From the Tap: Thoughts from the Taprooms Committee
As a (very) small business owner, like many of you, I face ownership and operating challenges on a daily basis, sometimes alone, in our brewery and bar, Lake Anne Brewery in Reston, Virginia. Although our amazing team of 18 people run our business and often feel more like a family than a workforce, we sometimes find ourselves looking for resources to support our team and their mental and physical well-being. .
The past two years have been nothing short of overwhelming for many. Between the pivoting of our business models, openings and closings, a global pandemic, and general illness and well-being, stress in the brewing industry is anything but rare. Recently, our industry has also increasingly (and thankfully) opened its eyes to social and mental health and wellness issues, addiction, discrimination, and other critically important topics. By raising awareness and shedding light on what were once considered “taboo” topics, we empower ourselves to become more educated, supportive and open to creating a better and healthier environment for ourselves and our colleagues.
At last month’s Taprooms committee meeting, we spent our open forum time discussing this. Here’s what a few of your reps shared.
AT Switchyard Brewing Company in Bloomington, Indiana, Kurtis Cummings is blessed with a wife and business partner, Kristin, who is a licensed mental health counselor. His training as such provides a unique perspective and has enabled training with their management team on recognizing the signs and ways to regularly check in with staff, with a focus on empowering them to help or intervene when a problem is recognized. In Indiana, the Indiana Restaurant Association has lobbied for access to health care for all small businesses, and recently Kurtis learned of a National Restaurant Association (NRA) program which gives them the option of paying $7/month per employee to access a program offering free telemedicine visits, mental health and dermatology resources. What an amazing thing for a very small business to be able to support their team!
As most of our businesses are small, we may not be able to provide our employees with comprehensive health and mental health benefits. Similarly, many small businesses may not employ a dedicated HR person or department to provide support. When an employee is facing challenges, a program like this, along with other shared resources like those already provided by the Brewers Association, are a great start to providing employees with the support they may need. , while educating employers on how to be better and better. united leaders.
Brewers Association Mental Health Resources:
AT South Lake Brewing Company (SLBC) in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., Nicole Smith agrees that it’s important to provide certain types of health care to her employees, including for mental health. She knows it’s also essential to talk to her employees on a quarterly, one-on-one basis, including asking them how they’re de-stressing. SLBC intentionally provides two consecutive days off to all of its employees on a regular basis to ensure they have time to commit to their personal health. Nicole also recommends regularly reassessing company policies regarding free or discounted alcohol. After recently losing a friend to an alcohol-related illness, she admits she has begun to reconsider some of their policies around responsible product consumption by staff.
Additional resource: Establishing the right policy for staff alcohol consumption
Jack Dyer notes that at Topa Topa Brewery in Ventura, Calif., employees are encouraged to take time off, and Topa Topa offers a mental health float day as part of their standard benefits package. Additionally, flexible hours are built into their production team’s schedule, along with a variety of other incentives to keep people from feeling overworked. Topa’s production manager and brewmaster are very aware of the potential for burnout and make sure to keep staff morale and well-being on their radar. “Most often,” says Jack, “our brewery’s production is quiet on Friday afternoons, a good sign that people are able to achieve some level of work-life balance.” Additionally, Topa Topa has continually communicated, particularly throughout the pandemic, that they are there for their employees. When the dining room staff were largely laid off during the shutdowns, Jack made an effort to call each of them weekly to check in and make sure they had everything they needed. needed. According to Jack, “This action exposed a few people who really needed help in some way. I think it also brought our team together and reinforced one of our company’s core values, the community spirit.
In addition to our committee’s discussion, we received comments from other members in response to our recent post on the Taprooms forum.
Dan Haff from Crooked Label Brewing Company (What a beautiful name… I can only imagine the story that must go with that!) in Monroe, Washington replied that one thing it had made a point of doing throughout the pandemic was to ask “specific questions”. Instead of a more general question like “How are you?” he asks employees more pointed things like, “Do you have money for gas?” Do you need groceries? Do you need an extra day off? In doing so, he’s able to get real answers and provide direct support, while making sure his employees know he cares and can provide things they wouldn’t. may not be willing to ask otherwise. His role as a brewery owner is, in his own words, “much more than making good beer…Although that is (also) very important!”
Rachel Bell from Hopkins Brewery in Salt Lake City, Utah, said one of the things she does for her dining staff is check in regularly and privately to see how they are each doing. More effective in her mind than just sending a group message or email saying, “Let us know if you have any serious concerns or need to talk,” she insisted on sitting down with each employee. to listen to them as individuals. In doing so, she finds that she also gets good feedback and ideas for the business. And in addition to information about how her employees feel, she notes that it makes employees feel valued and heard. She also recommends this practice outside of COVID-19 “because you really get a lot of information about what’s going on in your dining room, and, when employees feel valued, they’re generally happier at work and will be a cheerleader for your brewery. In the words of Rachel, “Everyone wins.”
What have you seen in your employees over the past few months and years, and how has your team’s mental health held up? Have you sought out resources for mental and physical health awareness, or have you had to deal with mental, social or physical health issues at your brewery? The Taprooms Committee would love to hear your stories. By speaking openly and sharing our mental health and wellness experiences and resources, we can better support others in our industry, as well as ourselves and our own teams.