Hotels are places we come to get away from it all and relax. Places we can leave everything else behind, recharge and go back out into the world feeling mentally refreshed. That sense of wellbeing we have when we leave is a small indication of what it means to look after our own wellbeing.
But, while we as an industry have mastered the art of looking after our guests, it’s not always been the case for our employees. Hospitality isn’t one of the industries with the highest incidence of mental health issues, but it posts some significant figures, nonetheless.
A 2017 government report found that almost three-quarters (74%) of employees working in hotels feel stressed and over a quarter (26%) suffer from poor mental health. Despite that, it found that 40% of those people still come into work.
Although a huge amount of progress has been made educating people across society about mental health, there is still a stigma surrounding it. Indeed, this was the view of 70% of respondents in that same government study.
As an industry, we cannot continue to ignore or overlook these needs of our employees. Quite aside from there being a moral obligation to look after the people who work for us, there is a business cost too.
At Valor, we reviewed our absence stats and identified a higher number of employees suffering from mental health related issues than physical reasons for absence. It’s unlikely that these trends are an indication of much higher levels of mental illness, but that awareness and acceptance of mental health issues are increasing.
In a way, it is good that those numbers are on the up, because it reflects our improved visibility of the problem. Not only must we put provisions in place to help treat mental illness among our employees, we must also put the infrastructure in place to create a workplace that supports positive mental health, allows employees to manage their mental health and is supportive when mental health issues arise.
It is this personal impact on individuals that really prompted us to take action and, little by little, we’ve been able to make changes that have made us a better place of work for everyone’s mental health. What’s more, to our surprise, we ‘ve found that for every £1 we’ve invested in mental health first aid training, the return on investment has been nearly £10. Cost, therefore, is not a reason to not make provisions for mental health management.
Our efforts to help individuals better manage their mental health and tackle mental illness began with creating a health and wellbeing policy outlining our commitment to supporting improvements in health management within the business. The policy states that we will ensure that all work practices, the environment and culture will enhance and protect the health and wellbeing of employees.
A policy, though, must be manifested through real action and change. We began by training wellbeing champions in each of our hotels to ensure there was someone employees knew they could speak to about what support was available and who could help us to shape and improve what support we provide.
We have rolled out mental health first aid training, so that there are employees qualified to a national standard in each of our 17 UK hotels. The training helps people to spot signs of mental health problems and provide help and guidance for individuals where it is needed.
We also introduced ‘Wellness Wednesdays’ in each hotel. Once a week we provide a focus on wellbeing topics or activities like nutrition, financial, physical, and mental. We’ve got walking clubs, yoga, crafts, head massage, ‘waist watchers’, salary finance, health assessments, and running clubs. The aim is to help employees to find and do things that help with their sense of wellbeing both mentally and physically.
Elsewhere we’re supporting campaigns to help employees give up smoking, encouraging local community involvement and introducing other suggestions made by our team. By allowing employees to lead on the initiative, we are not only fostering engagement in it, but improving its effectiveness as a result of taking input from the individuals who will benefit most from it.
We know there’s a huge amount more we can do and we’re committed to continually improving the provisions we make for mental health management. Valor hotels continue to be a happier and now even more inclusive place to work now, but most importantly we know that individuals feel less of a stigma about mental health issues and that there is help available if they need it.
Valor Hospitality is a management company with bold ambition and a current portfolio of over 40 hotels globally. Valor Hospitality Europe has 17 hotels in a rapidly growing portfolio of high profile assets under brands including Hilton, IHG and Marriott.