Catering For Mental Health

About the author: Stephen Waterman, COO at hero, was formerly Managing Director of ISS Catering and Hospitality so understands the unique wellbeing challenges that the catering industry faces. Here he talks about how you can ensure you’re responsibly looking after the wellbeing needs of your teams. 


Last 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. Seventy-eight per cent 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.

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 kitchen (which also brings the challenging working conditions of noise and heat – 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 many 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 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.

The key to this is working with the right wellbeing partner who can provide a seamless integration and relationship, as well as communicating and providing content in a way and style that every employee finds accessible, engaging and is personal to them. A universal approach to wellbeing is not the answer – if anything it’s the reason many initiatives fail. That’s why hero developed our Discovery Report system. This allows an employer to very effectively survey their entire workforce; comprising of an anonymised 16 quick response questions, taking 4 to 5 minutes to complete on any device, this 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 specific and targeted strategy can be implemented addressing the core and most important wellbeing matters for all. . We are here to support and educate which is extremely important, when trying to help people understand and create habits and lifestyle changes. The hero platform also looks at the impacts on their wider life outside of work too as this obviously has a significant influence on in-work behaviour and performance.

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?