by Greg Staley, CEO of SynergySuite
Restaurant employees are facing a combination of unprecedented factors that are contributing to widespread burnout throughout the industry. The ongoing pandemic has led to new – and ever-changing – safety and cleanliness protocols, in addition to the safety procedures already in place for food businesses. Many employees have anxiety about contracting COVID-19. Some cities have passed mask and vaccination mandates for anyone in restaurants and bars, a polarizing move that has resulted in some unhappy customers taking out their frustrations on staff. And the nationwide staffing shortage means that the remaining employees are working longer hours, picking up more frequent shifts, and carrying heavier burdens to make up for the staffing deficit. Fewer employees sometimes results in slower-than-normal service, which may irritate impatient customers. While no one has a silver bullet to solve all of these issues, I do have some ways to reduce employee burnout during this especially stressful time.
My tips include:
- Prioritize employees’ health and well-being. Promote a safe, healthy culture. Don’t expect employees to work when they’re sick or utterly exhausted. Offer paid sick time, make it easy for employees to swap shifts, and don’t “punish” staff for taking time off when necessary. Although it may not be financially ideal, consider reducing hours or days to give overworked employees a break. Also, simple, sincere gestures can go a long way in making employees feel valued. Thank your staff often. Give them little tokens of your appreciation, such as small bonuses or gift certificates, and praise their efforts in meetings, on your website and via social media.
- Optimize labor levels to keep hours predictable and as low as possible. Use time-saving inventory tools and leverage instant reporting that takes a few hours off the managers’ plates every week. And remember that digital solutions make tasks simpler and more efficient, taking some burden off overworked, highly stressed employees who have a million other things to do during each shift.
- Leverage user-friendly scheduling systems. Anything that makes employees’ lives easier will help reduce burnout. Digital scheduling systems allow employees to view schedules on their phones instead of physically coming into work or having to text their managers to see their upcoming shifts. Today’s digital systems allow employees to easily swap shifts, and don’t require managers to remember texts about PTO or shift swaps. These features also help managers track employees’ hours to ensure they’re not driving up labor with excess overtime.
- Use digital tools to elevate tasks. Manually tracking inventory, completing safety checklists, running reports, and managing other tasks is extremely time-consuming and prone to errors. Make the processes more efficient and accurate with digital tools, which will save employees significant time and aggravation.
- Provide important information at employees’ fingertips. Help employees stay current with changing COVID regulations and provide regular refreshers around important safety protocols. Prioritize ongoing training by sending reminders right to employees’ smartphones. Short videos, links, and bite-sized chunks of information make it simple for employees to remember vital information without becoming overwhelmed. These efforts can also help reinforce important information for new employees who are still learning the ropes.
- Offer de-stressing options. Inform employees about the stress-reduction programs they can access, such as mindfulness and meditation apps, to provide a few minutes of calm during their hectic days. Send links to stress-reducing webinars or podcasts. If you have a formal Employee Assistance Program (EAP), let staff know how to access it. Barter with a nearby gym or fitness studio to get free or reduced-fee guest passes in exchange for discounts at your restaurant.
- Encourage your employees to set work-life boundaries. When they’re not at work, don’t expect employees to be available to instantly respond to texts or emails. Ensure they’re taking PTO when they need it. Prioritize a focus on family, health and wellness, hobbies, and other things outside work to help employees recharge and lower risks of burnout. Update all employees on new information, regulations, and protocols via email or a team communication app so they can catch up on everything essential when they return to work.
- Recognize the signs of burnout. Common signs that your employees may be burnt out include exhaustion, frequent illnesses, irritability, and increased mistakes or accidents. Some people also experience low energy and physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach problems. Create an open-door policy where employees feel comfortable talking to managers about their struggles. Work to reduce the stigma around burnout and mental health. Implement simple – but powerful – tactics like regular team check-ins, scheduled breaks, paid time-off, and mental health days to keep all employees at the top of their game.
Greg Staley is the CEO of SynergySuite, a back-of-house restaurant management platform. Greg focuses on facilitating better visibility and increased profitability for restaurant chains through the use of intelligent, integrated back-of-house technology. For more information, please contact Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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