restaurant staff

How to help restaurant staff avoid COVID-19 burnout

For many Canadian workers, particularly in intense industries like foodservice, the burnout is real.

A recent survey found that 84 per cent of Canadian employees have experienced burnout, with 34 per cent reporting high or extreme levels.

Will easing public or workplace restrictions around COVID-19 automatically reverse employees’ pandemic-related burnout? For restaurant staff such as kitchen workers or servers, it may not be that easy.

Kart Vyas, Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS) Specialized Consultant, defines burnout as “physical, emotional, and/or mental exhaustion resulting from persistent, prolonged unresolved stress that may take time and effort to heal and recover from.”

WSPS notes that much of this burnout has been fueled by pandemic worry, aggravated by increased workloads, longer work hours, isolation, and little vacation time. Employees who are experiencing burnout often have less energy, are less productive, have difficulty concentrating, and feel less motivated.

“Well-being is composed of physical health, social health, and mental health. It is important that we support and engage in activities that incorporate all three aspects of well-being in our routine,” explains Vyas.

What can restaurant owners, operators, or managers do to help your restaurant staff recover from COVID-related burnout? Because many different factors may contribute to COVID-related burnout, take a multi-faceted approach. Your end goal is to provide a physically and psychologically safe and healthy workplace.

WSPS advises considering these six opportunities:

  1. Ask employees how they’re doing. Conduct a comfort survey asking workers about their mental health and whether they are experiencing burnout. “Just participating in a well-thought-out comfort survey will provide mental relief for some employees by making them part of the decision-making process,” says Vyas.
  2. Share the survey results, and how you plan to address employee issues and concerns, such as returning to work and devolving COVID requirements. Engage workplace stakeholders in identifying solutions.
  3. Raise awareness of COVID-related burnout. Educate employees on how to recognize symptoms, anticipate and adjust to difficulties, and set priorities. Introduce them to self-help techniques that focus on emotional, physical, intellectual, social and mental health. “Consistent daily routines help increase a sense of control in people with burnout,” notes Vyas. Reassure employees they can speak in confidence with supervisors or HR about how to accommodate their needs.
  4. Assess workload levels. Prioritize tasks and keep expectations reasonable: base assignments and deadlines on each employee’s abilities, proficiency and experience. Encourage employees to speak up if they have questions or feel overwhelmed. Be open to employees’ ideas about how to do things better.
  5. Actively support work-life balance. Infringements on family time because of longer workdays and expectations of being always available have contributed to COVID-related burnout. “Ensure employees are able to disconnect from work at the end of their prescribed workday, and that your company culture supports this,” adds Vyas. Encourage employees to take vacation time and proper rest breaks. Allow for flexible work arrangements so employees can meet personal or family needs.
  6. Put a mental health first aid policy in place. Train your employees to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental disorders, provide access to resources, and educate yourself on how to respond to a mental health emergency.

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