Mental Health in Hospitality: Are managers turning a blind eye?

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Autumn 2019

(Stephens, Mental Health Statistics, 2019)

Are you turning a blind eye to your employees’ mental health and wellbeing?  Keep on reading to discover how you can become an effective and responsible manager for your staff. 

Why is mental health important in Hospitality?

Mental health disorders, such as stress, anxiety and depression affect approximately 264 million globally and 1 million people in the UK.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, research has shown two thirds of us think workers are more likely to suffer from mental health issues now rather than five years ago. An industry with a combination of long working hours, poor work-life balance and the demands of working in a high-pressure environment is a recipe for stress. 

Employees within the hospitality industry are facing significant pressures in the workplace impacting their mental health and wellbeing. In the UK:

(Stephens, Statistics, 2019)

A physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, long-term adverse effect on the ability to carry out regular day-to-day tasks, is considered a disability under The Equality Act 2010. This can protect employees from discrimination if their mental health troubles coincide with the definition of ‘disability’, even if there is belief that the employee does not have a disability.

Your responsibility as a manager

Employees’ mental health seem to be a “hidden issue” in the workplace.  Employees are sometimes worried about talking about their mental health from fear of being treated differently.

Although it is the duty of an employee to ensure that their employers are aware of the mental illnesses that may be present, according to the Equality Act 2010, employers have a legal duty of care to consider adjustments that are reasonable to the particular employee. Employees are allowed to refuse work that they feel is unsafe without the fear of disciplinary actions. Workplace mental health programs have become more common and are now expected to be provided for your staff.

(Montgomery, Stressed person, 2019)

Hospitality industry managers need to promote mental health and stress management in their workplaces to support their employees. Understanding mental health illnesses is essential before committing to providing strategies to reduce and aid the employee concerns. 

Managers need to take steps to improve the workplace, which may include changing working patterns and/or routines. By providing relevant training and support, employees may find it easier to open up, reducing the stigma surrounding mental health. 

Solutions for managers

(Geograph, The Bristol Hotel, 2012)

The Bristol Hotel is an example of a hotel that is leading the way on supporting mental health issues with employees, as mentioned by The Caterer. Doyles Collection, Bristol Hotel is the first hotel in the South West to pledge to support the mental health initiative. They demonstrated their commitment to this by appointing six Wellbeing Champions, whom completed a two-day Mental Health First Aid course along with other team members. The manager of the hotel, Payne, explained that although working in this industry is great fun and rewarding, it can be tough due to the commitment to work in relation to working long hours, including evenings and weekends. This has encouraged Payne to sign the Time to Change pledge to help overcome the stigma attached to mental health illnesses and to support the staff in this industry.

Managers of hotels could also consider using IOSH, a chartered body and membership organisation that offers training courses to managers; to help them gain knowledge and skills that they will need to oversee the health and safety of their employees. One course that they offer is the Managing Occupational Health and Wellbeing. This course includes multiple interactive discussions, practical exercises and more. Completion of the course may lead to the following benefits:

  • Fewer hours lost due to sickness resulting in greater productivity 
  • Increase in employee motivation
  • Increased mental health awareness throughout the entire organisation

Further mental health support

There are many hospitality related mental health support channels for the workplace: 

  • NHS –  Mental health support services are free on the NHS and offers a list of helplines, local support and information services near you.
  • Mind – offer free national advice and support for anyone experiencing a mental health problem with events and workshops that employees can attend to increase awareness.
  • Health Assured – an online employee assistance programme which offers to help employees deal with personal problems that might adversely impact their work performance, health and well-being.
  • ACAS – provides advice and guidance for managers and businesses to enable them to support employees mental health.

Are you turning a blind eye?

We want to know what managers in the hospitality industry think about this.

  • Let us know if you think mental health issues and the conversations around these are given enough public spotlight?
  • What do you think the future holds for mental health awareness and support in the hospitality industry? Positive or bleak? 
  • How are mental health programs being implemented in your organisation? 

Please leave your thoughts and comments in the section below.


Megan says:

Having a manager who is open to hear your mental health issues is very important – in a previous job I was quite stressed and my manager sat down with me and allowed me to explain how I was feeling. Just having her listening to me was so helpful and she ensured me it would get less stressful after the summer season… and it did! Without my manager being so supportive, I would have considered quitting my job. My manager continued to support me and her door was always open for a chat!

Hospitality Mental Health Awareness says:

Thank you so much Megan for taking the time to read our blog. By talking about your #Mentalhealth and raising the day-to-day issues you encounter we’re really bringing awareness to a very important subject that affects us all.

Nina Wilde says:

It is amazing that awareness for event staff and organisers with mental health is starting to come into effect. Hopefully with well researched and thought-inspiring blogs like this, the stigma surrounding this issue will continue to dissipate.

Hospitality Mental Health Awareness says:

Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment! This is such an important topic to us as well, and we are very excited to see what will happen with mental health awareness in the future!

James says:

Great Blog. Productivity in the work place, and the cost of absence balanced against the costs of good quality health and wellbeing practices in the work place is one of the issues of our day. Equipping leaders to look after the “whole person” including their mental health is good business sense as well as a reflection of quality business values.

Hospitality Mental Health Awareness says:

Good Afternoon James, thank you for reading our blog and commenting on it. We agree that this is one of the issues of our day and hopefully this blog will create more awareness! It is very interesting you say that it is a “reflection of quality business values”, do you believe that guests would choose hotels knowing that managers are taking action on mental health issues in the workplace?

James says:

The hiring, engagement (productivity) and specifically discretionary productivity ( the willingness of the employee to go above and beyond for no more pay) and retention is increasingly a function of the values of a business. Millennials in particular are making “ethical” choices about who their employer is. I think it still a stretch to say guests will choose a hotel based on its mental health practices, but no doubt mental health affects brand and brand affects customer choices so there will be at least something of a link.

Hospitality Mental Health Awareness says:

Good afternoon James. It is very interesting that you note millennials are making ethical choices about their employers as they are becoming increasingly aware of global issues and would like to work for employers that have positive values and ethics. In addition, we agree that poor mental health in the workplace can demotivate employees which can create a bad experience for the customer and therefore affect customer loyalty in a negative way meaning that consumers may choose to stay at a different hotel next time. Therefore, it is vital for hospitality organisations to provide mental health support for their employees.

Carol says:

I agree much more needs to be done, with Mental health affecting 1 in 4 adults in the UK. It’s an important issue, which we all need to be aware of and try to be more open about.

As an Event Manager organising international training events, I know first-hand how rewarding but also how stressful events management can be. Working in hospitality isn’t just a 9-5 job.

In the day-to-day organisation of events, it can be easy to overlook health and well-being issues. It is refreshing to see what managers can do to help in the industry. More mental-health friendly working practices need to be developed by managers, but perhaps this can only happen if they create an environment in which staff feel comfortable to talk about issues. Having a mentor within the organisation could be one option. This could be reasonably cost effective, but perhaps even this might feel a bit daunting for someone who is feeling under the weather.

The further support blogs provides a good solution! They are easy to access and can provide valuable information, support and guidance. However this blog is another great example of increasing awareness of mental health issues in the hospitality industry!

Hospitality Mental Health Awareness says:

Thank you Carol for taking the time to read our blog and sharing about your experiences of the industry with us!
We were interested to hear your suggestions for ways to promote mental health working practices within the workplace. Offering a one-on-one mentoring scheme or a buddy scheme within the company seems like a perfect opportunity to start an open conversation about mental health between staff and managers.
We would definitely recommend having a look for further advice on hospitality action with how best to support your staff through training and employee assistance programmes.

Ben says:

Managing mental health wellbeing of my staff is a key issue I regularly face. The biggest challenge I find is trying to spot when someone is struggling with their mental health, which is often made harder by employees not wanting to confide with myself or other senior managers because they feel the stigma associated with mental health could affect the way they are treated at work.

Initiatives like mental health first aiders is an excellent example of how to overcome this issue, by not only training people so they know how they can help others, but also enabling people across the full range employment hierarchy to be approachable, means that people are a lot more likely to talk about any problems they are having with someone than bottling it up. In addition to this increasing generally awareness of the subject is crucial going forward so people can identify when they are struggling and know there are options out there for them.

Studies for a whole range of industries have shown that the financial cost of people suffering with mental illness and having to take time off and or leave their jobs is a high proportion of overhead costs. As more companies realise this fact I believe there will be a much higher uptake of actively trying to tackle mental health problems in the work place.

Hospitality Mental Health Awareness says:

Thank you Ben for taking the time to read our blog and post your thoughts. We agree that the approachability of employers should be a crucial aspect of working in the hospitality industry. Helping employees feel comfortable about opening up and talking about issues is extremely important. As shown on our blog, the amount of sick days taken really builds up and ultimately costs a large amount of money. If managers can get the correct training and be able to help employees, costs of absent work days can be reduced. Do you have any successful techniques as a manager that helps employee’s feel confident coming to you for help or advice?

Amina says:

This is a great blog. The hotel industry has a high turnover of employees and this can be argued it is largely due to the stressful nature of the business with long and unsocial working hours. We think one solution you mentioned about managers attending the IOSH course is a great idea. With more managers trained on this course, employees will feel more supported and valued by management, and will feel they are in a happier working environment.

Hospitality Mental Health Awareness says:

Thank you Amina for taking time to read our blog. We agree that the volume of turnover in this industry is large, and hope that through the introduction of mental health support such as IOSH, employees may feel better supported, resulting in them staying longer in organisations.

Katie Brookes says:

As you stated, 2/3 of workers are said to suffer with mental health and i do agreed employers should do more to help. However, if employers need to provide relevant support, training, better working conditions and give the opportunity for employees to say “no” to work – this will in turn decrease productivity (as people may be off work) there is also a huge cost element to providing these services which could in turn effect employees bonus’s, commissions, pay rises. Also smaller companies may not have the funds to help their staff, so how do you suggest they help with their employees mental health but for free? Another issue could be, the remaining 1/3 without or little suffering from mental health – wouldn’t they be more stressed if 2/3 of the workforce are saying no to work or having support/training therefore leaving the 1/3 of the workforce with higher workloads, higher stress levels and making them de-motivated? How do you think companies can make it fair for everyone? How can all employers make sure everyone is happy whether or not they suffer with mental health?

Hospitality Mental Health Awareness says:

Thank you, Katie, for reading our blog and sharing your thoughts with us by bringing up a few valid points. We think it is important that mental health awareness and support is spread out over both large and smaller businesses, with the aim to provide the necessary support before it comes to the stage that individuals feel the need to say no to work. For smaller businesses there are a number of free online training courses provided by Mental Health organisations, for example, Mind which offers free advice and support. Through providing the help and support for employees it will in turn make them feel like they can come to work without decreasing the productivity, and supporting all employees in the workplace. In addition, companies could offer staff appraisals, run team building activities and offer employee recognition in order to make sure everyone is motivated and happy in the workplace.

Hailey says:

It brings me great happiness to hear that the hospitality industry is taking steps to bring awareness to mental health issues and are implementing resources to help end the stigma about mental health. I think these support systems could make a direct impact to businesses as their employees will be able to work in an environment where they feel supported which in turn can positively affect their workplace performances.

Hospitality Mental Health Awareness says:

Thank you Hailey, for taking the time to read our blog and share your thoughts! We agree that support systems will encourage employees to feel safe and comfortable about opening up. This will minimise the amount of sick days, thus reducing the costs of sick days for companies. Implementing the correct resources for support will create a positive atmosphere and end the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace. Have there been any support systems or resources implemented in your previous and/or current workplace that you would like to share with us?

Mary says:

Great blog. Very relevant in all that we do whether it be hospitality, daily life or other. Good read :). I’m in the insurance industry and see this everyday.

Hospitality Mental Health Awareness says:

Thank you for taking the time to read through our blog and leave a comment Mary! I’m glad our blog is extending passed the hospitality industry and that it is relevant for all fields.

s1506243 says:

Hi, thank you for creating this blog! It was a great read and is a very important taboo topic currently in the events industry. Blogs on this subject help to highlight the growing concern of mental health amongst those in the industry. It is interesting to read how Bristol Hotel have supported this through provided training practices.

We have written a blog similar to this topic. Please do take the time to read for further insight into mental health in the events industry! URL:

Hospitality Mental Health Awareness says:

Good afternoon Rebecca, thank you for reading our blog and sharing your thoughts with us. We couldn’t agree more that mental health is an important topic within our industry today. Hopefully our blog will create more awareness for the industry so that more hotels can follow in the footsteps of the Bristol Hotel and pledge their support to the mental health initiative.

Lauren Watts says:

Great Blog! I work in the sport Industry (mainly in football). Feel this covers many areas which effects everyone in day to day life regardless of their background or industry

Hospitality Mental Health Awareness says:

Thank you, Lauren for taking the time to read our blog and comment on it. That is an excellent point you have raised, we hope that this blog will not only raise awareness in the hospitality industry but others too, such as the sports industry!

Christiane A says:

I think there needs to be more awareness about mental health illness in the workplace, more discussion, training and seminars. It is still considered a stigma and not discussed openly. Employees should feel that there is help and resources available to them. I have worked over 20 years in the Tourism Industry in Canada and don’t recall the topic ever being discussed.

Hospitality Mental Health Awareness says:

Good afternoon Christiane, thank you for reading our blog and sharing your thoughts with us all the way from Canada! We couldn’t agree more that there needs to be more awareness about mental health in the workplace. Hopefully by reading this blog, people will become more aware of stigma surrounding mental health and organisations can provide the training and support needed to eliminate this stigma.

Katie Flynn says:

As somebody who has previously worked in a hotel and had colleagues that have struggled with mental health I am glad that more awareness is being spread. Hopefully, managers will take note!

Hospitality Mental Health Awareness says:

Hi Katie,
It is such a shame that so many people have experienced mental health issues in the hospitality industry as it is all about trying to make guests happy! We believe that with a few simple solutions managers can make a huge difference.

Comments are closed.