It took a while to figure out what I was going to write for this issue. At 4:45 pm Pacific time today, I locked in on something: the mental health angle of reopening. It’s something I want to reflect on, so stay with me here.
I am not a cafe owner, I don’t have employees, nor do I have much of an overhead for operations. I do know that cafes and roasters operate on slim margins and that every bit helps. As reopens continue, I imagine it’s a lot of red tape, loan worries, and safety put in place not to mention the constant disinfecting that needs to happen throughout a shift. It’s a lot.
Two posts on Instagram prompted this piece. I’m putting the images of them below.
Mama Mocha’s has had verbally abusive customers for every shift. Cooped-up customers taking out their unhappiness on service workers is nothing new but pandemic-influenced unhappiness? That’s a new level.
Tipped service workers are at higher risk for depression, sleep issues, and stress when compared to non-tipped employees. It also impacts women more than men which is significant as women make up 67% of all tipped workers. This study was published in pre-pandemic 2018.
On top of tipped wages and the associated customer service related mental health issues, there are also cross-sections of race, gender, gender identity and expression, and far more to consider.
It goes to reason that between all of this, it’s difficult to work in a cafe and/or operate one. There are many ways to alleviate some of the stress but that unfortunately still takes time and groundwork.
I’ve listed some ideas below and I imagine a little role play scenario, especially if some aren’t feeling confident in speaking out against a customer, could be useful.
- Adding protocol for difficult customers in your employee handbook
- Empowering staff to make a decision to warn or ban a customer, knowing that they have your full support
- Have ready answers for why certain measures are being taken and why someone won’t be allowed in if you don’t follow them (depends on the state/country)
- Put up signage reminding customers to be respectful – this might seem like overkill but I tend to err on the side of over communication
- Read up on strategies for an employee-first culture
- If your staff is unemployed, let them know that Headspace, the meditation app, is offering a full year subscription for free to US-unemployed workers
And lastly, make sure you’re taking care of yourself. If you scroll down this issue, you’ll find a link about mental health concerns for entrepreneurs. I have to constantly remind myself that we are in a pandemic and that productivity should not be a goal. Rather, I try to take one day at a time and take a deep breath for the next day.
This post originally appeared in Coffee Marketing issue no. 102. I have edited it slightly to make it fit a blog post style. Subscribe to my bi-weekly Coffee Marketing newsletter to be the first to read pieces like this.