To coincide with Mental Health Week 2022, Unilever Away From Home added a ‘Mental Health in the Kitchen’ course to its recently launched Unilever Food Solutions (UFS) Academy in a bid to tackle rising concerns across the industry.
Available to view now on the Unilever Food Solutions website, The ‘Mental Health in the Kitchen’ course comprises a series of engaging training videos to give chefs and hospitality staff practical advice on everyday changes they can make to encourage a better working environment for all. The films include invaluable advice and support across several areas within mental health including selfcare, working environment, teamwork, and team management. They provide pointers on how to spot signs a team member may be struggling, as well as advice on facilitating conversations around mental health.
This latest course from the UFS Academy comes in response to the rising mental health concerns which continue to challenge the industry. In 2020, a survey by leading charity and Unilever #FairKitchens partner, Hospitality Action, revealed a picture of staff struggling to cope with the uncertainty of the pandemic alongside pressures typically associated with the sector such as long and unsociable work hours. In fact, over a third (37%) described their jobs as stressful ‘most of the time’ and 68% said stress levels had increased in their organisation in the past three years1.
Another area that is influencing the mental health of those working in the sector is the significant recruitment and retention issues kitchens are facing as they struggle to meet demand with severely reduced staffing levels and inexperience.
As of July 2021, 72% of hospitality professionals described staff shortages as the number one challenge as they reopened2 and these shortages are also impacting the training and development of staff working in the sector. Further research revealed that over half of hospitality workers had not taken part in any development training since re-joining their work3 which is a fundamental part when it comes to keeping people engaged and feeling fulfilled.
With a clear need for support as the hospitality industry gets back on its feet after several years of turmoil, Unilever Away From Home, introduced the UFS Academy in March 2022 to address wider training and growth issues across the industry.
The platform, which hosts the new ‘Mental Health in the Kitchen’ program, acts as a chef training portal and features free online culinary courses by some of the world’s best chefs. Created by Chefs, for Chefs, professionals can get tips, skills and techniques across a range of disciplines from preparation techniques to how to create plant-based dishes and learning more about business management and leadership. The overall ambition is to equip chefs through free and quality training to create better and more successful working environments.
Alex Hall, Executive Chef at Unilever UK&I, explains: “The mental health of staff is critical to long term success across the industry – a healthy working environment makes for a healthy business.
The challenges of working in hospitality are well documented, with stress levels amongst staff high pre-pandemic, but with increased recruitment and retention challenge, we are in danger of them rising even higher as the sector bounces back. We must do more to support the mental health and wellbeing of all, which is why we have developed a specific course to give people the tools they need to help make positive changes to the kitchen culture."
“The Mental Health in the Kitchen module is our latest instalment to our UFS Academy which offers free online courses from renowned Chefs across the world. The programmes arm head chefs, management and their teams with practical advice to develop themselves and their teams to create a positive nurturing environment where teams can learn and thrive together. Investing in your team is a great way to keep them engaged and motivated, knowing that their leaders are there for them builds a stronger more collaborative team for the future.
We also need to consider the new generation and what they need from their leaders only then can we focus on the future of our industry. We will be adding more courses to our platform across the year and would encourage people to get involved and be a part of a positive change.”
The UFS Academy supported by the #FairKitchens movement are creating this positive working environment, putting wellbeing and development above all else.
What is Fair Kitchens?
#FairKitchens is a Unilever Food Solutions initiative and movement fighting for a more resilient and sustainable foodservice and hospitality industry, calling for change by showing that a healthier culture makes for a healthier business. It strives to make the industry a fairer, more inclusive and happier place to be to keep the talent we have today and attract the talent we need for the future.
Alex Hall, Head Chef at Unilever Food Solutions, quotes that “Telling people to improve working conditions isn’t enough, but by sharing positive success stories and peer-to-peer endorsement we can all help to drive change”.
The movement was founded in 2018 amid growing awareness of the serious wellbeing issue at the heart of foodservice and hospitality. Research by Unilever Food Solutions in 2017 had uncovered that 74% of chefs were sleep deprived to the point of exhaustion, 63% of chefs felt depressed, and more than half felt pushed to breaking point. Believing that this industry will thrive only when the people who work in it thrive, Unilever Food Solutions as a key supplier to the foodservice industry came together with a group of chefs and partners including to initiate the #FairKitchens movement as founding partners.