R U OK? encourages hospitality industry to look out for each other

Chances are one of your work mates needs to talk.

In an Australian first, suicide prevention charity R U OK? is working with the hospitality sector to find better ways to ensure the industry is equipped to handle the pressures that come with what is an exciting, yet demanding, workplace.

A recent survey of hospitality workers commissioned by R U OK? revealed:

  1. • 80 per cent of hospitality workers agreed that mental health issues, such as feeling depressed, anxious or manic, are a challenge currently facing those in the industry.
  2. • Fatigue was the number one challenge faced by those in the industry, more so in the 45 to 64 years age group.
  3. • Within the older demographic, high employee turnover and frequent staff changes were noted as challenges.
  4. • Those in the younger age bracket were more likely to reference unsociable work hours, dealing with difficult customers and pay challenges, as job stressors.
  5. • On a positive note, the majority of those surveyed said they do feel that they can access support from colleagues, not just family and friends, should they need it. 
  6. • While 50 per cent of respondents said they had been asked by someone at work in the past 12 months if they were ok when they really needed it
  7. • Around 50 per cent of hospitality workers in the last year said they had wanted someone at work to ask them if they were ok.
  8. • Around 40 per cent had thought about asking someone if they were ok, but didn’t. When asked why a third indicated that they didn’t feel it was their place to ask the question.

R U OK? Campaign Director Katherine Newton said the survey results indicate there is more work to be done to help hospitality workers feel comfortable checking in with each other, but it is encouraging that at least half of those surveyed said they had been asked the question when they needed to talk.

Respondents were also asked what supports or initiatives were offered by their current


  • • Those working in larger organisations, full-time employees and managers were more aware of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and more likely to reach out to an EAP service if they needed to talk.
  • • Talking one-on-one with managers, taking time off when needed, changes to shift times/rostering and accessing EAPs without fear of repercussions or stigma were noted as possible solutions to workplace pressures.


In response to these results, and funded with the help of Comcater and mental health fundraising initiative ‘Food for Thought’, R U OK? has teamed up with hospitality training provider Allara Learning to develop a new online short course. The interactive course is designed to help notice the signs someone may be struggling, how to find the right space and time to ask the question, and how to navigate a conversation if someone says, “No, I’m not ok.”

Kate Tones, Group People Experience Manager of Australia’s premier hospitality group Merivale, said she welcomed the addition of the new course to Allara Learning’s suite of online short courses.

The online course is complemented by other free resources featuring the tagline ‘Chances are one of your work family needs to talk’. Resources include posters, stickers for roster boards, and a conversation guide.

Food for Thought founder, chef and R U OK? Ambassador Mal Meiers said, “These results show us that a lot of people are asking the question but we need to step up our game and do it comfortably and more regularly. This isn’t an easy industry to work in, but it can be incredibly rewarding because of our work families.

“Our industry is dynamic and exciting but there can be pressures that come with long hours, a fast pace and high expectations. The new R U OK? campaign will help both front-of-house and back-of-house staff look out for each other and feel better supported, which ultimately creates a stronger, happier and more cohesive team.”

Centre for Corporate Health psychologist Rachel Clements said, “We know EAPs and specific support services are in the industry, however, they’re not always known about or utilised which is why it’s even more important to learn skills to support those working alongside you.

“We understand that mental health issues and life’s pressures can impact those in the hospitality world, but with support, employees can still have a rewarding and successful career. When you work in a team environment, where each person plays a vital role, it’s essential that everyone feels supported, heard and valued if they’re having a tough time.”


Survey results

The research was conducted on behalf of R U OK? by Colmar Brunton via Colmar Brunton’s fieldwork partner The Online Research Unit. A total of sample of n=199 Australian adults (aged 16+) were interviewed from all states and territories across the hospitality industry.