Work-Life-Balance in the Hospitality Industry

By G. Angelini, Jan. 2016

A lot has been written and a lot is available on the internet on this important subject. This article specifically addresses the work-life balance within the hospitality industry.

The concept of work-life balance means different things to different groups. For some, it is an elusive ideal while for others, it is a myth. There is no perfect, “one size fits all” formula as we all have different priorities and different objectives in life.

In this industry, we have to accept the fact that hotels operate 24/7 and 365 days per year, including week-ends and public holidays. The hospitality industry has traditionally been known to have a long work hour culture.

This is a labor-intensive industry that offers good opportunities for career advancement, but we also have to accept that it is a demanding industry requiring full commitment and hard work. This includes frequent transfers and international postings that in many cases is the norm and an expectation, especially when associated with the global brands. There are times when hard decisions have to be made, whether   to remain in the comfort zone and continue with the achieved quality of life or move to a totally new assignment (including overseas) where there are considerably more challenges, especially for the family in terms of accommodation, schooling for children, communication etc. But in the end it is anticipated that the various transfers and new experiences will provide bigger and better jobs/positions and income.

In a hospitality career driven culture, we have witnessed first-hand how the demand, pressure, stress and fatigue accumulates when we and our people do not have the working and family life running in sync. The very nature of this business and industry requires long hours day and night and also brings another, often unspoken enemy as the business demands that our presence at the working place is also required during the key holidays when most of our guests are enjoying vacations and using our facilities as we attend to their needs.

The hospitality and travel business are particularly hard and demanding when it comes to planning and responding to the daily business activities/strategies and daily results as one unsold room or an unsold restaurant seat are gone forever (perishable commodity that cannot be stored and use-sale them at another occasion). This requires both “macro” management for image building/market positioning and “micro” management for the day/week/month performance and handling of requests, opportunities, promotional activities and supervision.

This is a service industry that is constantly faced with an ever-evolving landscape as the personal likes and dislikes of the consumer changes frequently. Also it is an industry that is impacted by the business cycles, by the high and low seasons, by political stability/security, by an ever increasing supply of new products and trends and others. All this requires time and attention, more than other industries.

“Achievement and Enjoyment” should be the objective of work-life balance regardless of your status or position; leader, manager, line worker, single, married with children, at the start of a new career-job or near retirement. In line with this, it is normal that when you want something you have to work hard for it and there are times that one must sacrifice time as part of the work, and in those cases it becomes difficult to fit family events and personal schedules into work schedules.

It is important to know who you are as a person, what you want to become and what you need in order to be happy. Also it is a basic thing that you determine what your values are (as single and/or as family person) and what you value most of all. Values help you see if what you say and do are in alignment of what you think and feel. In order to have a work-life balance you also must know the values of your partner/spouse as the two of you must be aligned and go to same direction otherwise there will be problems. Have to accept that in most cases, with transfers and relocations, it is practically impossible to have two successful careers, normally one has to suffer and both of you have to be prepared and accept this without regrets.

What are your priorities and what do you value most in work-life? Health, wealth, success, integrity, happiness, family, money, commitment, sports, leisure, spirituality, etc. Once you are clear on this, ask yourself: “Am I living my life in accordance with those values? What do I have to do to become the person I want to be? And what do I have to do to ensure that my partner achieves what he/she wants to achieve?”

Are successful people happier? Is enjoyment possible without achievement? A simplistic definition and a way to measure this is when we are achieving and enjoying something every single day in all the important areas that make up our lives, and this applies to both work and family. Balanced-fulfilling-stress free life? Keep working on achieving the goal of living your life every single day in accordance with your highest values and with the values of your partner. Not an easy task, but is there another way? You can always remain unattached all your life and think only for yourself. Attached or unattached, all should do their very best and work hard/smart on achieving success.

In this productivity-driven society (and also consumerist society….) that we are living in, more and more people are finding it hard to adequately fulfill the roles at the workplace and at home, and in many cases the job takes priority at the expense of the family and of the overall balance. In order to minimize this, it becomes essential for executives-managers to properly manage their time, set priorities at work and avoid becoming inefficient workaholics that creates stress, imbalance and family problems. For an executive to achieve work-life balance and be successful, there is need first to define success for yourself then setting priorities supported by smart planning/actions, clarity on delegation and remember that no one can do it alone. Effective communication, team work without the “lone ranger/s”, transparency, quick decision making process, always avoid procrastination and at same time stay connected to the family and respond to their needs and comfort.

Do not ignore the importance of work-life balance and be prepared to respond to personal-family crisis or unusual business needs. Remember that when you are young and/or successful you think you can control everything but the reality is that you can’t.  And you cannot forget to keep your feet on the ground and be more amble and considerate.