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Preventing restaurant employee burnout


Employees who feel that their manager has empathy, transparency and the willingness to listen will be more likely to come forward when they start to feel burned out. Photo: © nicoletaionescu / Adobe Stock.

The Mayo Clinic defines job burnout as “a special type of work-related stress – a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” Employee burnout is especially prevalent in the hospitality industry. 

A notoriously high turnover rate and demanding atmosphere are just some of the factors that contribute to restaurant and bar employees reporting an overwhelming feeling of stress and exhaustion. The events of the past year have only exacerbated the challenges of working in the hospitality industry. Employees have had to shift job functions and pick up heavier workloads to stay afloat resulting in increased rates of burnout.

Burnout by the numbers
A 2019 U.S. study by Paychex found that 80.3 per cent of employees in the hospitality and foodservice industries reported feeling burned out by their workload. Additionally, 42.9 per cent of employees experiencing burnout will cope by searching for a new job, which can contribute to an unstable work environment and increase turnover.

Know what to look for
Poor mental health can negatively affect an employee’s performance, engagement with coworkers, physical capability and daily functioning on the job. Recognizing the signs of employee burnout will allow an employer to address and prevent it. 

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Common warning signs include:

  • Exhaustion: Watch for worn-out expressions or frequent illness.
  • Impatience or irritability towards co-workers or customers: If your easy-going employee has become unfriendly, you may want to meet with that employee to explore what issues may be affecting them personally or professionally.
  • Higher sensitivity: Watch for signs of the employee becoming emotional and pushing back when feedback is provided to them. 
  • Increased absences: This employee may find it hard to get out of bed or may be ill due to high stress affecting the body.
  • Increased mistakes or accidents: Detail-oriented staff who are experiencing burnout may start making mistakes.

How to prevent burnout
During this critical moment in the hospitality industry, it is especially important for leadership to not only recognize but also help alleviate burnout among staff. It’s important for restaurateurs to educate themselves and managerial staff on the signs of burnout in order to maintain a productive team. 

A great place for leadership to start is by creating a positive and open workplace environment. Employees who feel that their manager has empathy, transparency and the willingness to listen will be more likely to come forward when they start to feel burned out. Some additional tactics that are simple but can have a significant impact on employee mental health include regular team check-ins, scheduled breaks and personal time off allowance.

Additionally, when applicable, offering resources to further education or internal growth opportunities can also reduce the risk of burnout by giving staff a greater sense of purpose and gratification in their role. 

Undoubtedly, the pandemic has made it challenging to manage employee workload in the restaurant industry due to limited staff and the adopted “all-hands-on-deck” mentality. However, owners, operators and managers who aware of each employee’s responsibilities are more likely to better balance workload and prevent burnout.  

It’s important to stay in front of employees who are showing signs of burnout to help them overcome obstacles and work through the challenges. Burnout is often overlooked in the hospitality industry, but with the right resources and protocol in place, leadership can easily help combat burnout and promote the well-being of their employees.


Rebecca Freiberg is a human resources generalist with Society Insurance. She has worked in HR for five years and has experience in benefits, wellness, recruitment, employee engagement and development. Rebecca joined Society Insurance in 2019.


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