Trauma-Informed Management In Restaurants

Feb 28, 2024

Originally published by Poached with contribution from HR Annie Consulting. Find the original article here.

HR Annie Consulting Gives Insights For Restaurant Operators and Managers Looking To Create Trauma-Informed Workspaces

While restaurant work is worthwhile and enriching on many levels, there is no denying that it can take a toll on the best of us without proper care.

Day in and day out, restaurant workers give so much of themselves for the pleasure and entertainment of others while—traditionally—expected to leave their baggage at the door, keep a smile on their faces, and assume the customer is always right.

Trauma-informed management is an invaluable practice to support employees’ well-being, encourage sustainable work environments, and build better teams while navigating fast-paced, high-stress restaurant environments.

We spoke with HR Annie Consulting about trauma-informed management, why it’s essential, and best practices to support management in creating more supportive workspaces.

Why Trauma-Informed Approaches are Necessary For Management

Trauma is part of being human and a pretty widespread occurrence. The knowledge and application of trauma-informed management practices are extremely valuable to anyone leading a restaurant team.

“Studies show that 60% of adults have experienced a childhood traumatic event (abuse, violence, neglect, bullying, disaster, racial or ethnic, etc.),” Linda Addy, Training and Development Consultant at HR Annie Consulting, said. “Additionally, 1 in 5 adults will experience a mental health episode event each year.”

As a restaurant owner or manager, you will likely come face to face with an employee struggling with trauma, whether work-related or personal, at some point.

You may have employees who are currently facing food and financial insecurities, drug or alcohol-related dependencies, and other stressful life events like divorce, death, and illness.

Addy continued to point out that the job alone, which often glorifies the hard edges, can provide long-term stress, which can cause traumatic responses with lasting effects.

The tides are turning, and more and more workers are seeking healthier environments to support their mental and physical well-being.

“Newer generations want work/life balance, opportunities to learn and grow, better benefits, and a culture with connection,” Addy explained. “Work/life balance and connection fail when companies don’t demonstrate the compassion and support needed, especially when an employee is facing life’s challenges: divorce, victims of crime, illness, death, abuse, etc.”

Recognition and awareness of common stressors in our industry and the signs of traumatic responses in others is the first step toward more empathetic management styles. Caring for your team’s performance, safety, and overall well-being creates a culture of loyalty and trust, resulting in employee satisfaction, retention, and increased team morale.

What Trauma-Informed Management Looks Like

“Trauma-informed managers are leaders that have the awareness and responsiveness to those impacted by trauma or stressors,” Addy told us. “While it may not be our job to teach employees how to cope, trauma-informed leadership can foster a respectful and supportive workplace culture that values the team member by giving physical space, providing predictable consistency in the workplace when possible, and sharing impactful resources.”

Investing time in regular check-ins with your team is a great start to fostering a more open, supportive, and respectful workplace. Addy suggested using these moments to ask open-ended questions so employees have an opportunity to share. You can ask what’s going well or not going well to see if they need anything from you as their manager.

“Be sure employees are informed about well-being entitlements like PTO, protected leave of absence, or discounts for massages or gym memberships,” Addy said.

Of course, some employers may be hesitant to step into the personal lives of their employees because of labor laws and other legalities. Still, Addy suggests approaching your employee if something feels off or you notice an abrupt change in behavior and performance.

“You can start with, ‘I want to remind you that we value you on the team. I noticed [insert behavior or concern] and wanted to check in with you.’” Addy explained. “This may continue as a conversation about your expectations or policies, or the employee may choose to share information that allows you to route them to time off work, a need for accommodation, or other support resources.”

When stuck in a trauma response, it can be hard to recognize that you need a break or that things are at a point where you need help. Sometimes, it takes a leader to recognize the signs and recommend taking a break from work and seeking out other resources made available to them.

Being that person for your employees is okay. Awareness and sensitivity to these scenarios are essential to trauma-informed management.

Best Practices for Demonstrating Support of Restaurant Employees

We spend about a third of our lives working—so showing up in a supportive way for your employees is essential to building better teams and encouraging healthier individuals.

HR Annie Consulting gave us a list of best practices for employers to be more aware and support their teams:

  • Build Trust and Connection with your Employees: This should be intentional and can take some time. Individual check-ins, team-building exercises, and educational and career development opportunities are fantastic ways to build team morale.
  • Discuss Benefits and Entitlements: Provide information about available wellness benefits, time-off policies, and other entitlements—not just during onboarding—and support your team in utilizing those resources.
  • Observe and Listen: Ask open-ended questions and actively listen to your team. If you notice signs of distress, normalize that sometimes we all get stuck and may need a break to recharge our batteries or ask for help.
  • Practice Mindfulness: When interacting with or around employees who’ve experienced trauma, be sensitive and mindful of your actions and words. Avoid startling or surprising employees—be predictable and establish routines. Don’t joke about things like abuse, illnesses, or other sensitive topics, and when you make a mistake, own up to it and apologize.

Benefits of Implementing an Employee Assistance Program

If you’re looking for a more tangible solution to help your team find the resources, an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a popular and effective way to go.

“An Employee Assistance Program, or EAP, is either sponsored by the employer or, in some cases, available through your health insurance provider when you enroll in benefits,” said Erica Minori, HR Consultant at HR Annie Consulting. “An EAP provides various free and confidential services for employees and their immediate family members.”

Depending on the program, an EAP can include resources for:

  • 24/7 crisis counseling line
  • Sessions with a therapist or counselor
  • Sessions with a financial planning expert
  • Legal assistance
  • Resources for caretakers of elderly adults
  • Childcare resources
  • Identity theft protection
  • Resources for buying or selling a home
  • Self-paced learning topics
  • Life Coaching
  • Professional support for addiction and wellness
  • Gym discounts

In addition to providing valuable resources for your team’s mental, physical, and financial well-being, Minori shared that managers can access professional support to help navigate scenarios with employees who may have dealt with trauma.

For high-stress, fast-paced, and highly physical restaurant work environments, EAPs make sense as a well-rounded resource, offering impactful services for individuals and teams as a whole.

“Let’s say there’s a tough situation in the workplace. A natural disaster, a violent crime, or perhaps a coworker loses their battle with cancer,” Addy explained. “The resource of an EAP (including having a counselor come to the workplace) can be invaluable for employees to get the support they need during hardship.”

If you don’t already have an EAP, or you do, but it’s connected with your health insurance, it’s wise to consider a stand-alone program so that it’s accessible to your entire staff.

“It’s common for medical insurance providers to include access to an EAP,” Minori said. “However, not every employee will enroll in the company benefits and, in this scenario, won’t be able to access the EAP.”

Enrolling in health insurance can be complicated in the hospitality world. Considering the typical hourly requirements and costs—it might not be as accessible to most of your team.

A stand-alone EAP is available to everyone, sometimes even their immediate family members. This way, you can provide a benefit and a tool to support and cultivate a more trauma-informed workplace.

If you’d like to learn more about supporting trauma-informed management, getting started with an EAP, or engaging your team with an existing program, HR Annie Consulting is here to help.

Feel free to contact them by filling out their Contact Us form on their website to schedule time to discuss your needs with an HR professional.

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