More than eight in 10 people (81%) working in professional kitchens have experienced poor mental health during their careers, with 74% having called in sick due to stress.
The survey of 102 chefs, conducted by Nestlé Professional, found that staff shortages (58%), lack of time (43%), limited budgets (42%) and limited access to daylight (41%) were all contributing factors. However, long and unsociable hours (63%), physical strain (45%) and high levels of noise (41%) were also taking their toll on people’s health and wellbeing.
The busy environment facing many kitchen staff is hard to control, but workplace wellbeing expert Renée Clarke from the Work Well Hub suggested that regular breaks to ensure staff don’t work over and above their limits can help relieve stress. There also has to be adequate support available, she said.
The survey showed that 48% of chefs felt that not enough is being done to support their mental wellbeing in the workplace. “The problem is systemic,” said Sarah Restall from mental health campaign Time To Change. “We need to change the culture of kitchens. It needs to become a culture where people feel comfortable speaking openly to each other. There needs to be time to talk.”
Among the changes put forward by chefs to help build a more positive kitchen culture were a change in shifts (62%), mental health first aid training (60%) and a new national chef buddy scheme (40%). More freedom to be creative would also go a long way, the research found: 85% said other pressures were stifling creativity.
The full report, with advice from wellbeing experts, is available here.