How to Increase Employee Stress Resilience in 11 hours or Less

By Werner Absenger Chef de Cuisine, Cygnus 27 at Amway Grand Plaza | January 12, 2014

Daily Work Stressors: The Main Culprits

Research on stress in the hospitality industry remains an utterly understudied topic. The type and magnitude of hospitality employees' stressors is not completely understood, and the subject presents much potential to affect positively many lives. How many lives? By 2016, the hospitality industry expects to employ 3.(1) million chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers alone.(2)

In 2010, O'Neill and Davis did a spectacular study on work stressors and well-being in the hotel industry.(1) The researchers took advantage of a daily diary design to "capture life as it is lived" (p. 387). This design is particularly innovative as it reduces recall bias, providing comprehensive information regarding the source, severity, and frequency of stressors on a daily basis, rather than averaging-out responses over time. For eight consecutive days, via phone interviews, the team inventoried stressors using DISE (Daily Inventory of Stressful Events).(3) Data was collected from 65 full-service hotels, with most major hotel companies, including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental, Starwood, Kimpton, Fairmont, and Wyndham represented. The work stress findings I am going to elaborate on below was collected from 98 managers and 66 hourly employees who completed all eight days of interviews.

As a group, hospitality employees are relatively stressed out. Surprising, however, is the extent of how much more hospitality employees are stressed when compared to a U.S. national average of subjects who report stressors on only 25-44% of days. Hotel and restaurant employees log stressors on 40-62% of days.

Higher stress predicted more negative physical health symptoms in both hourly employees as well as managers. However, this became acutely obvious for managers, who experience more work stress due to higher levels of responsibility. Managers worked an average of 57 hours per week in this study versus an average of 36 hours for hourly employees. O'Neill and Davis write that employee stress, especially managerial stress, should be a significant concern for owners and operators. "If hotel managers are going to work such hours in the long term, then hotel executives should consider ways to reduce those employees' stress, if not work hours. The result of not doing so could be additional organizational costs…" (p. 389).

A couple unexpected findings of the study, at least to yours truly, were the report that O'Neill and Davis did not find a significant difference based on gender or marital status, differing from previous studies which have shown that women have greater work stress than men. I found this surprising because female employees tend to have a ruminative copying style that has the potential to amplify and increase depression. Male employees on the other hand tend to respond to stressors through behavior and distraction, a copying style that has the potential to decrease depression.(4)

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.