Chefstress, identifying the causes
With some of the hottest temperatures on record now hitting our kitchens, it’s time to evaluate and quantify to very causes of what is now acknowledged as “heat stress” which in turn leads to the workplace stress known as Chefstress.
So, what exactly are “heatstress” and “chefstress” and how do they affect chefs in modern working kitchens.
Heatstress is now defined by the Health and Safety Executive as the rising of the body’s temperature due to the ambient or surrounding temperature.
This ambient temperature makes the body evaporate water through the sweat glands, the higher the temperature, the more you lose water through sweating. This is called dehydration.
Dehydration of the body is dangerous. It can create headaches, make you lose concentration leading to accidents, can raise the heart rate and cause palpitations’ men it can cause infertility, decreasing the production of sperm and in women, cause cystitis, and increase yeast production which causes gynaecological infections.
Causes of Heatstress are now recognised as being poor kitchen design, lack of Air Conditioning, Thermo Deficient Equipment, poorly designed Uniforms and hats and poor user knowledge and abuse of equipment.
Heatstress is now seen as a major cause of Workplace Stress and Chefstress is now being recognised as a unique type of stress.
So now we understand what causes Heatstress. How does that quantify into “Chefstress”? Heatstress is indeed just one of the ingredients that go into the mix of causes that chefs must incur during their working day. Along with antiquated and unsuitable Uniforms, the insistence of unsuitable and (largely unnecessary) headwear, lack of cooled water, access to fresh air and increasing administrative duties that many have not been trained for.
Chefstress is a culmination of all of these and often more as the one thing the makes chefs unique is their internal drive for perfection. The single factor in making Chefstress unique in evaluating stress isn’t an external factor, but indeed an internal factor. The very drive for perfection, the possibility of another star or Rosette, the acclamation and the rewards of success is unparalleled in other careers. Of course, we know that Doctors, Fireman etc all suffer levels of stress, but it is this self-destroying quest for perfection that makes professional cooking one of the most stressful jobs there is.
Few careers have both the external and internal factors and its this lethal combination that is now turning chefs away from what once was an enjoyable job. The Head Chef role has changed dramatically too, and many are now mear administrators, tied to their desk, creating menus on a computer and filing the reams of (largely unnecessary) paperwork that plagues many kitchens. This, in turn, creates frustration and poor leadership as the time spent on the floor in touch with the job diminishes, creating further stress for both the Head chef and their staff.
Staff shortages and increasing Employer expectations are also playing a part in the mix that creates Chefstress, and the lack of Employer knowledge and understanding is making the life for the average chef just a little too much to bear.