Employee burnout is worsening the pre-existing labor shortages in many sectors, but the hospitality industry is particularly vulnerable
Ten key factors contribute largely to employees experiencing burnout instead of wellbeing in the workplace. These factors are exaggerated in hospitality.
Leaders must implement wellness initiatives that resolve the causes of burnout and empower employees to achieve work-life balance and wellbeing.
Managing employee burnout effectively is a strategic priority and point of weakness for the hospitality industry. The hospitality industry leads many positive indicators in different countries, such as job creation and contributions to GDP. However, it also occupies the highest position in a negative aspect: the industries with the most burnout.
According to a survey and research by Paychex, the hospitality industry has the highest number of employees with burnout. An astounding 80.3% of sector employees claim to feel burnout!
This recent rise in burnout is impacting the labor market in the industry and worsening the pre-existing labor shortage in the hospitality workforce.
In an ebook of analysis and perspectives on the hospitality sector, EHL Associate Professor Stefano Borzillo said:
Reversing the situation is a responsibility of each company, and leadership based on wellbeing is one of the most powerful tools to achieve it.
According to a study by Workhuman, companies that develop a wellness program are 90% less likely to have their employees report frequently feeling burnout.
In this article, we will delve into this phenomenon and explore good practices for managing burnout within the context of the hospitality industry.
What does burnout really mean?
According to Mayo Clinic, “burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity”.
Burnout isn't a medical diagnosis. However, the World Health Organization recognizes it as a problem of emotional and psychological health associated with work.
According to the WHO, burnout is characterized by three dimensions:
Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job;
Reduced professional efficacy.
In summary, an employee with burnout is not motivated and significantly loses their productivity and effectiveness in the work environment.
In addition to contributing less value to the company, an employee who is experiencing burnout is more likely to resign, in order to find a job where they perceive more wellbeing.
What causes burnout in the workplace?
According to a recent article by the human resource experts at spill the ten leading causes of burnout are:
Too much work
Not enough control
Lack of rewards or acknowledgement
Poor work-life balance
Unclear job expectations
Toxic workplace culture
Lack of social support
Limited opportunities for growth
Looking at these factors, it’s not too hard to understand why the hospitality industry has such a high incidence rate.
The burnout factors in hospitality
When taking into consideration the traditional work environment of the hospitality industry, we find several elements that generate burnout.
Many hotels and businesses in the sector are known for dealing out heavy workloads and long hours. The demanding physical work and grueling schedules can lead to a poor work-life balance and fatigue.
Hospitality workers frequently engage in emotional labor. They manage and regulate their emotions to provide a positive customer experience, which can be emotionally draining;
Employees in the hospitality industry may feel a lack of control over their work schedules, assignments, or decision-making processes. They may feel powerless or unable to influence their work environment.
It’s a highly stressful work environment. Dealing with demanding customers, handling complaints, and working in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment can increase stress levels.
These risk factors help us understand that, in many cases, workers in the hospitality industry are regularly subjected to the factors that contribute to burnout. Considering all of this, industry leaders need to create employ well-being strategies that counteract the demanding dynamics of the hospitality industry.
How to reduce burnout in the hospitality industry?
There are some factors that leaders cannot change, such as the fact that the hospitality industry is a 24/7 type of business that operates during weekends, holidays, and peak seasons. The nature of this business requires people to work irregular working hours and take limited time off during peak periods, which can make it challenging for employees to maintain a healthy equilibrium between work and personal life. But there are ways to mitigate this problem and give employees what they need to thrive instead of burning the candle at both ends.
The following well-being and workplace health actions can help achieve a significant change.
Grant additional rest hours and days off
Weeks of heavy workload, high-demand projects, and other challenges can generate stress in workers. This situation is more common than many leaders think. In the United Kingdom, for example, 90% of workers report feeling stressed at work.
"Burnout is the symptom; stress is the source"
Hamza Khan, best-selling author and entrepreneur
Offering additional rest hours and days to your workers is a way to alleviate stress levels and prevent them from later manifesting as burnout.
A half-work Friday or a free Monday morning are small measures of flexibility that can make a big difference. Other strategies may include giving back a free day for working bank holidays, or paying extra for those hours, may also help.
Requiring employees to take a minimum number of vacation leave days within the calendar year, and locking in daysoff and vacation periods early in the year, also helps workers to plan their time to relax.
Focus on recognition and professional growth plans
Flexibilizing work arrangements does not mean neglecting effort. In an industry where excellence in customer service is the primary goal, it is normal to expect employees to give their best.
As a measure to prevent burnout, employee efforts should be recognized and rewarded, not just financially. Here are some ways to do that:
Create a professional growth plan that matches each individuals’ strengths with a course for career progression, can help to motivate people.
Have HR collaborators and managers set up clear and measurable performance indicators for each team and employee, and celebrate their successes by giving recognition when and where it is due.
Invest in training programs that enhance employees' skills, knowledge, and confidence. This not only improves job performance but also provides a sense of growth and career progression.
Measure levels of wellbeing
Managing burnout is characterized by being proactive. It requires developing a strategy that anticipates significant issues. Constantly monitoring well-being can be a powerful preventive tool and helps identify potential risks.
Conduct surveys, check-ins, or confidential feedback sessions to assess employee well-being and identify potential signs of burnout. Use this information to implement targeted interventions and improvements.
These monitoring actions will allow you to determine when your well-being measures are being effective and when they are not producing positive results or are not impactful enough.
Leading by example
Burnout also affects executives and leaders in the hospitality industry. If you, as a leader, experience exhaustion, you won't have the mental clarity and emotional stability to create well-being programs. You also won't be a good role model for your team if you appear stressed, consistently exceed your working hours, and neglect your health.
As a leader, show your employees what a healthy work-life balance looks like and demonstrate healthy behaviors such as taking breaks to stretch your legs and breath, eating healthy meals, not staying too late, and not taking work home, when possible.
It’s also essential to make sure that all your employees can meet their own human physical and mental needs, such as having sufficient scheduled break times where they have access to a place to rest, a bit of privacy, clean bathrooms, decently healthy food, and free drinking water.
The writing was on the wall for the industry’s labor supply problem even before COVID precipitated the phenomenon. In describing the backdrop for the recent acceleration of the labor supply crisis, a 2022 study by HES-SO Wallis echoed a familiar sentiment: While hospitality’s international exposure was seen favorably, respondents highlighted the industry’s stressful working environment, frequent overtime and low salaries.