There is no doubt that stress is just part of the job for those who work in hospitality.

Long hours, fast-paced environments, demanding customers, and close knit teams are part of the territory in a restaurant, cafe, bar, or pub. It takes a certain type of person to love hospitality – and for those who do, all of the above is what attracts them in the first place!

But for even the most seasoned hospitality employee, workplace stress can become a problem. It is up to you as a business owner to create an environment that avoids stress, and not just because it’s your duty – it could actually cost you the business.

In this blog, we look at what workplace stress is, what the legalities surrounding it are, and the threat it can pose.


What is workplace stress?

Stress is the mind and body’s reaction to change. In many cases, a small amount of stress can be a good thing: it keeps you focused and alert. However, when this reaction spikes in the form of distress, it becomes an issue. Stress can manifest itself in many ways, including anxiety, sleeplessness, an inability to remain focused, anger or sadness, or other changes in mood and personality.

Workplace stress is therefore just that – a state of distress caused by the work, workplace, team, or management. Once it moves into this arena, and your business is diagnosed as the source, it becomes your responsibility as the business owner to rectify the issue.

The laws surrounding workplace stress

It is your duty by law to make sure that staff aren’t made ill by their work. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) and regulations place certain duties on employers, employees, self-employed people, manufacturers, designers, importers and suppliers and must be complied with.

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, the following steps must be taken legally to ensure a safe and stress-free workplace:

  1. Ensuring health and safety: OHS legislation requires you to ensure your workplace is safe and healthy for all workers and does not cause ill health or aggravate existing conditions.
  2. Avoiding discrimination: disability discrimination legislation requires you to ensure your workplace does not discriminate against or harass workers with mental illness. You are also required to make reasonable adjustments to meet the needs of workers with mental illness.
  3. Ensuring privacy: privacy legislation requires you to ensure personal information about a worker’s mental health status is not disclosed to anyone without the worker’s consent.
  4. Avoiding adverse actions: you are also required under Commonwealth industrial law to ensure your workplace does not take any adverse action against a worker because of their mental illness.

In turn, all workers (including those with mental illness) are legally obliged to:

  • Take reasonable care for their own health and safety
  • Take reasonable care that their acts and omissions do not adversely affect the health or safety of others
  • Cooperate with any reasonable instructions to ensure workplace health and safety.

Failure to comply with these requirements can have serious consequences, ranging from hefty fines, the closure of your business and confiscation of your trading license, and even imprisonment if your actions are found to be criminal.

The threat it poses to your business

Aside from being a legal and moral obligation, reducing workplace stress has very real business benefits too.

Reducing employee stress can be very cost effective as you improve the workplace environment and therefore productivity. Happy staff members work harder, faster, and with more imagination that those who are tired and stressed.

The expenses of a stressed workforce are also considerable. Retraining staff due to a high turnover is costly, as is paying out sick days or additional staff when productivity drops. You will also begin to lose business as your level of customer service drops, and therefore a possible decrease in foot traffic and new customers.

Creating a happy workplace will save you time and money – so why not invest in your employee’s happiness?

How to identify staff stress triggers as an employer

This reaction of feeling stressed can manifest itself in a variety of ways: not sleeping properly, feeling fatigued, noticing changes in your mood, or even a shift in your personal relationships.

If you are seeing any of these changes in your staff, act immediately. Have a one-on-one conversation where your staff member can speak freely about the cause of their stress. Have an action list ready to go – can you give them time off? Move them to another team? Maybe even offer extra training to assist their performance?

Having staff being overworked and overwhelmed is not a healthy part of your business model. Make sure that you are keeping a keen eye on your employees behaviour, and serving punishment in return for poor performance or moods – it could all come down to stress.

For more information about workplace stress, and how you can avoid it in your venue, read our extended article, ‘Reducing Workplace Stress – What can you do?’