A recent report by Nestle Professional and Work Well Hub highlighted that a staggering 74% of chefs called into work sick with stress and eight out of ten chefs revealed they have experienced poor mental health during their career.
In addition, 47% of chefs stated that they would not feel comfortable talking to a colleague about their mental health; the actual figure may be much higher.
The kitchen is a male dominated environment with 80% of chefs being men, yet only 50% of males completed the survey.
This supports what is already known, that men, are less likely to speak up and speak out about their mental health regardless of the industry in which they work.
Whilst the stigma behind poor mental health is slowly being broken down through campaigns such as ‘time to talk’, ‘Calm’ and ‘Movember’, there is still much more action needed in order to encourage healthy and open conversations in the kitchen.
Talking about mental health is not about shouting across a busy kitchen and asking if everyone is ok, it’s about taking time to make wellbeing part of everyday conversations and showing a genuine interest.
Building ‘wellbeing conversations’ into individual and team meetings is a healthy way to start the conversation and improve the workplace culture. No one should suffer in silence!
What other sectors can learn from the hospitality industry
Hospitality has often stood out for the wrong reasons. Long antisocial hours, split shifts and continual working with no sight of a day off can play havoc on both the mental and physical wellbeing of workers.
This is particularly relevant to the kitchen environment where chefs are under added pressure due to high staff turnover and increased sickness absence.
With over half of all chefs (58%) reporting that staff shortages are a major factor in their stress levels, it is evident that more needs to be done by employers to create a better working environment that attracts and retains the best people.
Getting great people in situ is one thing, keeping them there is a whole different ball game.
It is not always the kitchen environment that causes stress, it is how the demands of the kitchen are managed. Wellbeing is subjective and what is seen as stressful for one person may be a breeze for another.
Managers and leaders have a role to play in ensuring that demands placed upon employees are manageable and do not exceed their individual ability to cope.
And whilst it is clearly not possible to allow chefs to pick and choose the hours they work, offering them some flexibility to create a better work-life balance can have a profound effect on their mental and physical wellbeing.
Improving employee wellbeing takes time and effort but with a holistic based health strategy in place it is possible to create a happy, healthy and productive working environment where chefs thrive not just survive whilst at work.
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