3. Point your team in the direction of outside support systems
Some members of your staff may trust you and feel comfortable touching upon what issues — if any — they experience with mental or physical health. That will not be the case for all your staff. Some will likely feel more at ease opening up to someone else. Make sure they know that’s ok with you, and point them in the direction of external help.
In recent years, a number of national organizations have cropped up to help restaurant workers and openly address issues with mental health, addiction, and wellness in the industry. Here are a few of them:
- Chefs with Issues: a website founded by Kat Kinsman where she invites “people involved in the industry (not just chefs) to share their stories and resources for dealing with the particular pressures of restaurant life, so that other people may feel less alone.”
- Restaurant Recovery: an organization that “wants to provide safe and confidential spaces for conversations about recovery, and support without judgment. The aim is to heal restaurant and bar culture, not by sanitizing or vilifying, but by encouraging resilience, community, and hope. We are all in this together.”
- Mind Body Spirit(s): an organization “dedicated to supporting bar industry professionals in wellness and personal success for a long, healthy, fruitful career.”
- Bar Harm: an organization founded and run by Brandi Estrada focused on “building stronger, safer communities, by bringing community resources, training, and education into our bars and restaurants.”
Make your staff aware of organizations and NGOs such as these. In turn, they will feel a greater sense of community and support both inside your restaurant and out.
4. Remind your staff of the importance of self-care
As anyone who’s worked in a restaurant will tell you, the hours are long, shifts run late, and schedules vary day to day. You spend most of your day standing on your feet. You’re working with your hands. You may be pounding coffee to stay awake for late-night shifts.
Before introducing wellness-focused activities or programs, remind your team of some simple ways to care for themselves outside of the restaurant.
Emphasize the importance of rest and sleep. Promote stretching, exercising, and staying active. Remind them to catch some sunlight when they’re off-shift. Tell them to take time for themselves when they can. Introduce these ideas in the hopes that your staff will begin to create wellness routines for themselves, if they haven’t already.
Alright, so you’ve created a safe space for dialogue, learned from others in your community, and promoted the importance of self-care outside the restaurant. Now it’s time to see what activities or programs you can introduce to promote the team’s wellness.
5. Ask your team what they want out of wellness activities and programs
Before you dive in, go straight to the source. Ask your employees what they want to see out of wellness-based activities and programs. Even if some of the ideas are less achievable than others, it will give you a good place to start and shows you consider their input.
6. Offer discounted access to yoga classes, gym memberships, or fitness classes
Working at a restaurant leads to a lot of strain on a person’s feet and back. If an employee’s body hurts or aches, though, it’s going to make it hard for them to want to come in, feel inspired and excited, and do their best work.
To promote physical wellness, offer subsidized gym memberships or access to free monthly yoga and fitness classes.
For restaurants that are not able to afford such options, hold simple, in-restaurant group exercises or stretches with the staff. Another idea is to organize the team to participate in bicycle races or 5K races and runs.
Brandi Estrada, who runs the NGO Bar Harm, believes that one of the best ways to promote employee wellness is through innovative employee experiences such as these.