This is the view of Kris Hall, director of The Burnt Chef Project, which encourages members of the hospitality trade to share their experiences of poor mental health and facilitates conversations with employers about how to improve structures.
In The Burnt Chef Project’s most recent survey of 1,273 people working across the hospitality industry, 58% of participants said their employer took no action to tackle workplace stress or they were not sure if they did.
Change of pace
The project has been encouraging furloughed hospitality staff to look after themselves and speak to their peers about their mental health regularly on social media.
Hall urged employers to use this time to check in with teams about how to improve their work/life balance and assess how to improve workplace structures, such as rota scheduling to give longer gaps between shifts.
He said the sudden changes to pace of life – from working at a hectic pace before the lockdown into furlough and then back into a reopening push in the summer – could trigger a rise in anxiety and depression among kitchen and front-of-house staff.
Hall explained: “It is vital that people start gearing up for the return and protect themselves because it’s going to be a big shock to the system having to go back again.
“I’m hoping employers have taken heed to the warning and have taken more time looking at their systems, which is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this trade.”
When asked ‘what can employers do to improve mental health and wellness at work?’ in the May survey, some 28% suggested they could increase conversations around mental health, 27% said hire more staff to reduce workload and 17% said mental health training.
He added: “It’s been seen during the French riots (in 2005) and when we had SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2003) – there have been these spikes and increases in mental health cases off the back of these sort of examples.”
Hall said the negative health consequences of social isolation and lack of daily structure had been featuring more heavily in his conversations with individuals, even above financial anxieties.
He said: “They are missing their teams, they have gone from being quite close-knit and in an industry that is very reliant upon others to maybe being segregated on their own, in isolation, for a period of time with their family. That change of pace and environment is quite jarring for people.
“People in professions who have been driven by lists, targets and the highs and lows of a kitchen environment now have been thrust into this world where, all of a sudden, their pace has gone from 100 miles per hour to zero in, essentially, the space of days. It’s a huge, huge cultural shock and adjustment.”
- Here is a list of organisations that can provide support and sign-posting for mental health problems, including sector-specific charities
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