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Mental health expert warns of burnout in service industry

Therapist recommend more employers give their employees mental health days, benefits after working through COVID-19
Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 5:31 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - If you’ve walked into a restaurant recently, you may have seen a sign that asked customers to be patient because so many restaurants are short-staffed.

Experts in mental health say those shortages are leading to burnout in the service industry.

WBTV’s Paige Pauroso spoke to a therapist about it on Tuesday, who said burnout amongst people in the service industry is a very real problem.

That therapist is now warning employers if they don’t take action, they might lose employees altogether.

“It’s summertime, I’m traveling, I’m getting on planes, I’m going to restaurants, I ventured to the movies, and it was safe and I didn’t get COVID,” said therapist Verona Bellamy.

She said that’s how a majority of people felt over the summer. But with the Delta variant causing renewed COVID concerns, people are feeling stuck and helpless.

“Your system is in a state of somewhat shock and you’re feeling the fatigue because of that,” she said.

Bellamy says the constant change and the unknown is causing burnout in lots of people across many industries. But she especially sees it in her service industry clients.

“The ones that do show up are showing up knowing that they could potentially get COVID,” Bellamy said. “And then they’re having to play police at the same time with difficult customers. The fatigue for them has been consistent for the last year and a half.”

Bellamy says in her conversations with clients, many are thinking about changing jobs altogether. She warns if employers don’t help soon, they could be even more short-staffed.

“It’s like I have this tug of war. I have to tell people to wear masks, I have to go back and forth with people,” Bellamy says talking about her client sessions. “I don’t want to have to go through this anymore. I’m really thinking of a whole new career at this point because of everything that happened.”

But some restaurants are seeing the opposite effect, like Mac’s Speed Shop.

“We’re more staff than we’ve ever been. We went into the pandemic with 450 employees and we’re sitting just below 700 right now,” said Shang Skipper, the president of Mac’s Hospitality Group.

Skipper says they’ve been focused on mental health for their employees and he’s seeing the benefits come through immediately.

“What I believe is that we don’t succeed without the people who work at the restaurants every day,” he said. “We can be all these wonderful things but if people don’t want to work for us, then that’s not going to work.”

Over the last year, Mac’s added huge incentives for employees like sign on bonuses and shortening the hours to qualify for healthcare and paid time-off. Most recently, the group gave all their employees a paid day off to say thank you and let them rest.

“I think more restaurateurs are going to do this more, we’re seeing it, and I applaud them,” he said. “Because it’s not easy to take money out of your pocket and close a restaurant or close a series of restaurant to makes your employees happy. But I personally agree it will pay off in the long run.”

The next thing Mac’s is doing is an employee roundtable where they’re sitting down with each employee and asking what management can do better and what they need to be successful employee and person.

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