There’s no doubt that working in a kitchen is stressful. Not only do you have to multi-task and work fast, but you also have to work in a tight, hot area with numerous others moving around you. Kitchen staff can have unsociable and long hours, so it can be an isolating field to work in. This all contributes to high stress levels for kitchen staff, which can lead to illness and depression, so keeping stress levels to a minimum is a benefit to everyone in the business. Keep also in mind that stress is one of the main causes of employee turnover. Below you’ll find a list of possible ways to reduce stress in the kitchen for everyone.
Organisation is Key
Not having menu items prepped and portioned is a huge stressor on any chef and kitchen staff, so be sure they are allowed enough time to prepare as much of the menu as they can before service begins. Being able to come in early to prepare as much of the menu as they can before service begins goes a long way to making the kitchen run smoother. Something as simple as portioning out the prawns or pre-cutting meat can go a long way to reduce stress for all kitchen staff.
Keep it Clean
Obviously, kitchen staff can find it difficult to keep their work station clean during a busy meal service, but in general a clean and clear work space can have a huge impact on the overall atmosphere of the kitchen. A study from Rice University found that clean people, in general, behave more ethically and are notably more organised. Encourage staff to take a few minutes to organise or clean their work space between various tasks or during a lull in meal service.
Music to Your Ears
While it’s not a good idea to have music playing during service as there needs to be constant communication, consider playing your favourite tunes during prep time. It might be a fun team activity to create a prep playlist in which each team member can pick one or two of their favourite songs to add to the playlist. Not only is music a de-stressor, but it will also psych your team up for the coming service.
Ask for Help
Feelings of isolation or having more work than you can manage can be a huge stress trigger. Sometimes it can be difficult to ask for help during a busy service, especially knowing that others have a million other things to do. However, if a team member is really struggling this will just mean the kitchen is less productive. It’s in everyone’s best interest to help out a colleague in a time of need. Consider swapping a job with someone you know can carry out the task, for something they’re doing, so there’s no loss in productivity. If you’re in a management position in the kitchen, make sure to create a culture where staff feel it’s acceptable to ask for help.
Many kitchen staff work unsociable hours, and this can put a strain on sleeping patterns and their social life outside of work. It’s hugely important to allow at least two days off for kitchen staff so they can catch up on sleep and be with friends outside of work. This is especially important if they have a partner or children as this type of work can put a strain on relationships. Encourage your staff to talk to you if they feel overwhelmed or overworked. It’s better to give staff time off than have them burnout.
Only a certain amount of stress is acceptable to the human body. Kitchens will always be places of high stress, which is why it’s so important to stick together as a team and help your peers when needed. Try teamwork activities out of the kitchen and get to know and understand your colleagues in a more relaxed setting. Consider having a monthly meeting where staff are encouraged to discuss what they find most stressful. Not only is this a great exercise to allow staff to open up and talk, but someone else may have a solution to a posed problem. If you haven’t already signed up to the Chef Network Ireland, consider doing so. It contains forums for chefs to talk and ask questions.
We really hope these tips for managing stress in the kitchen helped. High stress environments are no joke, as they can cause serious health issues if not dealt with. If you feel overwhelmed at work be sure to talk to management about this and what solutions you see working for you. It’s also important to talk to someone you trust either in your workplace, or a friend outside of work.