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  • Writer's pictureRobbie Stewart

Raising a Glass to Mental Health: Addressing the Challenges in the UK Pub Industry

The Great British pub, a beloved institution, is where we gather to celebrate, commiserate, and unwind. Yet, behind the laughter and clinking glasses, there's a story not often told—a story of the mental health struggles faced by those working in this cherished industry. It's time we shine a light on the challenges and explore how pubs can become champions of mental well-being for both their staff and patrons. Having worked in this industry in various forms for 30 years, I am a huge champion for all the good the pub industry does, I'm also not naïve about how tough it can be.

As we're in mental health awareness week, this is a great time to look at the challenges and opportunities around mental health in the pub industry.

The Hidden Struggles of Pub Workers

Working in a pub might seem like a dream job to some—plenty of social interaction, a lively atmosphere, and perhaps the odd free drink. However, the reality is often far from the jovial image we have in mind.

Stressed person running a business
  • Long and Unsociable Hours: Pub workers often find themselves working late nights, weekends, and holidays, making it tough to keep a balanced life. Missing out on family gatherings and personal time can lead to fatigue and social isolation.

  • High-Pressure Environment: The hustle and bustle of a busy pub can be overwhelming. Juggling multiple orders, handling customer complaints, and maintaining a smile under pressure can take a toll on mental health, especially during peak times like the holidays. Not to forget that a pub business is more than just what customers see. It is a complex modern business with all that entails.

  • Job Insecurity: Many in the hospitality industry, including pub workers, face job insecurity. Zero-hour contracts and fluctuating hours can create financial stress and uncertainty about the future.

  • Exposure to Alcohol Abuse: Being around alcohol constantly can be challenging, particularly for those struggling with addiction. The temptation is always there, and for some, it's a battle they face daily.

Stressed publican
  • Lack of Mental Health Support: Traditionally, the hospitality industry hasn't been great at providing mental health support. Many workers don't know where to turn when they need help, and the stigma around mental health can make it even harder to ask for it. Thankfully this is changing as we all become more aware of the importance of good mental health support.

Good mental health

Despite these challenges, pubs have a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of promoting mental well-being.

  • Fostering a Supportive Workplace Culture: Pub owners and managers can create an environment where mental health is openly discussed and supported. Regular check-ins with staff, providing access to mental health resources, and encouraging a culture of openness can make a big difference.

  • Mental Health Training: Training programs for managers and staff on how to recognize and respond to mental health issues are crucial. Mental Health First Aid training, for example, can equip pub staff with the skills to support someone in crisis.

  • Flexible Scheduling and Fair Contracts: Offering more stable and flexible working hours can help reduce stress. Moving away from zero-hour contracts towards more secure employment can provide the financial stability that pub workers need.

  • Access to Professional Help: Partnering with mental health organizations to provide counseling services, whether on-site or through referrals, can give employees the support they need.

  • Creating Safe Spaces: Pubs can set aside quiet areas where staff can take a break and decompress. Organizing social activities and team-building events that don't revolve around alcohol can also help build a supportive community among workers.

  • Promoting Mental Health in the Community: Pubs can play a vital role in raising mental health awareness in their communities. Hosting events, workshops, and talks about mental health can help reduce stigma and encourage open conversations among patrons and staff.

There is support out there!

Employers, and employees alike can access support. Many employee benefits packages, such as Roslyns' Healthy Extras, offer mental health support. There are also organisations working to specifically support those in the industry such as:

The mental health challenges faced by those in the pub industry are significant, but so are the opportunities for positive change. By addressing these issues head-on and fostering a supportive environment, pubs can not only support their staff but also enhance the well-being of the wider community. It's time we raise a glass to mental health and make our beloved pubs places of not just social, but emotional support. Cheers to that!

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