Imbibe catches up with Tim Etherington-Judge about the launch of Healthy Hospo, to find out more about this ground-breaking wellness platform for the hospitality industry
Why did you decide to launch Healthy Hospo?
'The idea for Healthy Hospo was born after I had a breakdown at the Athens Bar Show in 2016. I was working as a global brand ambassador at the time and was diagnosed with severe unipolar depression.
'Years of late nights with seemingly permanent jetlag, hundreds of flights a year, a reliance on restaurants and room service – and the almost obligatory shot of whiskey that was shared with the bartenders I met – were compounded with some major changes within my company and they finally took their toll.
'Tired of the stigma and lack of recognition around mental health, I decided to talk publicly about my illness and blogged throughout my recovery. It was during this time that I realised I was in the fortunate position of having the support of a large corporation, private health care, and the opportunity of extended sick leave to focus on my recovery, things that are not often available to those working on the front line of the hospitality industry.'
Why is the issue of health in the hospitality trade so important to you personally?
'It was during my illness and recovery that I realised that I had to do something to help improve the health and wellness of people working in the industry. After "coming out" about my illness the number of messages and conversations I had, not only of support and empathy, but more tellingly from people sharing their stories of struggles, illness and experiences, was simply overwhelming.
'As hospitality is all about helping others have great experiences and enjoying life, I see the next stage of my life within the industry as helping those working at the front line to enjoy their lives more and have longer, more sustainable careers.'
What are the biggest challenges facing the hospitality industry at the moment when it comes to the health of staff?
'There are so many challenges facing the industry. The rapid growth in recent years of both the bar and restaurant industry has pushed many people to the edge or beyond. The disruption of circadian rhythm and sleep through the nocturnal hours, the high-stress work environment both in the kitchen and front of house, a reliance on quick, unhealthy fast food, lack of exercise and the easy access to intoxicating substances has proven a recipe for the mental and physical health problems plaguing the industry. It doesn’t have to be this way, as there are simple steps that can be made to improve the health of the industry.'
What simple changes can people take to make their working life healthier and more sustainable?
'The first, and most important step in my opinion, besides checking HealthyHospo.com of course, is that people need take ownership for their own health. Too often we don’t think about the impact that the decisions we make every day have on our health. Some simple things I have found to be most useful are:
- Engage in regular exercise, up to 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise two or three times a week.
- Turn your bedroom into a sanctuary of sleep, turn the phone off at least 30 minutes before bed and create a sleep ritual that could include reading a novel, a cup of relaxing tea or taking a hot bath.
- Reduce consumption of heavily processed foods, refined sugars and saturated fats whilst increasing consumption of green leafy vegetables.
- Creating a waking ritual to ensure that the first hour after waking is dedicated to "me time". This could be meditation, a good coffee, stretching or perhaps a workout or yoga.'
What help is out there that people may not know about?
'In the UK we have a couple of charities who work specifically with the hospitality and drinks industry and are doing some amazing work.
'The Benevolent is a charity that is dedicated to the drinks industry. They provide help and support to current and former employees of the drinks industry and their families. If you’ve worked in aspect of the drinks industry for two years or more they are there to help.
'Hospitality Action focuses its work on the wider hospitality industry and offers vital assistance to all who work, or have worked within hospitality in the UK and who find themselves in crisis.'
What do you hope to achieve with Healthy Hospo in the next 12 months?
'Everything I want to achieve with Healthy Hospo revolves around helping people, and much of what will happen will be dictated by what people want. It’s not about turning everyone into fit and healthy superheroes but about a general improvement for those that want it.
'Personally, I hope that Healthy Hospo will be seen as a platform that not only provides information and advice on how to lead a healthier, happier life, as well as a more sustainable career, but that it will also help inspire people from all aspects of the hospitality industry to take steps to improve the health and wellness of the industry as a whole.'