Hospitality workers struggling amid pandemic, survey shows

A new survey shows hospitality workers are struggling financially and emotionally during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data from the survey found staff are feeling stress from the pandemic and multiple closures as a result, along with concerns about the future of their work.

Tracey Dobson, the staff manager at St. Jacob's Grill, said she's happy to be back at work after closures, but said she recognizes how hard the past year has been on her team.

"It was very tough," she said. "There was the financial strain, the mental strain. We are used to being with a lot of people every day and then we went to solitude."

Restaurant workers pivoted to meet changing restrictions and many experienced periods of unemployment.

"It's not an easy industry to begin with and the pandemic, the uncertainty, the pivoting, has been an extreme source of stress," said Nick Benninger, co-founder of the Fat Sparrow Group.

"We have seen the devastation that has gone on," said Minto Schneider, CEO of Explore Waterloo Region. "It's not only shutdowns. It's people being out of work for almost a year and it's how that's affecting them mentally."

Jim Moss, executive director of YMCA Work Well, compiled a survey of 100 people in the region, comparing people in the hospitality industry to the general public.

"Their scores were double digits below average when it came to health, mental health, well-being and financial health," Moss said.

"A lot of pressure on us, from the normal stuff to someone coming in and accosting you for not letting them come in without a mask," Benninger said.

Moss said he hopes the survey will shed light on the well-being of people in the industry and why it might be difficult to bounce back after the pandemic.

"Hopefully this data can help the people who might be able to help or answer or create funding or add additional programming," Moss said.

Schneider helped get the survey out to stakeholders. She said financial pressure is mounting for some people, forcing workers to visit food banks.

"There are people who have never visited a food bank before and who have never had to get help before," she said. "It's pretty telling when that starts to happen."

The hospitality and tourism industry isn't expected to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, according to Schneider. She said many people who responded to the survey would like to see affordable counselling in the meantime.

Moss presented the survey to the region's Economic Development Committee on Wednesday.

"If the pandemic were to ease up today and people were to go back to work, some of those people would return to normal health over a realistic amount of time where the support of having employment again would naturally start to have a benefit," he told the committee.

However, he said not everyone will be healthy enough to return to work. Moss recommended working to boost hospitality workers in whatever way the region can.

Read some of the results from the survey

Hospitality Sector Presentation - Insights Report - February 2021 by Digital on Scribd