Burnout is all too common in restaurants due to the fast-paced nature of the industry. And unfortunately for many managers, the issue only becomes apparent when the affected employee resigns from their position. This can be very disruptive for the business – you have to find and train their replacement, settle any ripples in the team, and deal with the loss of revenue.
Wouldn’t it be better if you could prevent that resignation from happening?
So what warning signs should you be looking for in your restaurant staff, and what should you do if you suspect they’re on the verge of burning out?
What are the signs of burnout?
Burnout is broken down into three main categories of symptoms:
Physical: Fatigue, insomnia, illness, loss of appetite
Emotional: Mental health issues, pessimism, loss of enjoyment
Behavioral: Low productivity, irritability, apathy
But those things can be hard to identify from the outside. Here are a few telltale things to look out for:
They don’t want to socialize
Not everyone wants to be friends with their co-workers, and that’s fine. But if you notice a dramatic shift in an employee’s social behavior, with colleagues and managers, then that could be a sign that something else is going on. Withdrawing from social events they used to enjoy, wanting to leave work as soon as possible, or avoiding more than a few cursory words with co-workers could indicate that they feel detached and dissatisfied with your restaurant.
They’re calling in sick more often and regularly coming in late
This detachment can also show itself in employees calling in sick more frequently, or showing up to work late. While you might feel the need to reprimand these people, it’s worth considering why their attendance is falling. People who are overworked or overwhelmed are more susceptible to illnesses because their immune systems are compromised, and mental health problems are a key contributor to absenteeism.
They’re snappy with others
Burnt out people feel ineffective, which can manifest in a pessimistic attitude or outright irritability. Look out for employees who have a short fuse with co-workers, or start talking back to you.
They’re not very productive
Employees become pessimistic when they feel like they’re being ignored or overlooked. And that’s going to lead to a general lack of productivity on their part. You might notice it when they take a long time to complete basic tasks, or when their inefficiency starts to affect other staff. Often, you won’t see it until you receive a complaint about their quality of service.
They look exhausted all the time or they complain about a lack of sleep
Hospitality is tiring work, but if someone is chronically tired, then they might be making poor lifestyle choices due to stress – for example they’re staying out late despite knowing they have a shift the next day because they’re indifferent to the consequences. Burnout also keeps people awake at night, and if someone is constantly mentioning that they’re struggling to sleep, that could be a sign that their work is interfering in their personal life.
How to prevent employee burnout
Now that you know the signs to look out for, how can you address the issue with at-risk employees?
Enforce a break rule
Unhappiness just keeps building up when people don’t have room to breathe. Yes, some shifts are hectic, but if your staff aren’t getting that 10 or 15 minutes to eat or go for a walk or talk to their friends on Facebook, then their mental health is going to suffer. Know when your busiest times are, and plan breaks around them.
Be flexible on shifts
While you can’t schedule shifts around your employees’ social lives, allowing for flexibility will benefit you in the long run. Give staff outlets to swap shifts and request time off. Slack is a great internal messaging tool for this – people can download the app on their phone and then comment and tag each other in specific channels that you create.
Be realistic about work expectations
If staff are always complaining that their workloads are too much, then you shouldn’t dismiss this out of hand – your shift scheduling needs immediate attention. To help you write a great schedule, open a Google Sheet, and write the names of your employees in one column. Then write all of the roles and responsibilities of your venue along the top row. Give your staff a score out of 10 on each of these items, and keep this in mind when determining what they will and won’t be capable of managing. It’s also crucial to keep a log of your shift labor every day – monitor when you have too many people on shift, and when you didn’t have enough. Pre-planning like this – and taking staff feedback on board – will help ensure the workday runs smoothly.
Create a supportive culture
You’ve probably heard that quote – ‘people leave managers, not companies’. It’s true. And the state of your restaurant’s culture starts with you. Be communicative and supportive; show your team that their contributions are appreciated. Encourage each person to “shout out” another team member’s performance during pre-shift meetings to help them build a sense of camaraderie. Make it a point to check in individually with staff on a regular basis, even if it’s just a one line text message saying ‘Hey, keep up the good work!’ That way if they do feel overwhelmed, they’ll feel comfortable coming to you early on.
Provide proper training
Workers are typically unhappy when they feel they don’t have the right skills to do their jobs. So make sure you’ve given them adequate orientation training, and provide them with ongoing training to show that you care about their success as an individual. According to CHART, hospitality businesses spending 5% or more of their budget on training experience 23% less turnover. This doesn’t have to be a huge investment – you could sign them up for access to a library of online hospitality courses.
Show them they have career opportunities
One of the most common reasons restaurant employees resign is because they don’t see a future in the industry. But why can’t we change that perception? Show your workers that there are opportunities for them to move to other positions in your restaurant. If they’re an accounting student and hospitality is their side-gig, they could actually end up being a huge asset to your restaurant down the line. Instead of spending unnecessary money on recruitment when you need a new accountant, you could hire in-house. Stay open to these opportunities and show your employees that you’re willing to move them into exciting new positions.
Featured image by Lisa Davies