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Stress test - HOSPA CEO Jane Pendlebury makes emotional wellbeing a priority for hospitality.

In my recent meeting with HOSPA’s president Harry Murray, we agreed that we are lucky to be working in an industry in which we have both aspired to be successful. We discussed stress in the workplace and both of us hoped that, provided you are in the right job, working shouldn’t be unduly stressful.

Of course, though, it’s not as simple as that. There are many forms of stress. A soldier in a warzone, for example, is under a very different stress to that experienced by somebody working in hospitality. But stress - even in a job you love - can rear its head regardless of your occupation. Many of us, particularly if you enjoy your job and are passionate about it, can suffer from organisational stress.

It’s an issue the hospitality industry can’t ignore. 

There are a number of intrinsic factors in hospitality that increase the likelihood of stress in the workforce. Long, fast-paced and often unsociable hours can impact on home life. Shift work in particular has been shown to have a detrimental impact on workers’ health.

Research suggests that over a third of work related ill health cases are due to stress, and this accounts for almost half of all working days that are lost. Research specifically in the hotel industry found staff experienced stress on 40-62% of such days, compared to 25-44% of days reported by people operating in other industries (O’Neill & Davis, 2011).

At any one time, as many as one in six workers can be experiencing mental health problems. In the UK, this accounts for up to 40% of workplace absences and as many as half of all long-term sick leave cases; yet only one in 10 staff will disclose this to their employer. More than half of hotel employees in the Hotel Work and Wellbeing Project reported ‘emotional exhaustion’ (Goodman, 2009).

Not only is it the decent thing to do, but when it comes to the bottom line, it pays for employers to focus on wellbeing. Is it as simple to say that looking after your employees means they, in turn, will look after your customers? While that may be an oversimplification, it must surely help. 

Investing in looking after the emotional wellbeing of your employees is the right thing to do both morally and commercially. It can reduce staff turnover rates, increase productivity and contribute to your organisation’s reputation as a good place to work. In 2016, the Mental Health Foundation said that investing in mental health screening and intervention for employees delivers four times the return in net profit. 

High work satisfaction should result in positive, happy moods. Cheerfulness and enthusiasm are key to ensuring our guests’ experience. If people know what they are doing, are trained well, have good systems in place to acknowledge and talk about stress then I don’t see the hospitality industry as being any more stressful than other industries.  

Many of my facts and figures for this have been researched by Dr Sarah Swan (BSc, MSc, DClinPsy, AFBPsS) a Consultant Clinical Psychologist with over 20 years of experience in mental health. See more at swanconsultancy.co.uk.


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