The Stressful Reality of Working in a Restaurant

When you think of the most stressful jobs, what comes to mind? Neurosurgeons, stockbrokers, and teachers are often at the top of the list. But a recent study has revealed that being a waiter or waitress can be even more stressful than we thought. The restaurant industry was already one of the most demanding work environments before the pandemic, and COVID-19 has only made it worse. Restaurant staff often work long hours and may be prone to substance use problems; they also approach work with a “work hard” mentality.

Unfortunately, restaurant culture hasn't historically prioritized mental self-care or seen it as something that employees should deal with in their spare time. The lack of respect shown to food waiters is almost shocking. Through actions and words, difficult clients can make a stressful job even worse. The widespread lack of consideration for a server's time combined with impatience is particularly offensive and difficult to manage.

To address this issue, the restaurant group Bonanno Concepts has hired a full-time mental health clinic, Qiana Torres Flores, which is listed here at the company's French 75 restaurant in downtown Denver. When scientists from the Southern Medical University of Guangzhou (China) conducted a study on the relationship between stroke and work stress, they found that being a waitress is the most stressful job. This was surprising since other higher-risk professions, such as doctors and lawyers, weren't rated as more stressful. Add tense, physically demanding and emotionally draining work to the mix and, well, you've compounded that stress.

The results of the study showed that low-wage, high-workload jobs, such as restaurant waiters, increase the risk of heart problems and strokes by more than 50 percent. This is because people with high levels of stress at work are less likely to take care of themselves and more likely to drink or smoke. A third of restaurants received requests for mental health services or resources from employees last year. Lead researcher Dingli Xu commented that more research is needed to determine if work stress is directly related to an increased risk of stroke or if external factors related to work stress are to blame.

Most people who have had a job as a food waiter during their lifetime will tell you that it can be a very stressful line of work. This tradition of “family food” was once a common practice in restaurants, and it still is in high-end restaurants across the country. It may seem common sense that demanding jobs with little control equate to more stress, but the study contained some severe warnings, showing that 4.4 percent of a person's risk of stroke is due to work stress, a figure that increases to 6.5 percent in women. Qiana Torres Flores highly rates the effort and says it builds on previous efforts to recognize the psychological cost of restaurant jobs. She believes that this initiative will help create an entirely new profession within the restaurant world. The next time you go out to dinner, think a little bit about the person who serves you the food.

Being a waiter or waitress is one of the most stressful jobs and can have a detrimental effect on a person's health.

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