At the end of the day, everyone working in your restaurant should be well-supported.

Working in a restaurant can be an adrenaline rush during every shift. It’s fast-paced, exciting, and offers an opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. There’s no denying that restaurant employees are some of the hardest-working people around.

However, it can come with a price.

Employees who prepare and/or serve food have the second-highest rate of depression among full-time employees, just behind those who work in personal care positions. Servers are also more stressed than doctors—which comes at no surprise if you’ve worked in the restaurant industry. Anxiety and depression often have a symbiotic relationship—one exacerbating the other.

Luckily, as a restaurateur or manager, you can help your employees feel happier and healthier. Providing mental health initiatives is a great place to start. It can take some time, planning, and research, but it’s worth it to foster an environment of wellness for your employees.

Let’s take a look at some of the most practical mental health initiatives you can put into place and how they can benefit your business and staff.

Review Your Current Policies

If you’re going to make changes, the best place to start is by looking at what you currently have in place to benefit your workers. Start by analyzing the insurance you offer for mental health benefits. If you’re going to encourage your employees to take care of their mental wellness, it’s essential to make sure they can afford it.

If you’re not able to adjust your insurance policies to include mental health, consider alternative resources, including employee assistance programs. Online options like Quest can give your employees access to online mental health screenings and even teletherapy at an affordable price.

You never know what your employees might be dealing with outside of the restaurant. Providing whatever mental health services or resources you can is important for their performance and overall well-being. Don’t be afraid to look at areas that need improvement and make necessary changes.

Cater To Individual Needs

One of the beautiful things about the restaurant industry is that it’s so diverse. People from many different backgrounds and situations come together to prepare and serve. While that’s a wonderful picture of what the world should look like, it also means that your employees all have different needs, especially when it comes to their well-being.

For example, if some of your employees are single parents, you might want to consider offering things like:

  • Childcare support or funding;
  • Flexible schedules;
  • More paid time off;
  • Family therapy.

You might even have people working for you who are recovering from substance abuse. Sometimes, those categories can even overlap. Nearly 9 million children live with one parent struggling with a substance abuse disorder. You can help those individuals, whether they’re parents or not, by providing the right resources and encouraging them to get the help they need from proactive organizations.

Places like the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, SMART Recovery, and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are all great resources for people who are struggling. It might not be your responsibility to help your employees overcome an addiction. However, it will speak volumes about the nature of your business and your character if you’re willing to cater to their individual needs, no matter what they’re going through. Your restaurant can be a safe space for them when they need it most.

Create a Strategy

It’s not uncommon for restaurants to go through slower seasons. Off seasons are perfect for making changes, reviewing the previous quarter, and developing internal and external strategies.

As you take the time to strategize your business efforts, make sure you also create a plan of action to take care of your workers’ mental health. First, understand how your workers’ jobs could be impacting their mental well-being. Mental health challenges in the workplace can impact things like:

  • Safety;
  • Productivity;
  • Risk of injury;
  • Burnout.

Consider asking your employees what they need from you to prioritize their mental health. When you show that you’re actively investing in your restaurant employees’ well-being, they’re more likely to feel like they’re in a positive, safe environment. That can help to reduce stress and make them more willing to open up about their mental health needs. Don’t just provide lip service. Take those needs into consideration and use them in your strategy to foster an environment that promotes mental health.

Additionally, your strategy should include providing as many resources as possible to everyone working for you. There are specific mental health resources for those in the restaurant industry that can provide understanding and support to those who need it most, including organizations like:

  • I Got Your Back;
  • Giving Kitchen;
  • Big Table;
  • Fair Kitchens.

At the end of the day, everyone working in your restaurant should be well-supported in order to keep things running smoothly and successfully. A restaurant is a community, and building that community within your business will help everyone look out for each other. It will be easier for your workers to admit when they’re struggling, and you can provide a space where everyone feels safe to talk about their mental health.

Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer from the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics and, because she spent over six years in the restaurant business before writing full-time, takes a particular interest in covering topics related to the food and beverage industry. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter.

Expert Takes, Feature, Labor & Employees