This is not a manned website 24/7, just for signposting appropriate support for you. Please follow the links provided.

Looking towards Christmas and into 2022

Looking towards Christmas and into 2022

 What a past 24 months it has been, we have known nothing like it, not just in my lifetime, but in anyone else living’s lifetime too.

The industry has been open, closed, open for restricted hours, complying with guidelines, skills shortages and now perhaps the biggest issue of all- staff shortages.

Before we reach the end of 2021, we have the busy Christmas season ahead. This will bring stress and anxiety to owners, managers and staff alike. The owners will want to maximise income after such a difficult year, managers will want to achieve targets and look after their teams and staff will be concerned about how they will get through, on the low staffing levels their businesses may have!

At this hugely busy time it is right to maximise the income opportunity, however consideration must be given to ensure staff do not “burn out”. How can this be achieved I hear you ask?

Think smart, how can we help staff get through with the energy to enjoy their own Christmas. Firstly, careful menu planning is vital, I am sure this has already all been done. The clever procurement of prepared products will allow a smaller team in the kitchen to still successfully present an interesting and seasonal menu. Secondly, consider how staff are rostered on, allowing for straight shifts, either ‘earlies’ or ‘lates’ – allowing time to recharge between shifts where possible. If not easy, then try to give time off after a few busy days on, then back on shift again. It will be important to have ‘caring conversations’ with staff, by that I mean asking open questions and listening carefully to their responses. Managers and supervisors need to be on the lookout for signals of when staff behaviours are changing to allow them to provide support. Checking in on staff throughout the shift is important too, stress levels and anxiety can increase during service and staff may need to be supported then too.

Surely 2022, will see the tide turn and we can welcome better days as we head into the new year, with less trading restrictions and improved staffing levels. However, let’s be realistic!

This tough period is going to continue for some time yet, so we need to think long term, to consider the health and well-being of the staff.

The biggest concern as we move through 2022 for staff wellbeing will be the staffing levels, are there enough to cope when business returns to the level the establishment is used to? If there are not sufficient staff, then those who are working will be extremely stressed and overworked, absence will increase and thereby exacerbate the problem.

Businesses should consider providing an Employee Assistance Programme for the staff, also have a few senior staff trained and certificated as Mental Health First Aiders. The cost of an EAP could be as little as £5 per employee per year, amazing value, and a clear action to show staff that you are supporting them.

The more supervisors are aware of mental health issues, the better they are at supporting staff who present with them.

Supervisors should look out for changes in their staff’s behaviour, for example, if someone who is normally quiet becomes very talkative, or a normally loud outgoing individual goes quiet, repeated lateness, absence, tiredness. They could all be signs that a staff member is not themselves.

The important part is to recognise the signs and accept its OK to be not OK, then you can do something positive about it, to turn things around.

The employers and businesses that will not only survive, but will flourish in 2022, will be the ones that take time to create a supportive and caring culture for their staff. Employees will choose the caring employers, we all know, it is an employee’s market right now!

Many businesses are already doing this and several have done so pre-pandemic. I have also seen many changes in work practices following the reopening of businesses. Some only open for a 4-day week, giving staff 3 days off, some guaranteeing one weekend in four off, others are offering supportive benefits, like gym membership, creating a wellbeing champion. I honestly believe that the sector is coming back stronger and creating a more attractive place to work.

On the customer front, there is an obvious shift in expectation to quality, health and provenance in the product, which is a good thing. They are seeking exciting experiences and magical memories after being locked down for months. They are happy to pay a little more for the quality and locally sourced ingredients. This can be reflected in the pricing, to allow organisations to pay staff better, the living wage for example as opposed to the basic minimum wage. The industry has proven that it is able to flex and be innovative when it has had to be, the secret is to stay agile. The future is bright!


Gordon McIntyre


Hospitality Health