This is probably the most important part – just like a professional athlete conditions themselves for their sport, look at finding balance as a means to condition yourself for your service each and every day.
Could there be an easier way for you to ensure that you become a better chef?
Fear, guilt, perfectionism. Fearing that focussing on your wellbeing will diminish your career and your ambition. Guilt around disappointing either your team or those closest to you when you have to pick one over the other. Perfectionism that extends from the kitchen into your personal life and has you wanting to be there for everything and everyone.
If you hold any of the above notions, then this is the time to let it go, chef.
If you think about it, work-life balance is a concept built around a regular 9am-5pm job. How can we use that as a baseline to define what a balanced life should look like for us when our schedules look nothing like that? This is where a pragmatic approach is called for, because as a chef:
- You can accept the reality of your circumstances and work around it.
- You become free to rewrite the definition of work-life balance to suit you.
- You learn to temper your idealism, manage other people’s expectations better and get creative about your limitations
As I suggested in yesterday’s post, work-life balance is less worthy and less achievable a goal than the pursuit of that feeling of balance in your life. I would say that you need to attain it at two levels: the micro and the macro.
At a micro level, you seek balance on a daily or weekly basis. You do the activities and practice the habits that help you step away from your work and its stress, even if it is only momentarily. And you stay consistent with those activities and habits, no matter what obstacles come your way. The macro level, on the other hand, is where you seek to harmonise the various aspects of your life – your career, your relationships, your health, etc. Again, you need to break that intention of harmony down into small, doable, actions.
You do not let things slide when work gets all-consuming. You do what little you can to nurture all those other aspects because you know that to be the best chef you can be requires you to show up whole for service every day, and not fragmented by challenges from neglecting your personal life.
This week I share with you some insights from my philosophy on work-life balance. If you have been following me for a while, then you know my message is all about how you can make it accessible to you. Which is why my first suggestion to you is to let go of the idea that you need more time off before you can enjoy ‘a balanced life’.
The Love Letters to Chefs philosophy is all about making your goal finding balance in your day, week or month – through small actions that you can repeat on a consistent basis. This you can do right where you are, no matter how many hours you work, without waiting for the industry and our working conditions to change.
Your wellbeing, how fulfilled your life feels, how you show up in the kitchen every day are all too important for you to wait until you are assigned the perfect rota that allows you to enjoy a perfect work-life balance.
Are you with me on this quest to find more balance, chefs?
I will respond to this by asking another question of our leaders: what is the legacy you want the restaurant or food business you lead to be remembered for? The food or experience you create for your customers and the accolades you achieve can only ever be a small part of it.
The real legacy is your team – they are the ones who keep alive what they learned from you – both in terms of how you cooked and how you led your kitchen. In everything you do and say, you are imparting a message to your team about how they should look after themselves and value their wellbeing. They are the ones that will deploy those lessons learned in their own restaurants tomorrow.
This means that your impact extends far beyond the walls of your kitchen – in some way, you get to shape what our profession looks like. What will your message be, chef?
The list goes on and on..
Maybe the biggest challenge is the loss of agency. You have probably experienced this (as I have), or witnessed this in others: when your days are directed by the demands of something external, you can tend to respond by giving up your will and sovereignty over your own life. In other words, you expect work-life balance to be conditional on something like your rota and are unwilling or unable to channel your energy to dealing with any of the above challenges you might face.
Why is it that we discount work-life balance as a serious problem in Hospitality? There is a definite cost to holding such a view: on an individual level, our work eventually suffers when we neglect the other aspects of our lives. On a bigger level, it compounds the skills and labour shortages we already struggle with in this industry.
The Centre for London found work-life balance to be one of the biggest causes of high turnover amongst chefs. Greater numbers are choosing to leave the profession every year. Some others opt for jobs that they are overqualified for, just so that they can enjoy a more healthy pace of living. I found in my own research that young chefs joining the trade not only valued work-life balance (as is commonly reported in our media), but were finding the actual ‘living’ to be a challenge – in particular, making ends meet on a starting salary in a big city.
Somewhere in all there is a sense that work-life balance presents an inconvenient truth for both the individual chef and for Hospitality employers: that to enjoy it means that they have to take personal and collective responsibility.
And all the while, this ambivalence is costing us. Greatly.
The Create Your #BetterCheflife workshop for September will be held next Monday the 21st. This training covers principles that will support you in creating a more balanced cheflife, which eventually feeds back into your work itself and enables you to enjoy a more sustainable career.
You will learn how to put in place strategies that help you:
- Deal with the stress that you encounter in your shift
- Make time and space for your personal commitments
- Tackle the challenges that you know you need to address, but struggle to given your demanding work schedule
The 1.5 hour workshop is delivered via Zoom and is being offered once again on a Pay What You Can basis so that it is accessible to all chefs.
I hope you will join me, chefs! Click here to read more and book. Please also share with any chefs who might benefit from this training.
My latest article for The Staff Canteen:
Many chefs who started new wellbeing habits during lockdown are now challenged with sustaining those habits after returning to work. Although there is no dearth of wellbeing resources that can help them achieve that, the obstacle here is not simply a lack of solutions. Two years after I first wrote about work-life balance on The Staff Canteen, I now recognise that in the first instance, we as chefs need to review our very perception of work-life balance.– Ishwariya Rajamohan, Love Letters to Chefs
You can read the rest of the article here.