• Kat Hounsell

Covid-19 Series: Back to work

It’s been all hands-on deck since the government announced re-opening of hospitality venues could start from July 4th. Whilst this is a positive move for the industry as a whole, it’s also a source of anxiety and stress for many going back to work for the first time in 3 months.

The first thing I want to say is that if you are feeling at all apprehensive, nervous, scared (albeit alongside some excitement) then this is totally normal and a reality for many people across the UK in all industries. You’ll be stepping into the same building as before but this time with many new unknowns, and possibly some concern for your physical health too. You’re only human to be feeling how you’re feeling.

On Tuesday 30th June I had the pleasure to speak on a panel as part of the Imbibe Live Online event alongside James Dawson from The Humble Grape and Lyndsay Jones from The Alchemist – we were discussing the return to work and focussing on how to support teams in the transition. You can see a full recording here but if you don’t have a full hour to spare then I hope the following summary comes in useful as you head back to work…

Tips for everyone:

  • Remind yourself what you enjoyed about work before and the positives of returning to work – this might include having fun with colleagues, giving customers a special experience, trying out new recipes, or the buzz of being on your feet!


  • If you’re not clear on the changes put in place then ask your line manager as soon as possible – this could be linked to safety, customer service, or new menus.

  • Buddy up with another colleague at work and commit to be one another’s check-in support – look out for one another, encourage wellbeing (Lucy, please put link here to the everyday ways to thrive post), and be a listening ear on the tougher days.

  • Ask for help sooner rather than later – if you don’t feel you can speak to anyone at work then open up to family & friends, and remember you can call The Drinks Trust helpline.

Tips for leaders:

  • Communicate a positive future vision for the organisation and the important role that everyone will play in realising this – you have an opportunity to create a team focus from the get-go, help people feel motivated and even excited for the challenge ahead.

  • Ensure everyone has a way to have their voice heard both before returning and once they’re back at work – open and regular communication is essential to keep anxieties at bay and stop overactive imaginations taking over. You could set up a specific email inbox for internal feedback, share anonymous surveys, or find a way to capture information at team briefings.

  • Help your team visualise the changes and safety measures put in place before they return to work e.g. create a short video of your bar, pub, restaurant and email this around to everyone.

  • Be open to reasonable adjustments where possible – this might involve team members relocating to a new site that is closer to home, being flexible with shift patterns, or adapting roles (swapping back of house and front of house team members).

Extra tips for line managers & supervisors:

  • Help facilitate the two-way conversation between leadership and team members – ask for more information if it’s missing, and promptly share feedback you hear from the team.

  • Look out for signs that your team members are finding the return to work difficult – a change in behaviour, appearance or mood could be a clue.

  • If you get a gut feeling someone is not themselves then strike up a conversation and listen with empathy – this can be a simple check-in, it doesn’t need to be a formal sit down.

  • Know where you can signpost team members to further support – there may be specific helplines and procedures in your organisation, or you can always recommend The Drinks Trust.

Finding life difficult? You’re #NotAlone.

Read here for where to access professional support.

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