How can you ‘cater’ for the health and wellbeing of your staff

The catering sector is synonymous with long and unsociable hours. How can employers ensure the health and wellbeing of their teams are catered for?

Earlier this year Unite, the country’s biggest union, conducted a survey of professional chefs in London, and the impact upon them of their working conditions. Almost half regularly worked between 48 and 60 hours a week. Some 78% said they’d had an accident or a near miss through fatigue. More than a quarter were drinking to get through their shift, a figure which doubled to 56% when it came to taking painkillers. A startling 51% said they suffered from depression due to overwork.

Stephen Waterman ex-managing director of ISS Catering and Hospitality and now chief operating officer of Hero, a corporate health and wellbeing company, talks about how you can ensure you’re responsibly looking after the wellbeing needs of your teams:

It’s believed that in our lifetime we will spend 90,000 hours at work – many, many more in the world of catering and hospitality. The Unite report really shines a light on the fact the catering sector is tough and demanding. Staff work long and varied hours, with constant pressure to deliver perfection. Whether this be front of house or in the kitchens (which also brings the noise, heat and often tough working conditions often without natural light or fresh air).

Paramount importance therefore is that caterers recognise this and help their people find ways to deal with the physical and mental demands this brings.

The changing workforce (millennials, centennials, generation Z) are also playing a significant role in developing and disrupting the way we work, expectations and the way employers view and treat their employees. They demand to be ‘looked after’ by their company – in different ways to the traditionally viewed basics of pay, reward and recognition.

Being able to look after a workforce which covers such a wide spectrum of roles and demands, along with the broadest range in age, in personality type and in ways of being engaged is a significant issue in itself. Add to this the long hours, the varied shift patterns and the often relatively small numbers of workforce being spread across a number of locations; being able to effectively communicate, engage, support and ultimately deliver workplace wellbeing to support individuals becomes a challenging issue for every business in this sector.

A one size fits all approach is often viewed as the only one available, but clearly with all the aforementioned factors this makes effective delivery and a demonstrable value on investment (VOI) or ROI extremely difficult to gain and gauge.

Whilst we can’t expect caterers to be the experts and the deliverers of wellbeing at work, they can and have to be a facilitator and enabler. The key to this is a working with the right partner who can provide a seamless integration and relationship, as well as communicating and providing content in a way and style that the end user (the employee) finds accessible and is personal to them. This is something we at hero pride ourselves on – taking this complexity away from the client; adding another service and asset to their proposition.   

Technology is key to multi-site engagement, which coupled with integrated management tools, sees an employer able to know the numbers of employees engaging and accessing digital services and support. We believe in promoting this in the right way to support and educate employees about different topics and subjects they are interested.

A universal approach to wellbeing is not the answer – if anything it’s the reason many initiatives fail. Therefore, we developed our Discovery Report system. This allows us to very effectively survey the workforce; comprising of an anonymised 15 quick response questions, taking four minutes to complete on any device, this then gives invaluable insight into the needs and desires of all employees in regards to their own health and wellbeing, along with how they feel their company can and should support them. From here a strategy can be implemented and promotion around the new initiatives can take place. Employers can see what areas are trending and what are of the most interest. They can see when engagement peaks (or dips) and can act to respond to this. For the employee, they can personalise the platform to them. If they are concerned about mental wellbeing and resilience they can prioritise this content, whereas if sleep is an issue they can access advice, support and content to help with this.    

Employers need to continue to adapt and evolve by matching and exceeding trends to be ahead of the game, in attracting and retaining talent, as well as truly looking after their teams. Talk has already turned to the expectation of ‘centennials’ who are now entering the workplace. Are you ready for this?

By Stephen Waterman, chief operating officer of health and wellness company Hero Wellbeing

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