by Greg Staley, CEO of Synergy Suite
Restaurant workers face an unprecedented combination of factors that are contributing to widespread burnout across the industry. The ongoing pandemic has led to new and evolving safety and cleanliness protocols, in addition to the safety procedures already in place for food companies. Many employees are afraid of contracting COVID-19. Some cities have adopted mask and vaccination warrants for anyone in restaurants and bars, a polarizing move that has led some disgruntled customers to voice their frustrations with staff. And the nationwide staffing shortage means the remaining employees are working longer hours, taking more frequent shifts and carrying heavier loads to fill the staffing gap. Fewer employees sometimes results in slower-than-normal service, which can irritate impatient customers. While no one has a quick fix for all of these issues, I have a few ways to reduce employee burnout during this particularly stressful time.
My tips include:
- Prioritize employee health and well-being. Promote a safe and healthy culture. Don’t expect employees to work when they are sick or completely exhausted. Offer paid sick leave, make it easier to exchange shifts for employees, and don’t âpunishâ staff for taking time off when needed. While this might not be the best financially, consider cutting down on hours or days to give overworked employees a break. In addition, simple and sincere gestures can go a long way in helping employees feel valued. Thank your staff often. Give them little tokens of your appreciation, like small bonuses or gift certificates, and praise their efforts in meetings, on your website, and through social media.
- Optimize labor levels to keep hours predictable and as low as possible. Use time-saving inventory tools and take advantage of instant reports that take managers a few hours off each week. And remember, digital solutions make tasks simpler and more efficient, alleviating some of the burden from overworked and highly stressed employees who have a million other things to do during each shift.
- Take advantage of user-friendly planning 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 entering work or having to text managers to see their upcoming shifts. Today’s digital systems allow employees to easily switch shifts and don’t require managers to remember texts about PTO or shift changes. These features also help managers track employee hours to make sure they don’t result in an increase in the workforce with excessive overtime.
- Use digital tools to elevate tasks. Manual inventory tracking, performing safety checklists, running reports, and managing other tasks are time consuming and error prone. Make processes more efficient and accurate with digital tools, which will save employees time and aggravation.
- Provide important information at the fingertips of employees. Help employees stay on top of changing COVID regulations and provide regular reminders on important safety protocols. Prioritize continuing training by sending reminders directly to employees’ smartphones. Short videos, links and small pieces of information make it easy for employees to remember vital information without getting overwhelmed. These efforts can also help reinforce important information for new employees who are still learning the ropes.
- Offer de-stressing options. Let employees know about stress reduction programs they can access, such as mindfulness and meditation apps, to give them 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. Swap with a nearby gym or fitness studio for free or discounted passes in exchange for discounts at your restaurant.
- Encourage your employees to draw boundaries between work and personal life. When not at work, don’t expect employees to be available to instantly respond to texts or emails. Make sure they take the PTO when they need it. Prioritize family, health and wellness, recreation and other things outside of work to help employees rejuvenate and reduce the risk of burnout. Notify all employees of new information, regulations and protocols via email or through a team communication app so they can stay on top of everything essential when they return to work.
- Recognize the signs of burnout. Common signs that your employees may be exhausted include burnout, frequent illnesses, irritability, and increased errors 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, yet powerful tactics like regular team checks, scheduled breaks, paid time off, and sanity days to keep all employees on top of their game.
Greg staley is the CEO of Synergy Suite, a restaurant management platform at the back of the house. Greg is focused on facilitating better visibility and increased profitability for restaurant chains through the use of smart, integrated back-of-house technology. For more information, please contact Greg at [email protected].