Spring 2021, Swiss restaurants are allowed to open indoors again. That should be good news, but many venues are unable to increase their capacity as planned. Some are even staying closed. This is all due to a lack of staff, both front of house and in the kitchen. In a recent survey, Coople asked over 1,300 flexible workers, who worked in the hospitality sector before COVID, how they assess their current career prospects compared to before, and whether their career goals have changed.
The Swiss hospitality industry has been more or less closed for months. Amongst other things, this led to foreign professionals returning to their home countries and Swiss hospitality staff finding jobs in other sectors. Even though restaurants and hotels can open both indoors and outdoors again there is still uncertainty, and many fear another lockdown.
More than one in eight could turn their back on the hospitality industry
At the end of May, Coople conducted a large survey with more than 1,300 flexible workers* who used to work in hospitality either part- or full-time before COVID. Results show that many workers find hospitality jobs less attractive than before.
When asked whether they would like to continue working in the hospitality industry, 45.3% (597 people) of 1,319 flexible workers ‘can’t wait’ to work in the hospitality industry again. 41.3% answered that they ‘can see themselves going back’, while 13.5% were not sure or ‘can’t really imagine’ going back. This means that around one in eight flex workers with experience in the hospitality sector could turn their backs on the industry, temporarily or permanently.
When asked why they are unsure or can’t see themselves returning to the hospitality sector, thefour most common answerswere: Desire for better pay (20.8%), better job security (20.2%), more flexibility (16%) or better working hours (12.8%).
Concerns about career prospects
The survey also asked participants how COVID and restaurant closures affected their professional situation and their expectations for the future. Most respondents (77.19%) indicated that Corona has impacted their career moderately to very much (6.7 Ø value, 0 = not at all / 10 = very much).
Corona’s impact also influences hospitality workers’ assessment of their career prospects: Only 21.8% of survey participants are not worried about their career prospects (“Are you worried about your future career prospects?”; 5.5 Ø-value, 0 = not at all / 10 = very much). On the other hand, 8 out of 10 survey participants are worried or very worried about their career prospects.
Job losses in hospitality often result in a career change
When asked about their current employment, 29.2% of respondents stated that they lost their job and are looking for work. 23% receive short-time work compensation. 13.6% had lost their job but have since found a new one. Out of this group of 159 people, the majority (63.7%) said that they have changed to another industry and no longer work in hospitality.
Attractive working conditions could help to mitigate the loss of hospitality staff
Yves Schneuwly, Managing Director of Coople (Schweiz) AG says:
“Our survey clearly shows that it is currently difficult for hospitality businesses in Switzerland to bring back their experienced staff. This can slow down their recovery after the crisis or, in the worst case, make it impossible. On the one hand, this has to do with a change in workers’ attitudes. On the other hand, it could be at least partially mitigated by improved working conditions. The question is whether businesses are financially and organisationally able to do so following the long lockdowns.”
The survey shows that many hospitality workers would like better pay. Average wages in this sector are comparatively low today. However, many companies cannot afford to raise wage levels in the current situation. Additional incentives such as bonuses or commission, which could counteract the lack of staff, are also difficult to implement in this case.
However, the survey also shows that increased flexibility and adjusted working hours could keep at least some of the hospitality staff in the industry. The option to return to work at one’s own pace and to have a say in the length of jobs, workload, working days or even work locations are all attractive to many workers.
The future of work will be characterised by flexibility and autonomy. This is no different in the hospitality sector. Companies that meet the increasing demand for flexibility and consistently rely on a high proportion of flexible workers set themselves up for long-term success. With digital marketplaces like Coople, personnel planning can be done bottom up. Done this way, workers can select the jobs that suit them and motivation remains high as a result.