• What makes a restaurant server’s job so stressful? Not only is the work itself demanding, but employees also feel they have low levels of control.
  • Restaurants can give servers a better sense of control of their future by providing clear career development options so the job doesn’t feel like a dead end.

Related: Using your POS system to navigate the labor shortage

By Rebecca Freiberg, Human Resources Generalist, Society Insurance

Anyone who has waited tables in a restaurant won’t be surprised to learn that, according to a study, being a server is more stressful than being a doctor. Scientists even found that servers have a 22% higher risk of stroke on average than those with low-stress jobs. The figure jumps to 33% for women when the data is split by gender.

How can restaurants build a better work environment for the sake of their employees? In observance of Stress Awareness Month, in April, Society Insurance has put together a list of ways to empower restaurant employees to decrease stress and increase job satisfaction. The benefits are three-fold as happier, less stressed servers are more likely to stay with the restaurant, which is crucial as the cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary.

Pave the Way: Highlight Career Development
The aforementioned survey revealed that one of the reasons servers feel stressed is due to the perceived lack of control. Low-demand and low-control jobs, such as manual labor, were labeled “passive,” while jobs with high control—like architects and scientists—were “low stress,” and jobs with both high demand and high control, like teachers or doctors, were “active.” The category labeled “high stress” encompassed jobs that were demanding but with low levels of control—like that of a server.

Restaurants can help give servers a better sense of control of their future by providing clear career development. Career development is one of the most attractive aspects of a job to younger generations. They want to know that there are fresh opportunities for growth and that even if no position exists above them, they’ll be able to pave their own path. If they feel that they are in a dead-end job, chances are they won’t stick around for long.

Related: Pizza Hut COO says restaurants must create a “culture of belonging” for employees

When you’re hiring for a position, lay out a defined potential career path that has some wiggle room. Not every path is right for every person. If an employee winds up wanting to make a lateral move within your organization, that’s fine. Perhaps while they’re on the job, they’ll find that they enjoy unexpected aspects of it and want to pursue them further, which is also fine. The bottom line is that you show appreciation for their talent and are dedicated to nurturing it in the direction they desire.

Let’s Get Flexible
Workplace flexibility means employees are given opportunities to do their jobs in a way that suits their lifestyle and responsibilities. As expected, workers in a restaurant have different flexibility options than a standard office worker. However, flexibility as a concept is, well, flexible! More restaurants and restaurant groups are implementing flexible hours like four-day work weeks, compressing a full 40-hour week into four days to give staff more free time. Flexible work is important for organizations in not only attracting new talent, but also retaining talent. It offers many benefits, including reduced stress, improved productivity and higher job satisfaction. These days, flexibility has quickly evolved from a workplace luxury to an expectation.

Empowering Your FOH Staff
In addition to laying out a clear plan for career development and providing flexibility, how else can restaurateurs reduce stress for servers?

  • Compensation. It goes without saying that money is important when staying at a job long-term.  Consider raises for cost-of-living increases and positive performance but also think about unique incentives or reimbursements. Compensation isn’t just limited to salary.
  • Reachability. Transparency and communication from the top down is crucial in maintaining a good working relationship with employees. When staff feel more involved and in-the-know about strategic decisions, they feel like they are being included in where the company as a whole is headed and can better anticipate impending changes.
  • Benefits. Benefits tie in with compensation, but again, these are not limited to just health insurance or life insurance. Benefits can include anything from a 401k and vacation time to  health club memberships and more. Brainstorm on what you think your employees would value most—send out a company-wide survey if you have to—and get creative with the feedback you receive!

Making changes to your company’s culture is crucial to not only attracting a modern workforce, but building a staff that feels more at ease, more in control and less stressed. The keyword to keep in mind is accommodation. Employees are attracted to restaurants and positions that are willing to accommodate a better work/life balance, needed benefits, and desired job mobility so that they feel their wellbeing is valued. The bottom line is that you should create an environment that allows employees to feel they have more control in where, when, and how they work.

Rebecca Freiberg has worked in human resources for six years and has experience in benefits, wellness, recruitment, employee engagement and development. She joined Society Insurance in 2019.

This information is provided as a convenience for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice, and does not establish compliance with any law, rule or regulation. This article is not intended to give legal opinions or provide any kind of legal counsel. For a legal opinion, please seek legal counsel from a qualified attorney.

Learn more at societyinsurance.com.