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3 key ways to support your hospitality staff over Christmas

Christmas support

The most wonderful time of the year can also be one of the most stressful for hospitality workers, which can have unfortunate consequences for their mental health. In this article, Mike Hardman, from catering equipment suppliers Alliance Online, offers his advice for making sure your staff can cope with the Christmas rush.

November 15 2019 - As an employer, it's always important to make sure you're providing your team with enough support to do their best work. But are you doing everything you could to help them over Christmas? From busier shifts to irregular work patterns, there are several reasons why the stress levels of the average hospitality worker tend to shoot up over the festive period - and that's not to mention overtime.

With all the extra pressure, not only is offering mental health support the right thing to do but it can increase productivity and help with staff retention, which should help your business operations run a bit smoother this Christmas. So, below I'll be taking you through some of the best ways to help ease the pressure and stress levels of your employees over the festive period.

Ensuring a good work/life balance

Hospitality staff will work an average of 28 hours overtime at Christmas, which can lead to burnout, exhaustion, and ultimately mental health issues if not properly managed (Big Hospitality). Even not getting enough rest can cause problems for your wellbeing, and hospitality workers are expected to run on just five to six hours sleep per night - three hours below the recommended duration for adults. So, it's very important they're given enough time off over to festive period to recover from their busy shifts.

There's no shame in admitting that putting up the Christmas rota will be one of the biggest headaches for you over the holidays. We like to keep things fair, but annual leave, travel plans, and deciding who (if anyone) has to work Christmas day can make pleasing everyone impossible. There are a few better ways to do it than leaving it to fate and picking at random, though.

If you're planning on hiring temporary staff, ask them if they'd be happy to work Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day during the interview process. Their plans may change closer to the time, but at least that way you know you'll have some hands on deck. Out of your more experienced permanent staff, don't forget to ask if anybody would like to volunteer to work these days. It could be that they're celebrating Christmas another day, or their family lives close by so they don't have to worry about transport. You might find that a few of your staff are willing to take one for the team, particularly if you tempt them with incentives or bonuses.

Inevitably though, you will have to assign people to shifts they don't want to do. To stop people from getting openly frustrated, try to make sure nobody has to work all three holidays or too many days in a row across the whole period. Most importantly, being open and honest about your planning can help diffuse any ill-feeling too, so don't try and keep things secretive.

Mental health awareness

You should strongly consider taking steps to ensure your employees know the symptoms of burnout and stress, and know what to do if they do experience these issues. Only 10% of hospitality employees have received training to support health and wellbeing (, despite how prevalent mental health issues can be in this sector, so book a few training sessions before the season begins if you can. You could also find leaflets and posters to put up in break rooms for your employees to read at their leisure and really take in the information.

It can also help to plan a few team building sessions throughout the year to ensure your staff have a good rapport before the festive period. That way, they can look out for each other, offer their support, and identify any concerning behaviour. You could even nominate members of your team to be mental health champions and first aiders so there's always someone for your staff to turn to should they need them.

Offering incentives and support

Another important factor in employee wellbeing is making sure your staff feel supported, valued, and motivated at work despite the surge in customers. This is all about creating a great environment for them to work in, including being approachable and listening to their problems. Let them know your office door is always open should they wish to chat or simply escape for a few minutes. Over one in six hospitality workers are too scared to approach their employer about issues that are effecting their mental health (, and gestures like these can make them feel less isolated.

When putting up your decorations, don't forget the staff room - it's their Christmas too, and including their break area in the celebrations can help them get excited even though they're at work. Does the room need any new facilities, like a coffee machine or some Bluetooth speakers? A gift like this ahead of Christmas would be sure to generate some buzz amongst your team.

When the pressure starts to rise, keep morale high with incentives and rewards, such as small prizes or vouchers they can cash in for time off in the new year. As well as making their hard work feel valued, which can help with retention, they'll be motivated to work harder and productivity will also increase.

In a similar vein, consider planning a party for your staff in January to say thank you for all their efforts over the holidays. There's no better way to bring the team together and let them know their hard work makes a difference than by celebrating together. If you plan something fun, like a meal or cocktail making, and announce it early, it also gives them something to look forward to while dealing with the Christmas rush.

Despite all the extra challenges the Christmas rush can bring to your business, the health and happiness of your employees should be a priority. The tips in this guide can help you put some measures in place to protect it.


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