At a recent management workshop, a restaurant owner asked in exasperation, “Just how much do we need to be ‘mother and father’ to our staff?” This followed a discussion about staff, healthy eating and the junk food that many of them choose to consume (like cola drinks loaded with sugar). So how much?
The key is to be a modern parent – supportive, not nagging, open-minded, firm but flexible. Recognise that staff want a job and a life! A good meal, time for sleep, and encouragement to lead a health-conscious lifestyle is a good start. And lead by example. Like it or not, ‘duty of care’ is now much more than checking for unsafe power points and keeping the guard on slicers. By supporting the health of your staff there are excellent payoffs for productivity, attendance and the bottom line. It’s also directly related to the mental health: a healthy body leads to a healthy mind.
Staff health and wellness for more energy
To help maintain speed during the shift, make sure there’s plenty of iced and filtered water available. Even go so far as to set a target consumption level for an 8-hour shift, e.g. 2 litres – many doctors tell us the more the better! If soft drinks are consumed, be bold and make the rule that staff bring, or purchase, their own. Show them how many teaspoons of sugar is in an average bottle of soda: 5g of sugar = one teaspoon, so if the label says 40g of sugar, that’s 8 teaspoons… OMG!
Weigh up the cost of providing breakfast for morning staff, and offer a healthy meal before the evening shift. You expect night staff to work hard, so give them the energy to go full speed right to the end. If split shifts are expected, make sure there’s space and time to relax between them. It may seem like a luxury for small operators, but if you’re planning new premises, consider installing a staff shower and locker space – it makes a difference.
Encourage a walking group for break times, and talk to the local gym. They’re usually keen on cross-promotions, and may include special deals for staff as well as customers. If you have keen netball, basketball or soccer players, make sure they get a cheer from the sidelines for having a ‘life’ as well as a job. Cyclists will appreciate somewhere to store the bike during work hours.
Staff health and wellness means less junk food and booze
If you sell liquor, it’s easy for staff to indulge either with or without permission – it’s no secret that we have some staff who become dependent. Ensure alcohol and drug counselling contact numbers are prominent. Alcohol is not to be consumed by under-aged workers and Responsible Serving of Alcohol must apply to staff as well as visitors. Rules about staff drinks are essential and it’s time to stop using alcohol as a ‘bonus’ for good performance. Can you identify staff with a drug problem? Most managers panic at the thought of this – quick access to professional support is essential. Many drug users are experts at covering their tracks and bending the truth – use the healthy cynicism you’ve developed from dealing with customers and get a second opinion. Your ‘no tolerance’ policy needs to be promoted clearly.
Let’s also not forget the need for management to ‘walk the talk’ and cut down on cigarettes, fatty food, crazy hours and liquor. Hospitality is the pleasure industry, and the line between customer excess and staff misdemeanour is easy to cross. How many of your staff smoke? A US study showed hospitality workers smoked at twice the rate of the general public – no reason why it’s different here. Make sure the smoking and vaping rules are clear, in writing and strictly adhered to by management, and smokers don’t get extra breaks. Ensure those who quit are recognised for the hard work they’ve done. Publicise the Quitline phone number: 137848.
Even access to current information can make a difference. Do your employees have proper health insurance, or understand the options? Do they know about regular skin, breast and bowel cancer checks, and where to find a local GP? Stress leads to illness, and can arise from financial problems, as a result of gambling, or other family drama. There are local services that can assist. Make your staff aware of them. Even glasses and dental care may need attention – if they’re squinting or making excuses about reading a label, it may be time for some new ‘face furniture’.
Safe sex and healthy living
Workplace discussion about relationships, sex and contraception is now much more open, so make yourself comfortable with what’s discussed – condoms, contraception, sexually-transmitted diseases and abortion are all part of the conversation.
Simple tests at the shopping centre for cholesterol and blood-pressure can lead to more awareness and self-regard. Some staff would leap at the chance to obtain a First Aid certificate and others would be happy to donate blood if you tell them how. There’s a shift in thinking underway.
You’re not mum and dad, brother or sister, but you are the Director of Productivity. You need the policies, practices and workplace culture in place to make your job easier, not harder. By supporting your staff, they will work harder to support you.
To help put these ideas into practice, use the sample Health and Wellness Guide for Restaurant & Cafe Staff – adapt to your needs and use it in recruitment, staff training and daily reminders about a positive culture.
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