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Work/Life Balance? or Work vs. Life?

It's no secret that working in kitchens comes with a high degree of stress. Let's face it, our industry is one of the only industries where we produce a product for consumers from scratch, by hand, and to order day after day. Chefs and cooks work long hours and often six days a week to be able to keep up with the demand of business. People talk all the time about the importance of balance. Balance, in this context, refers to two things. Work and life. I have thought quite a bit about this idea and the more I think about it, the more alarming it becomes. In relation to a job, most people define "quality of life" as the amount of time that they have outside of work. That implies that life stops while you are at work. By that logic, if the average person works 40 hours a week than they have lost 24% of their lives to their job. If the average Chef works 55 hours a week, they lose about 34% of their lives.

Let's go back to balance. The word 'life' can be broken up into many different areas of our environment. People could ask things like "how's your home life or how's your sex life or how's married life? When you add the word 'balance' it changes things. "Work to life balance" is a cliche that has been thrown around forever. The truth is that whatever precedes "to life" in that cliche is automatically negative, and it is almost exclusively 'work.' Imagine if you got home from work and looked at your spouse and said, "I think I need to find a better marriage to life balance." That conversation probably won't go too well.

The stresses of a professional kitchen are not going anywhere and I am under no delusions to the contrary. What I am getting at is, how do we turn 'work' into an enjoyable part of life for our team? We can't take away the tickets pouring in or the expediter pushing them to get food out in a timely manner, but we can introduce new things to their environment that contribute to a more life nourishing experience. If space allows, you can create a relaxing area for staff to decompress and get away from the noise of the kitchen. Bi-weekly schedules are rare in kitchens, but allow your team to be able to plan their days better instead of finding out next weeks schedule three days before it begins. Bring in a local counselor to discuss stress management. It sounds crazy but what about a basketball hoop out back for breaks? It's no crazier than letting smokers go outside for 5 minutes and also helps relieve some stress. The possibilities are endless and usually require little to no financial investment. Making these kinds of changes will drastically increase the retention of your team and when word gets out, new applications will start coming in.

We as leaders are the only ones who get in the way of this kind of progress. Let's not allow past precedence to dictate the future of our industry. If you would like to learn more about how to positively change the environment of your operation, fill out the Contact Us form at the bottom of my home page.

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