Tackling mental health toll on hospitality workers - Nicola Reid

The past year has been tough. The impact of isolation, furlough and everything in between has taken its toll and Mental Health Awareness Week has shone a light on the struggles many people are facing as a result.

As the world was thrown into uncertainty and fear, arguably no sector was hit harder than hospitality who were forced to close the doors for many months, leaving employers and employees somewhere between the devil and the deep blue sea. Many lost their jobs and many more were placed on the government furlough scheme. While the latter was a lifeline for workers, being out of work over the past year has had a major impact on the mental health of those working within the sector as they faced uncertainty, loneliness and financial concerns.

Many hospitality workers are now returning to work after months away which can be tough and it is important that as an industry, we recognise and address that. Rebuilding confidence and self-belief in employees after many months at home will be critical. We need to have the training facilities in place to provide support for those returning to work as well as those who are looking for new roles following a period of unemployment.

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Programmes like Diageo Learning for Life, which is delivered through charity partner Springboard, provide people with valuable resources, skills, qualifications and employment opportunities to secure a role within hospitality and further their careers in the sector.

Learning for Life was first launched in 2008 however the Covid-19 pandemic meant that we had to adapt and deliver courses remotely. The Diageo Learning for Life Virtual Academy, which includes over 40 online skills and training modules and webinars, was accessed by 902 people between March and May 2020 alone and has since supported many more in learning new skills and increasing their employability whilst staying connected to the outside world.

Each trainee benefits from time with their fellow learners as well as dedicated one-to-one employability mentoring and coaching through video calls, phone, text and email. Of participants surveyed, loneliness decreased by 5% as the Learning for Life programme gave individuals a clear purpose and a network of peers who were going through the same things.

The courses have also played a pivotal role in motivation levels and confidence in hospitality workers when it comes to seeking employment. Self-motivation increased in participants by 13% and there was a 34% increase in participants feeling confident to secure a job. Learning for Life matches trainees with potential employers and vacancies within the industry, working to reduce the gap between people’s skills and the competencies required by employers.

There has been a renewed sense of positivity over the past couple of weeks fuelled by the easing of lockdown restrictions. While our favourite restaurants are once more opening their doors and our beloved bars and pubs are serving up fresh pints and cocktail favourites, it is important that as an industry we don’t forget the challenging year that many of our employees have faced and how that might have impacted their mental health and wellbeing. We need to create an environment through training and ongoing engagement where people can be open and honest about the struggles they might be facing so that we can support one another in the best possible way.

Nicola Reid, Learning for Life Programme Manager for GB & Europe at Diageo, discusses the mental health impacts of lockdown on hospitality workers.

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