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S&J TOP-UP // BARTENDER MAGAZINE ARTICLE

S&J top-up: Inspiring mindfulness, improving lifestyle, and strengthening connection within our Tribe

S&J employ a Tribe of 150+ humans. Three years ago, in a WA hospitality first, S&J introduced their employee wellness program ‘S&J top-up’ in an effort to introduce the S&J Tribe to alternative philosophies and practices outside of the work environment – to encourage, empower and stimulate healthy choices for mind, body and soul.

The driving force behind the initiative? Step forward S&J GM, Lachlan Howarth.

“At S&J we adhere to a Tribe Mentality: a group of people that care for each other and look out for one another, no matter what – bonded by a strong sense of shared values, meaning & purpose. This is how we’ve always operated when it comes to our people.”

“But here’s the thing, and it might sound selfish, but how can you look out for someone else if you’re not looking after yourself first? You can’t pour from an empty cup. If the energy out is greater than the energy in – you’re going to run into a problem.”

“We want to ensure our staff are the best possible version of themselves – not just when they are at work, but in every minute, of every day. And to know that it’s okay to not feel okay. It’s okay to feel shit, overwhelmed or struggling. It’s okay to talk about mental health in the same way we talk about physical health.”

In 2019 S&J introduced S&J top-up: a fully-funded wellness program that would introduce the S&J Tribe to alternative philosophies and practices outside of the work environment. Monthly activities were initiated, each based around three key principals; Movement, Mindfulness & Connection. Examples of past activities include; surfing lessons, foraging for edible weeds, guided meditation, yoga, macrame workshops, breathwork, workshops on healthy sleep routines & on HeartMath (how to breathe from your heart – wacky shit but scientifically proven and pretty darn mind-bending).

Spot the commonality? Zero alcohol presence.

“Let’s be honest, hospitality is a pretty unhealthy work environment. Sure, there’s the minority of humans who will work late, wake early, hit the gym, socialize with friends, eat well, etc. – but in my experience this minority is typically hospo veterans who’ve been in the game a long time. They’ve been there, done that – and have the proverbial t-shirt(s) to prove their hospo hard-yards.”

“But for the majority, working long nocturnal hours, with random, inconsistent rosters results in poor diet, unhealthy lifestyles and irregular sleep cycles. Sustaining long periods of high pressure and intensity… when you do get a break, it’s often just long enough to chow down some fast-food food, skull a water and chug a dart before diving straight back in. Even when the shift is over, the inevitable adrenaline continues to pump so hard that the only way to wind down is ironically to stay up even later – usually accompanied with a few glasses of vino, beer – or if it’s been one of ‘those nights’… whisk(e)y. And then, repeat.”

“This is how most of our young workforce cycle through their weeks. As employers, and weathered hospo veterans ourselves (between us we have ALL the t-shirts) – S&J CEO Andy Freeman and I recognize it is our responsibility to encourage conversation and movement around mental health; both in positive and constructive capacities.

In 2021, as an extra level of support, S&J introduced Perth-based Life Coach and Founder of The Wanderlust Age, Darielle Bown as our S&J Mental Health Professional. Darielle, who has previously worked in the hospo industry in varied roles for over a decade, consults to S&J with a bespoke Employee Assistance Program service, providing one-on-one support, ongoing content and resources for the S&J Tribe – in addition to being a safe, familiar face within the group.

 “This calibre of support is unlike anything else offered in the hospo industry here in Perth. Since introducing Darielle to the group, we’ve seen S&J top-up evolve into a unique, tailored and dynamic program that aligns with each and every one of our incredible humans at S&J.”

“Not only does the program offers one-on-one support and resources, it offers an alternative way to access mental health support in the form of outdoor life coaching sessions. Many staff felt safe and confident enough in the program to get involved right away – commenting on how great it feels, just to know that the support is available, particularly from someone who ‘gets it’ after working in hospo herself for so long. Gaining a sense of peer support while accessing guidance and mental health support is really unique and specific to both S&J top-up – and the hospitality industry here in WA.”

“With the world still turning to shit and so much uncertainty continuing to encompass our beloved industry, we need to ensure we are looking after one another now more than ever. At S&J we are committed to our Tribe – not just our employees, but to the wider hospitality community. With other hospitality groups and venues already enquiring how they can support their staff in this capacity moving forward, S&J top-up is leading the way for the industry to no longer treat mental health support as a luxury for their staff – rather a necessity.”

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