As the public becomes more health-conscious — with an increasingly stronger awareness of mental health — workers in every trade are striving more than ever to prioritize work/life balance.

As restaurants push to be more competitive, better work/life balance for your crew (and yourself!) is an essential goal in 2023. Considering the following tips that will not only foster a healthier work environment, but with the estimated cost of turnover anywhere from $3,500 to $6,000 per employee, you are likely to save money as well.

Our industry's main goal is to take care of people; take care of your employees first and the rest will follow.

Boost Benefits

Know many bartenders with benefits? Unlike other businesses, restaurants are not required by state or federal laws to pay for benefits — and most of them don't. But it's not necessarily because employers don't want to; the typical cost of underwriting and administering coverage for a staff comprised of low-wage, part-time workers with high turnover makes traditional premiums skyrocket, so what's a small business to do?

Check out partnerships like the Restaurant Healthcare Alliance, a recent collaboration between United Health Care and the National Restaurant Association, which offers open enrollment on group health plans specifically set for the industry. Plans also include unlimited free virtual visits for employees (and their families), free back pain management, and free mental health and substance abuse resources.

Another option is to offer employees benefits only after a 90-day probationary period to ensure you're a good fit for one another before you invest in enrollment. Vacation, paid time off, and 401Ks are all becoming more common nationwide for hourly workers. Don't lose solid employees by overlooking the importance of these benefits.

Reset the Schedule

The demanding hours we keep in the foodservice industry means we've all missed weddings, kids' sporting events, and other celebrations because holidays and weekends are often non-negotiable. When servers continually work doubles with little time in between, burnout is inevitable, especially if they have a family waiting at home.

Cross-training your team is one valuable method that will help. Rotating staff into different roles not only keeps the job from becoming mundane, but you are better equipped to easily accommodate requests off or staff emergencies.

Another route some restaurants take is to close completely one or two days a week in order to provide everyone with two consecutive days off — something that's also hard to come by in the biz. Consider also closing shop for a week or two around the end of the year. Utilize this time for an annual big clean; those who want the hours can work, and those who want the family time can have it, worry-free. You may initially see closing as a loss of revenue, but if it keeps your staff healthy and happy enough to stick around, you will end up ahead.

Consider Childcare

Childcare for restaurant employees can be remarkably difficult due to the prevalence of double shifts and atypical hours. Most daycare options cater to the 9-to-5 sector, not the late hours of dinner shift or the bar. If your employees can't find reliable caretakers for children, can they even be truly present at work?

Bigger cities are going to have more on-site accommodations, like Vivvi, an employer-sponsored childcare company that currently has locations in Manhattan but is in the works to expand its platform nationally. Even if your business isn't near one of their campuses, employers can still partner with them to provide access to their nationwide network of in-home care and backup care. According to their "State of Working Parents" survey, 83% of parents would leave their job for one with better family benefits.

Look for any employer-sponsored care programs in your area, or daycares that could possibly extend their hours or facilitate at-home care if compensated. Boost morale and retain your quality employees by showing them that their people are your people too.

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