seek professional help early when needed.”


Margaret makes the point that it’s also important to make extra allowances for staff at times of stress. “We shouldn’t underestimate the effect that going through lockdowns has on people, so you need to do whatever you can to reduce the pressure on staff and cut them a little extra slack where possible.

“At the same time, you should always try to be frank and honest with staff and recognise what is and isn’t in your control. As an employer you can’t control when customers are coming back, when business is going to pick up or when lockdowns will lift – but at the same time, this won’t last forever, and there will eventually be a light at the end of the tunnel. Always seek to be transparent.”

Self-care strategies can play an important role in stress and anxiety reduction and build resilience, hence Black Dog Institute’s development of tools such as My Compass - an online self-help service which has been shown in research trials to demonstrate significant improvement in symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress in work and social functioning.

The institute has also created HeadGear, an easy to use smartphone app which guides you through a 30 day mental fitness challenge.

“Working long hours and different shifts, which is the norm in foodservice, can make self-care more challenging – it’s important to be extra mindful of how you can best look after yourself in those circumstances,” Margaret adds. “There’s also the pressure in foodservice to be constantly ‘on’ for your customers – and it can be difficult to build self-care when you’re constantly having to be positive for others, as that can be very draining.”

Online resources:

Covid safe practices and plans for hospitality industry: