Ireland’s drink industry is currently experiencing it’s renaissance. Customers demand quality and variety and in response, drinks businesses have taken the opportunity to produce, market, sell and innovate new products.
This renaissance has led to a recognition and appreciation like never before and as a result creativity and technique are reaching new levels. Money is being invested into equipment and bars are being tailored to ensure the customers experience is at the centre of concern for staff. With this rise in investment comes a rise in people turning to the bar industry for employment opportunities. The drinks industry keeps 90,000 Irish people in work and generates exchequer revenue worth 2.3billion. The bar industry is likely to remain a profitable one, however, the average rate of turnover for staff is 180 % as documented in the a study completed in the UK.
In the world of bartending, performance is an integral theme. It’s expected as mixers, bar backs, cleaners, managers, bouncers and waiters. Industry staff must be entertaining, creative and charming even when they don’t feel like playing that role. The stress, the long hours, the expectations and an alcohol and drug induced environment are all factors that can create, contribute to and personify mental health struggles.
The emotional labour experienced by industry staff is without a doubt a risk factor for depression and other work related mental health issues. Workers who are distressed, struggle to utilise their creativity are very likely to portray reduced work effectiveness. Depression is known to hinder productivity and as a result many lead to disability and absenteeism. Many hospitality workers do not seek professional help for their mental health problems. It has been reported that a high level of shame is experienced, in fact, 44% of workers would not like anyone to know they have a mental health problem. A survey carried out by drinks industry charity The Benevolent found that many respondents experienced high levels of stress, anxiety and fatigue over the past year . There appears to be an awareness of mental health, however, there is a strong perception that the topic is taboo. 4 out of 10 respondents reported having never spoken to anyone at work about their mental health issues (Benevolent.org). 49% believe their company has no mental health support mechanism in place, or none that they are aware of. It appears the three main barriers that prevent employees from approaching colleagues to discuss mental health issues: the fear of making the other person feel uncomfortable, not being close enough to that person, and uncertainty in how to start the conversation.
There is evidence to suggest that in addition to the increased risk of tobacco- related mortality, bartenders are also at higher risk of dying from alcohol related disease Alcohol is a drug and is classified as a depressant, meaning even moderate consumption can have an adverse effect on one’s mental health. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health(NSDUH) the highest rates of heavy alcohol use, illicit drug use and substance use disorder by industry, were seen in “minding, construction and the accommodations, food service and drinks industries “It appears that there are industries that elicit a culture of use, to the detriment of employers, who complain of “lost productivity, workplace accidents and injuries, employee absenteeism, low morale, increased illness”
Working in this sector requires ‘real time’ interaction with customers along with the ability to provide a quality service. Workers are expected to complete long busy hours on their feet oftentimes with little to no reprieve. They must serve everyone from the loyal customer to the impatient, demanding and indecisive guests. There is a requirement to maintain a publicly observable and acceptable emotional display at all times even when dealing with an unreasonable customer. This can lead to high levels of distress.
The struggle with mental health can be a lonely one, especially in an industry that requires the staff to wear pressure as a badge of honour.