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Raising Awareness of Mental Health Issues in the Hospitality Industry

A worrying 80% of hospitality professionals said that their job is stressful sometimes or most of the time. And 51%, described their job as being stressful most or all the time.

Hospitality Action

Behind their smiles and their game faces, hospitality professionals are as prone to life’s challenges as anybody else. This is where Hospitality Action (HA) comes in; helping people set their lives back on track. This might mean funding home adaptations for someone dealing with the onset of a life-changing medical condition, or helping a victim of domestic abuse to start a new life. It could also mean laying on lunches or teas to keep loneliness at bay for industry retirees.

A quick overview of how it all started…

  • Hospitality Action, the industry’s benevolent charity has been providing its support to the business since 1837.
  • Over the past 180 years, HA has helped hundreds of thousands of hospitality workers who’ve found themselves in difficulty or crisis.
  • The charity began life as the London Coffee and Eating House Keepers’ Association.
  • In the 1830s, there were an estimated 1900 coffee shops and stalls across the capital. Inspired by the licensed trade, which had already created its own benevolent association for publicans, a group of coffee housekeepers met at Eastey’s Hotel, below Covent Garden on Southampton Street, and started their own.
  • In the coming decades, the coffee housekeepers extended their remit to include hoteliers, as well as ‘dining housekeepers, restaurateurs, ham and beef purveyors and similar refreshment housekeepers’.

“Initially, HA’s support took the shape of pensions for retired workers,” explained Mark Lewis, Chief Executive of Hospitality Action. “In 1952, to mark the Queen’s Coronation, the association moved into a property in Wimbledon. According to a spokesperson of the day, its intention was for ‘elderly members of the trade who are in straitened circumstances’.” The house was fitted out using the proceeds from Mecca’s Miss World competition. The threat of the workhouse may no longer loom before our beneficiaries, but the straitened circumstances referred to back in 1952 certainly do. Whether the problem is bereavement or bullying, physical or mental ill health, marital issues or addiction, HA is here to help.

Mark and his team firmly believe that HA is a force for good, “We offer lifelines to people who work or have worked in hospitality and find themselves in difficulty. We offer grants, counselling, family days out, a retiree befriending scheme, addiction awareness seminars and an employee assistance programme. We support people who are about to start work in the industry, those who currently work in the industry and those who have retired from the industry as well as their partners and children.”

Stress within the industry

Hospitality Action recently ran a survey in which they asked, “Is your job a stressful one?” Only 5% of respondents reported their job is rarely stressful. A worrying 80%  said that their job is stressful sometimes or most of the time. And 51%, described their job as being stressful most or all the time.

Respondents were also asked to choose the one statement from four options that best described their place of work. Just 3% said they rarely deal with stressful situations. 30%, chose “There are some stressful times, but we are really clear on how we can get support.” Another third, 34%, reported that “most of my colleagues have suffered from stress at one point or another; we wish we had more support.” And 33% selected “we all suffer from stress, it’s part and parcel of the job.” Mark feels that this last answer is the most alarming, “Can a third of hospitality professionals really be resigned to living with stress on a daily basis?” he asked.

Mental wellbeing

Other questions that were addressed and that are undoubtedly a cause for concern were, what the main causes of stress at home and in the workplace were. At work, the pressure was the biggest cause, referenced by 75% of respondents. In the home, respondents pointed to relationship/family issues (35%), health issues (30%), debt issues (24%) and addiction issues (11%).

Mark said that we are clearly dealing with a worsening problem. “The loss of Anthony Bourdain earlier this year was a stark and tragic reminder that there remains a lot of work to be done,” he said. “It’s reassuring that a growing body of chefs are taking to social media to discuss these issues under the hashtag, #timetotalk.

Hospitality Action’s Mental Wellness research asked whether stress levels had increased over the past three years. 79% of respondents stated that it had. “We help people deal with all sorts of challenges, mental health among them,” Mark said. “In the past few years, we’ve introduced a new product which, among its many other benefits, helps prevent hospitality workers becoming prone to mental health challenges – our Employee Assistance Programme.”

Employee Assistance Programme

Hospitality Action’s Employee Assistance Programme is central to their commitment to helping people who work or have worked in hospitality and find themselves in difficulty. “The EAP provides employers with a means to increase their teams’ well-being, morale and performance” Mark explains. “It offers a comprehensive suite of benefits that takes a holistic approach to employee welfare, providing specialist, independent and confidential advice, support and assistance, 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.

“Personal and health issues can have a major impact on the way people work, resulting in reduced performance, lack of focus and absence. These, in turn, can lead to lost productivity and significant cost to employers.”

The EAP offers a raft of benefits, including;

  • Personal counselling
  • Legal guidance
  • Addiction support
  • Debt advice and a financial well-being service
  • Parenting helpline
  • Elderly care helpline and a whistle-blowing service

All for an annual cost of just £5 per employee.

“In short, it’s about keeping hospitality people happy, healthy and work-ready,” Mark said. “Uniquely among EAP providers, should financial help be required by any recipients of EAP support, we’re able to point them towards HA’s grant-giving team, for consideration for further support.”

Whether you want to help Hospitality Action or if you need their help, you can contact them via their website, You can also follow them and their amazing work on Twitter @HospAction.