More than 80 percent of employees would rather have good mental health than a high-paying job.
Park and Recreation's Leslie Knope is known for her—let's say "passionate"—love for celebrating obscure holidays, many of which she made up like Chicken Dance Day and Calzone Day. Well, according to National Today, April 1 marks the start of National Month of Hope, Counseling Awareness Month, and Stress Awareness Month—though most restaurant workers would likely say they're quite aware of their stress year-round.
The pandemic only worsened the toll on frontline restaurant workers, and a 2023 survey from The Workforce Institute at UKG found that 40 percent of employees are "often" or "always" stressed about work—but 38 percent say they rarely or never talk to their manager about their workload. Some other key findings:
- More than 80 percent of employees would rather have good mental health than a high-paying job.
- Two-thirds of employees would take a pay cut for a job that better supports their mental wellness—and 70 percent of managers would, too.
- Work stress negatively impacts employees’ home life (71 percent), wellbeing (64 percent), and relationships (62 percent).
The C-suite is not immune to challenges, either; 33 percent of C-level leaders revealed they don’t want to work anymore, and the younger the leader, the more they agree with that statement. A whopping 40 percent of the C-suite surveyed says they will likely quit in the next 12 months due to work-related stress. “My top advice for companies when it comes to mental health: Don’t leave your leaders behind,” said Dan Schawbel, managing partner at Workplace Intelligence.
Providing mental health benefits like covering counseling fees has become a growing benefit among restaurants in the past few years, particularly at larger chains or groups with more employees and bigger budgets. For example, Alex Smith, CEO of Baltimore-based Atlas Restaurant Group with nearly 30 concepts and 2,000 employees, added a mental health benefit for all employees and household members, which is 100 percent covered.
A holistic mental health approach should also consider the initial drivers of stress in the first place, and seek to mitigate those as much as possible. Atlanta's Southern Belle restaurant revamped hours, compensation, and service-inclusive pricing on menus to better align with employee needs. When chef/owner Joey Ward shifted the hours and days his restaurants were open, the abbreviated schedule resulted in a more well-rested team who could perform at their highest potential. A previous employer and mentor of Ward’s once told him that if the cooks are comfortable and happy at work, the food will taste better—so now it’s his goal to inspire, encourage, motivate, and teach his team rather than intimidate and belittle, Ward said in a release.
The first-time small business owner also keeps a light-hearted demeanor at work, tries to turn mistakes into teaching moments, and shows his appreciation for all employees. In addition to offering two weeks of paid vacation for all employees, Southern Belle also hosts the Atlanta chapter of Ben's Friends, a non-profit support group that meets once a week to provide addiction help for struggling foodservice workers.
“I believe that everyone employed at our restaurant should [actually] like being here,"Ward said in a statement. “This may seem like a simple concept, but it is often overlooked in the business.”
“One thing is for sure, what we were doing pre-pandemic was not working,” added Ward. “I hope that in at least some small way, my story inspires others to make a difference in their own businesses and ultimately, the entire industry.”