© 2024 WYPR
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Healthcare coverage from WYPR is made possible by support from GBMC HealthCare.

Baltimore restaurant finds ways to ease service industry stressors

In a warm backroom at Atwater’s in West Baltimore, a handful of employees brainstorm in groups about how they can better their work environment.

The groups rotate between different topics and write their ideas on a large piece of paper.

The topics are focused on things like creating gratitude at work or building inclusion.

The exercise is part of a program that is supposed to help service industry workers relieve stress, better mental health and work better together.

“Our mission is to create a culture of care and we focus our mission in the workplace building healthy workplace cultures,” said Anthony Sartori the executive director and founder of Evolving Minds, a Baltimore-based company that trains frontline workers, retail employees and nonprofit workers on how to make their workplace environment more worker friendly.

The program is built off of a framework put out by the United States Surgeon General that focuses on worker voice, equity, social connection, human needs and support.

“Ultimately, the outcome of what we're doing is to nourish and build a people first work culture,” Sartori said. “For a really long time, it hasn't been about people in organizations in terms of developing them, investing in them, building a sense of common humanity. What this program does is really puts mental health and well being as a top priority of the organization.”

Some of the skills they learn use mindfulness techniques like paced breathing and loving kindness, which is where workers practice acts of gratitude like writing letters or appreciating the work they do individually at the end of the day. Other exercises focus on proactive ways to change the way the company operates to take into account those lessons.

Studies show that the restaurant sector frequently ranks as one of the most harmful for mental health and drug abuse.

The program tries to find ways to help employees manage the stress, tension and long hours of the job.

“We think it's important because the way that people feel when they come to work affects the job, it affects everything down to the food that you eat,” said Mike Heinz, is a production manager in charge of the bread at Atwater’s. “All those things add up, we're a team, we're a group. That group collective, that's what drives us forward. These mindful pauses and reframing of how we look at our inner, personal reaction or interactions inside the workspace, I think it's super valuable.”

Ned Atwater, the owner of Atwater’s, says providing things that many restaurants don’t, like health insurance and retirement plans, is key to making a company function properly.

“When I started this company, my goal was to make it a real, professional environment where people felt safe, that they felt like they had a future, and that they can make a living,” he said. “The working environment now is so much more important. Before, when I came up, you just kept your eyes down and worked. Thankfully, that's evolved. And I think it's just getting better. “

Atwater says he hopes the training will help employees have a better work-life balance and want to stick with the company longer.

Scott is the Health Reporter for WYPR. @smaucionewypr
Related Content