Finding Work-Life Balance in the 24/7 Hospitality Industry

By Henri Birmele Managing Director, Hotel Shangrila Santa Monica | August 01, 2013

"A true balance between work and life comes with knowing that your life activities are integrated, not separated."
― Michael Thomas Sunnarborg, 21 Keys to Work/Life Balance: Unlock Your Full Potential

Summer has come to our beautiful 1939 streamline modern hotel perched on the bluff directly overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, one of California's iconic landmarks. And with summer comes our peak season for international guests. Like hoteliers around the world, we go to great lengths to give our guests a premium experience.

Recently, after another 16-hour day, I made my rounds to check in on and speak with a few on-duty managers. The conversation turned to the topic of work-life balance given the demands on those of us working in the hospitality industry - the long hours, handling the needs and special requests of our guests, and overseeing and managing all of our operations while working at 99 percent warp speed, taking just a moment here and there to catch our collective breath.

Juggling everything and getting it right is no easy task. Unfortunately, while all of this dedicated work is taking place, it is easy to forget the human toll these increased demands take on the entire team - everyone from our hourly workers to our senior management.

Over the course of my broad and varied career-with stints at beach resorts to city hotels to work in the entertainment industry - the topic of how best to strike a better balance between workplace needs and individual and family demands inevitably comes up in conversation. Our industry, in particular, presents some additional challenges including 24/7 hotel operations, peak seasons, flex schedules and a wide range of employee skill levels. There are no easy answers.

In our career-driven culture, I have both witnessed firsthand the pressure, stress and fatigue that accumulates when we - and our teams - do not have our working and family life running in sync. And, let's face it, the very nature of our industry brings another, often unspoken enemy – the unwitting resentment that can build up from seeing our guests in full vacation mode while we work around the clock attending to their needs. For some, it is just too much.

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