Business Insight

Building a healthier workplace - encouraging staff to watch out for each other

Key Points

  • Workplace pressures in foodservice are often heightened by long hours and physically stressful environments
  • Encouraging your staff to look out for each other and offer emotional and professional support can build a healthier workplace
  • When you or your staff reach out to help, listening without judging and showing you understand are the two most important elements
  • Genuine care and concern and taking the time to listen can make a bigger difference than you might think
     

Workplace pressures in the foodservice sector are often heightened by the long hours and physically stressful environments in which many of us have to work. Noisy and hot kitchens, repetitive manual labour, long periods on your feet, having to deal with difficult customers, problems balancing your personal and professional commitments – all these factors come into play to put foodservice workers at risk.

One way you can build a healthier workplace is to encourage your staff to watch out for each other and offer emotional as well as professional support wherever it’s needed. Too often foodservice workers bottle things up until they’re at crisis point – and having someone to talk to or provide a shoulder to lean on can make all the difference.

When you’re running a foodservice business, it’s important to pay attention to the concerns of your staff, to take a moment to listen and work out what the situation is – what’s going on in their lives. Most important is the ability to communicate with them in a way that shows you’ve actually understood.

You also want to encourage this same behaviour in your staff. One simple way to break down some of the barriers which make this difficult is for everyone to share an after-work debrief – once service is over, everyone gets together to relax and share a drink and a joke and talk through any issues that may have arisen.

Getting kitchen staff to mingle with the front of house staff on these occasions is also important, so that everyone knows they are part of the same team and there to support each other.

Growing industry awareness about these issues has led to the creation of social enterprises dedicated to encouraging people to speak out about their workplace challenges. Former AFL sportsman Wayne Schwass has founded Puka Up which focuses on creating authentic and genuine conversations around mental health and wellbeing to prevent people suffering in silence. His focus is on encouraging frank discussions to help build resilience and educating others in the workplace about what to look out for and what they can do to help.

When you or your staff do reach out to help, it’s important not to be confrontational – listening without judging and showing you understand are the two most important elements. It’s also good to encourage people to take some action to tackle their problems and ask how you can provide support in that.

Followup conversations show that you haven’t forgotten these concerns and are willing to offer ongoing support, but don’t be judgemental if the situation hasn’t improved. Genuine care and concern – the fact that someone has taken the time to listen – can make a bigger difference than you might think.

Of course, emotional problems often require professional help, so we all need to be aware of our limitations and the fact that we can only do so much. It’s important that staff know that professional help is available should they need it, so putting up workplace posters, contact numbers and website addresses of support services is always helpful.