When we talk about ways in which we can improve the health and wellbeing of our teams we look at open conversations which challenge stigma, leadership skills and work life balance (to name a few) but, did you know that the design of the kitchen can have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of your team as well?
The aim with any kitchen layout is to encourage ergonomics and ease of use/access. When we start to switch our minds to how we can further improve our designs to reduce stress on the body and mind there are several things to consider:
You could start by looking at designing menus or implementing equipment which reduce the amount of mise en place required and thus reduce the time pre and post service in order to save energy for the main service. Instead of looking at what would look good on the menu,
start to design menus by the level of stress it could cause during peak service times. If it rates higher than 7 on a 1 – 10 scale, consider ways in which you can reduce the stressful elements or look to remove them from the menu. When you’re standing on your feet for extended periods of time the body is put under tremendous stress. As a result knee and back pain are common complaints in hospitality. Additionally heat and noise are also directly linked to increased rates of stress. Consider switching to induction hobs which work to reduce the heat when compared to conventional gas burners but also ensure that clean down times are a lot quicker as you don’t have to wait for the induction to cool down for as long and with flat services can quickly wipe clean. In addition 90% of the energy from induction hobs go directly into the cooking process as opposed to 40% when compared to standard gas.
Noisy fans can impact concentration as well as reduce efficiency of communication amongst team members. Investment into low noise fans can also be invaluable to reducing stress levels within a high pressured environments. Combine that with cooling systems for each station means that you’re pro-actively looking to address any residual heating issues whilst also combating noise.
Both footwear and Altro Hygienic floor material should be considered when looking to reduce the impact on the body. Investments into both areas to combat back and knee pain may increase your expenditure initially but will greatly reduce the risk of longer term costs to the business as a result of presenteeism or absenteeism. Added to that, consider looking at easy-to-clean floor materials that reduce the post service clean down.
Our bodies produce vitamin D which works to increase our serotonin levels and combat the affects of high levels of stress and mental health issues. In environments that are often in basements or have limited natural daylight consider using LED lighting panels instead of
fluorescent tubes. Lighting is another important consideration in kitchen design and shouldn’t be underestimated as good lighting can also improve circadian rhythms and sleep patterns which can also increase productivity whilst improving mood. Adjustable work benches are also something to be considered. Does the same person work at the same section seven days a week? It could be worth considering adjustable benches in order to save people of different heights having to bend or lean over their section. Where are the prep items stored once they are complete? Are they within arms reach that limit the need for excessive movement? How about designing working spaces which reduce the amount of movement required to operate a section? Ticket layout, yes, we said ticket layout. Although not normally considered to impact the wellbeing of our teams it’s not an area to be underestimated. How long or how easy it is to read long table orders can also have an impact on the teams wellbeing. By designing easy-to-read tickets that fit the needs of the kitchen you can greatly reduce the thinking time it takes to navigate complex orders and can directly contribute to improvements in efficiency and most importantly, health. You could also consider flat screen panels on each section that give a breakdown of exactly what’s coming up next. This saves the need for the Head Chef to shout the orders and could improve the speed in which different elements of dishes are produced.
Ultimately there are many small tweaks we can make within the workplace that don’t require masses of investment. However, it’s important to recognise that whilst investments in new kitchens may increase, by implementing some of the suggestions above your return on the investment over the next 10 – 20 years could increase by reducing absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover rates by directly creating an environment which people feel happy and comfortable to work in.
Have you considered your teams wellbeing in your kitchen layout? What other tweaks might you consider to make your processes more efficient whilst putting the health of your team first? Get in touch via our social channels or drop us a message here.