Features.

Prioritising staff welfare in hospitality

The hospitality industry is well known for being fast paced and at times stressful. Like other industries, it’s finally waking up to the importance of wellbeing and mental health. Click. investigates how hotels and properties can keep staff safe and motivated to provide the best service for guests

by Lottie Gross, Click. Travel Writer

Topic: Guest experience Managing operations

Click. Takeaway

  • 78% of travellers are less likely to book if staff aren’t treated well
  • Stress in the hotel workplace can lead to serious mental and physical health conditions
  • Daily stress for hotel staff is significantly higher than the average across industries in the US
  • Promoting healthy lifestyles and providing access to wellness tools and information is essential
  • The cost of an employee’s resignation in the first 90 days of employment could be up to AU$36,000, so it’s essential to invest in staff early on

As mental health and wellbeing at work are increasingly talked about, it’s essential the hotel industry gets on top of the game when it comes to staff welfare. A recent survey by the AA in Britain found that 84% of holidaymakers believe guest experience in hotels is greatly improved if staff are well looked after. What’s more, 78% said they would be less inclined to book a somewhere they deemed to have poor working conditions.

The study named Red Carnation’s Milestone Hotel in London, one of the top in the UK for staff welfare thanks to its wellbeing policies. The hotel’s General Manager, Andrew Pike, says: “We firmly believe that happy guests are the result of happy staff and it’s important that everyone who walks through the door of our hotel is greeted with a smile and a willingness to make that guest’s stay the best it can possibly be.”

Cost of stress

There’s no doubting that a career in hotel hospitality can be stressful, whether it’s a result of dealing with disgruntled guests or managing an unpredictable workload. A study conducted in the US found that hotel managers experience “stressors” 62% of the time. This is much higher than the US national average, which sees employees reporting stressors on 25-44% of days across a variety of industries.

The most common stress factors, the study suggested, were tensions among staff members and an unmanageable workload.

Dr Natasha Bijlani, a Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Roehampton in the UK, explains that stress at work could contribute to a number of serious health conditions.

“Employees are likely to face stress and pressure for many reasons. They are exposed to interactions from all kinds of people, including some who may treat them with arrogance and disdain, discriminatory attitudes or abject rudeness.

Welcome sign at the reception

‘[Hotel staff] often have to work unsociable hours to meet the needs of their clients’

“[Hotel staff] often have to work unsociable hours to meet the needs of their clients, leaving them little time or opportunity for their own personal relationships, which could impact on the wellbeing and welfare of their dependants and families,” she says. “Shift working can contribute to disordered sleep patterns which in turn can lead to the development of anxiety and depressive disorders as well as a host of physical ill health symptoms and conditions.”

Bruce Harkness, Senior Vice President of HR at Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific, says the cost of an employee’s resignation in the first 90 days of employment could be up to AU$36,000, so it’s essential to invest in staff early on.

Progressive wellbeing policies

A good employer, says Dr Bijlani, should encourage staff engagement and promote healthy lifestyles. This could mean providing access to healthy meals, use of a gym or health club and ensuring regular rest breaks.

She says: “Promoting good communication, effective leadership and management can all be positive drivers for efficient teams and organisations, and rewarding staff that rise above basic expectations of performance with a day’s paid leave or other such treats can instil a healthy sense of competition among the workforce and keep up the high standards expected within this industry.”

At The Milestone Hotel in London, Pike says a number of local and global policies – as part of the Red Carnation Hotels group – help ensure staff have the support they need.

Pike reveals: “We have a dedicated wellbeing programme. Benefits include free staff meals when on duty, massages and fitness activities, a cycle to work scheme, use of a website which encourages wellbeing, and advertising the use of the Employee Assistance helpline.

“We have a friendly management team and an open door policy, so individuals’ voices are always heard.”

Wyndham Asia Pacific have a ‘be well’ programme, too. Harkness says: “Our teams participate in things like healthy cook-off challenges, sporting events, motivational presentations, which help build team morale while instilling the wellness message.”

Turning to technology

Of course, the everyday stresses experienced by hotel staff can’t always be remedied immediately and there isn’t always capacity for entire days dedicated to wellness. This is where technology comes into play: organisations can make staff aware of apps like Calm or The Mindfulness App, which help with managing stress on a day-to-day basis, and access to information about wellbeing and support services is essential.

Pike believes investing a lot in staff has great returns for customers. “I’d urge any hotel facing challenges with staff wellbeing to take the investment seriously. It will result in higher retention levels, a great sense of team, staff taking pride in their roles and more satisfied customers,” he says.

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Lottie Gross is a freelance travel writer and journalist

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