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As the hospitality industry responds to differing circumstances around the world, looking after you and your team is an area worth giving much attention to. Madeleine Geach, Head of Culture at Hawksmoor and Merly Kammerling, qualified therapist, give helpful advice on how to emerge well as a team.

Welcoming Change

Alongside looking after yourself every day, it’s important to accept that there's a lot of change right now rather than fighting it. Instead, focus on developing the skills you maybe need to sharpen - like flexibility and resilience.

It is also about maintaining good habits. For me, these include making sure I get outside into nature most days, meditating regularly, and chatting to some I love.

Everyone has different ways of looking after themselves and managing their energy levels. Lots of people in the industry have had time away from the usual demands of work and have discovered healthy habits that make them feel good. We need to keep this up and do what works for us now more than ever. If we don’t look after ourselves, we cannot support our teams around us properly.

Tips for Welcoming Back Staff

Step into their shoes. Treat your people like your customers and ask yourself – how do I want them to feel about returning to work? And what can I do to achieve this? For example, in my team, some people were anxious, so my aim was to make people feel confident and reassured. I organized a training session and created clear communications to make sure everyone had all the information they needed and a space to raise questions for confidence-building among the team.

Ask your people about their individual situations and how this might impact their availability for work. In a bigger team, a survey is probably the best way to do this. Be as flexible as you can and see how you can support them, in order to nurture a happy and successful team. Of course, if it involves something serious - for example, where returning to work puts someone’s health at risk - it is vital you accommodate them. Also, be aware (and tell people on your teams) that you have to balance looking after the needs of individuals with the needs of the whole team. Accommodating one person’s less serious situation won’t work if it puts excessive pressure on other people – you have to weigh things up.

Offering a Helping Hand

This is a good time for upping your wellbeing training. A simple way to do this is having regular check-ins, be it pre-shift briefings or a zoom chat to talk about how people are feeling and ways they can look after themselves. And if you don’t have a really good Employee Assistance Programme in place, this might be the time to consider when you can introduce one – the support they can offer people going through a challenging time (including free counseling, financial advice, and legal help) is second to none and really supports you as a manager in looking after your people.

Readjusting to the Outside World

For those working in hospitality, the challenge is not only reopening and returning to work but also getting used to facing the public every day again after so many months of reduced human contact, as well as managing any mental health issues that the pandemic has exacerbated. You may find that not only your staff but yourself included, are prone to feeling more down, panicked, or overwhelmed than usual. This is totally normal and hence why it is crucial that we look after ourselves and each other in the workplace.

As leaders, it is imperative to consider your own wellbeing at this time. Your role may be especially draining on your own mental and physical resources, as you run around trying to consider the wellbeing of everyone else and manage the safety and happiness of customers on top of that too.

Preparing your Communication

Communication decreases stress and increases cooperation and will make your life a lot easier! If reopening, prepare your back-to-work meetings with employees and consider extra opportunities for regular catch-ups. Giving employees a quick courtesy call prior to return may also help staff to feel less anxious about the initial return. Additional ways of opening communication with your team is having a ‘Queries and Suggestions’ box in the staff room or via email where people can ask questions and share their feedback. You could also create a survey for your staff to give feedback on how they are feeling about work and common issues that need to be addressed.

Boost confidence and morale by giving praise and organizing team building activities such as in-house cocktails competitions to offer a little distraction from current times. Make sure to include the management team too as everyone is prone to feeling vulnerable during these strange times.

Recommended Relaxation

Deep breathing is one of the quickest ways to help deactivate your fight or flight response and can trigger a state of calm. Allow the belly to expand and deflate for the count of four. Find a place to be alone for at least three mins or try whilst multitasking/ in service.

Encourage yourself and others to take breaks and zone out from work. Breaks are good for cognitive function and resetting a stressed state of mind. Even stepping out of an environment for a few mins can help to boost mood and energy levels. Leaders should make contact with loved ones a priority. Having a confidential outlet to discuss your return back to work will help you process your thoughts and feelings. Encourage employees to do the same.

Get Equipped with the Mental Health Resources Available

Instead of feeling like you have to shoulder everyone's mental health issues on your own, doing a little research into reputable resources that staff can contact may help you to feel more confident to discuss this sensitive topic. Make staff fully aware of the services available, for example, if you have an Employment Assistant Programme (EAP). If you don’t have one, then Me, Myself in Mind resources (UK only) and other helplines provided may be a good start. Remember that resources are there for the leaders too!

Print off information on resources / EAP and place it somewhere for all to see to actively encourage staff to take a look. You could also include some relaxation techniques for staff to try. Considering doing some form of training on mental health within the workplace which could better equip you and your staff to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental ill-health and what to do if someone is in crisis.

Setting Clear Boundaries

Having a sense of boundaries does not mean that you don’t care for the business or team. Reduce feelings of stress by considering what you can delegate, who is responsible for what, and how/when do you wish to be reported to. Boundaries lead to everyone getting the best version of you. Taking on the issues of others can have an impact on one’s mental state - maintenance comes in the form of regularly checking in with how you are feeling.

The H.A.L.T Technique is a self-awareness tool to help you explore how one is feeling when stressed.

Ask yourself the following: “Am I...”





H.A.L.T may not give you the accurate reason(s) for why you are feeling a certain way but is a good place to start exploring it and coming up with a solution. This is also useful as a basic set of questions to start a conversation with team members who are struggling at work.

If you feel that your issues regarding the current situation or otherwise are getting on top of you then seeking help from a professional can be very beneficial. Talking therapies offer a confidential and non-judgemental space for you to off-load, discuss how you are really feeling, and help you to process and move forward. Currently, I am working with Healthy Hopso who are offering up to three free Wellness Mentoring Sessions to all hospitality professionals based in the UK, who would like to discuss their mental wellbeing.

*Please consult WHO, as well as country-specific legislation and guidelines when considering next steps for your bar.

Key Takeaways