Managing Anxiety in the Food Service Sector

Knowing how to support your staff properly can help to reduce the occurrence of stress, depression and anxiety.
Knowing how to support your staff properly can help to reduce the occurrence of stress, depression and anxiety.

The COVID-19 pandemic is having far-reaching effects on the food industry, particularly for food service businesses. These businesses, such as restaurants, bars, and fast food chains, are closing down temporarily in response to government mandates. These mandates are put in place to keep the general population safe and reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Despite the positive benefits in the fight against the coronavirus, there are negative impacts that are being felt by food service businesses. There are worries about the financial impacts of closures, whether food workers will lose their jobs entirely, and whether business will ever return to normal function. It is evident that these closures are taking a toll on the mental health of owners, managers and staff at these businesses.

Here are some ways to help manage mental health issues, such as anxiety, in a food business:

Know the signs

If your food business is still operating, even if only through take-out and delivery, make sure you are keeping aware of your staff. Many food workers may be dealing with mental health issues like anxiety or depression, but may not know it or may be trying to hide it for fear of losing their job. It is important to know the signs of anxiety and depression so that you can help support your staff. This also helps you, as an owner or manager, to identify the signs in yourself. Management is not immune to the pandemic’s effect on mental health.

Destigmatize mental health issues

Experiencing mental health struggles does not make someone weak. Feeling under pressure is likely to be experienced by all staff during this time. Ensure that you communicate to your staff that it is quite normal to be feeling this way in the current situation. Also make sure to emphasize that feelings of stress are by no means a reflection that they are inefficient workers. Work hard to break the stigma around anxiety and depression so that all staff feel comfortable with how they are feeling. This can go a long way to helping manage mental health and the overall morale of the business.

Encourage self-care

It is important to ensure that you encourage all staff to take care of themselves during this time. Self-care will look different for each person, but it should always have a positive effect on their well-being and mental state. Helpful coping strategies for stress include sufficient rest in between shifts, as well as restful breaks while working. Encouraging staff to eat healthy food and maintaining moderate physical activity are also ways to help them deal with stress. While these aren’t things that can be enforced by management, making suggestions to your staff for what they can do while not at the workplace can help them to manage their mental health. This in turn will help reduce stress and anxiety while they are at the workplace.

Stay connected

If your business has had to reduce operations or shut down temporarily, you and your staff may be feeling disjointed. It is vitally important to stay connected to all of your staff; this can be done through virtual meetings, phone calls and emails, to name a few. Some staff may be feeling very isolated or lonely, especially if they are quarantined due to potential COVID-19 exposure. On the other hand, staff that are still working doing take-out or delivery may be missing colleagues that are no longer working on the premises, either due to reduced operations or illness. Maintaining communication with all employees will provide support and encouragement, along with a sense of normalcy.

Support all staff

If you have identified any staff that may be struggling with their mental health, it is imperative that you know the next steps to take. Make sure that you understand how to provide them with support and how to link them with available resources. Remember that the stigma surrounding mental health problems causes many people to hide their struggles or to resist seeking support. If you know how to support your staff properly you can help to reduce the occurrence of stress, depression and anxiety in your food business.