In the dynamic and demanding world of hospitality, where late nights and long hours are the norm, maintaining good mental and physical health is essential for your long-term success and well-being.
For the millions of people employed worldwide across the industry, it often becomes a way of life and a community as much as it is a career in Hospitality. Working with a great team to deliver incredible experiences for customers under time pressure can be exhilarating and satisfying. However, it’s also essential to maintain a healthy balance between work and rest.
For Hospitality Management students and aspiring professionals entering this fast-paced industry, the importance of monitoring and prioritising your mental health cannot be overstated. To make sure you stay well under pressure, we’ve compiled some valuable tips essential to achieving a healthy work-life balance, avoiding or correcting a toxic workplace, and navigating the challenges of an industry that never sleeps.
But first, let’s take a quick look at a few key points illustrating why mental and physical health in hospitality is key to having a long and successful career.
Understanding the challenges of the Hospitality industry
Ask any restaurateur or hotelier; the hospitality industry is famous among professionals for its intense nature. From managing high-stress situations in the kitchen to dealing with customer expectations, professionals often find themselves under pressure. Plus, many hospitality businesses operate for long hours, which means employees are at risk of interrupted sleeping patterns. Sleep deprivation is linked to all kinds of physical and mental illnesses, from diabetes to depression. Acknowledging these challenges and risks is the first step toward fostering a culture of mental well-being in your workplace.
Recognising the signs of stress and burnout
Long hours and irregular schedules can take a toll on the mental and physical health of even the most experienced hospitality professionals. It's crucial to recognise signs of stress and burnout early on, particularly among your staff if you happen to be a manager. Encourage self-awareness among your colleagues and employees, keep an eye out for the red flags of unhealthy workplace culture, and seek support when you notice symptoms in yourself.
When you have a balanced approach to work and life, your hospitality career can be incredibly rewarding, dynamic and sustainable. Follow these tips to ensure you have a long and healthy career ahead of you.
Strategies for managing stress in a Hospitality workplace
1. Build self-care into your schedule
In an industry where taking care of others is a priority, it's easy to neglect personal well-being. Your health and wellbeing is important; remember to prioritise daily acts of self-care, including adequate sleep, proper nutrition, spending time with loved ones and regular exercise. Small, consistent efforts can significantly impact your overall mental health over time.
2. Effective time management
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and you keep missing important dates or losing track of tasks, you might benefit from the use of some organisational tools and management strategies. Develop effective time management skills to balance work and personal life, such as setting realistic goals, prioritising tasks, and learning to delegate when necessary. Efficient time management strategies can reduce stress, particularly if you’re not someone who’s naturally organised.
3. Building a supportive network
Don’t fall into the ‘I’ll be fine if I manage it myself’ trap. If you’re struggling, reach out to trusted colleagues, managers or peers. If you’re still studying hospitality, use the university network to build a support system. Professors, colleagues, and peers can offer valuable insights, share experiences, and provide emotional support. Connecting with like-minded individuals fosters a sense of community and solidarity, and people around you may be able to recommend strategies or services that can help.
Promoting a healthier work-life balance
4. Establishing work-life boundaries
Although this may be difficult in some roles, such as for a Head Chef, it’s really important to set clear boundaries between work and personal life in hospitality. Although your workmates often naturally become your friends in hospitality, make sure you set aside time for your friends and family outside your working community. Try to avoid bringing work-related stress home and create dedicated time for relaxation and leisure activities. This separation is essential for maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
5. Continuous learning and growth
Choose a role, workplace or career where you can grow and work towards your own future. It’s important for your mental health to feel a sense of professional and personal development, to have your own career goals and to be working towards these ambitions. Continuous learning not only enhances professional growth but also allows for better adaptation to changes, reducing the impact of stressors.
6. Seeking professional help when needed
It's important to recognise when professional help is necessary. If stress and mental health challenges persist over time regardless of your circumstances, you could benefit from seeking professional support. Many universities offer counselling services that can provide assistance and guidance, and in Australia, everyone is eligible for some amount of subsidised therapy.
Avoiding or correcting toxic work environments
7. Recognise the ‘red flags’ of a toxic or exploitative working environment
Stress can also be a natural and healthy response to working in a toxic or exploitative environment. In this case, stress is a clear message from your body to leave an unsafe situation, and you should pay close attention to it. No hospitality professional should feel obligated to endure abusive behaviours from staff, employers or customers, such as shouting or threats, discrimination, withholding or docking of pay, harassment or abuse, personal insults, or the neglect of employee mental or physical health. The first step to understanding if your stress is the natural response of your body telling you to leave an unsafe environment is to recognise these red flags of a toxic workplace.
8: Leave, fight or fix a toxic work environment
If you’ve come to the realisation that your work-related stress is a natural response to a toxic environment or a workplace offering bad conditions, you have three options for correcting this situation, depending on your role within the business.
- Consider leaving and finding work in a better environment. In fact, high turnover is a particular issue and a red flag in hospitality and employers should take note.
- If you’re committed to a long-term relationship with an employer, but you feel you’re getting a raw deal in pay or conditions, you can approach your employer to ask for improvements directly, join a union or organise collectively with other professionals in your industry to fight for better conditions.
- If you’re a hospitality manager, hotelier, restaurateur or business owner, it’s your job to take care of employees and to provide a happy and healthy work environment in your establishment. If you notice high rates of employee turnover or other signs of employee dissatisfaction, it may be time to improve your workplace conditions or pay. After all, there’s ample research demonstrating that happy employees are more productive and better for customers and for your business.
The world of hospitality may be fast-paced and demanding, but with the right strategies and a supportive workplace, it's certainly possible to stay happy and healthy. By acknowledging the unique challenges, developing effective coping mechanisms and challenging bad workplace practices, hospitality professionals can work together to foster a culture of well-being in the industry that never sleeps.