Running out of energy: An underestimated threat to a "people's business"?
— 10 experts shared their view
We are currently experiencing an energy crisis of a different kind - an industry-wide feeling of exhaustion, anxiety, stress, frustration, and fear. We are running out of energy. There is no doubt that the effects of the pandemic and resulting restrictions will have an adverse effect on people's wellbeing. Scientists call for action for mental health science research with regards to COVID-19. For the hospitality workforce, passionate about and specialized in social interactions, the measures of isolation have been tremendously impactful and to some extend traumatizing. The economic hardship coming with temporary and permanent closures, reduced salaries, lack of job vacancies, and a general unpredictability further exacerbate the situation. Our industry employs large numbers of people from vulnerable societal groups who are already at higher risks of mental health issues. It is about time to put the mental health fallout of COVID-19 on the sustainability agenda and kick start a dialog on the subject.
What measures could be taken to restock on energy and facilitate mental health during hardship? How can human connections be fostered and kept intact between frontline, remote, and furloughed staff? How can different companies come together and support each other? What is and has been your personal emotional journey through the last months?
Vice President Global Corporate Responsibility at InterContinental Hotels Group
As we come out of the crisis, the rear-view mirror test on how businesses behaved towards their people during this period will be incredibly important – whether you're working with a company or looking to work for them. For the hospitality industry, there's no getting away from the fact that people are at its heart, and inevitably it's people who have been hugely impacted this year, whether through illness, increased uncertainty and stress, or adjustment in their work and personal lives. One positive outcome from all this is that COVID-19 has helped put the conversation around personal and mental health firmly in the mainstream spotlight, and if you look at how the ESG agenda has evolved over this period, we notice how the emphasis on the 'S' has grown – whether that's tackling social issues, caring for communities, or indeed supporting wellness.
As the pandemic took hold, despite the best collective efforts to protect everyone at IHG, the severity of this crisis led to difficult decisions to furlough or let go of some corporate and hotel colleagues. Many organizations have had to make similarly hard choices, and whilst we couldn't avoid it, for us, it has been so important to help wherever we can. The launch of an IHG JobCentre has provided access to employment opportunities with hiring companies in different markets. We also created a 'Stay In Touch' program, to keep connected with colleagues unable to work, in the hope we can welcome them back as demand returns. And as we've seen many hotels reopen, the provision of guidance, best practice, and toolkits have been key to ensuring colleagues are feeling supported in their adjustment to a “new normal”.
With a move to mass remote working at corporate level, some key things we put in place to support people included regular communication with senior leadership, including calls hosted by our CEO with the whole company. For working parents, an IHG Family Network provides a space to connect and share advice. Recognizing the pressure on those colleagues working, 'recharge days' once a month over the summer also helped to protect time for individuals to use however they wished.
Moments like Global Mental Health Day, this weekend just has gone, can be an effective way for companies to drive employees to resources and tools that offer help. At IHG, a focus-week of activity offered leader-led podcasts and mindfulness resources and raised awareness on employee networks and access to professional support. With work being such a huge and integrated part of our daily lives, the business has an important role to play in helping people manage their wellness and providing the right support.