The New Work/Life Balance and Our 24-Hour Hospitality Business
By Suzanne McIntosh President, McIntosh Human Capital Management | March 10, 2019
As seasoned hospitality leaders and colleagues, we both love and are resigned to the fact that our industry is a twenty-four hour, seven days a week, 365 days of the year, career passion. We accept that working weekends is part of the job and our guests enjoy our hotels during holiday celebrations, so we are working. Hotel salespeople travel on Sundays to attend a tradeshow on Monday morning and entertain clients long in to the night. The hospitality industry has traditionally been known to have a long work hour culture, that involves many personal sacrifices, but it also yields many rewards.
Our approach, as Hospitality Resource professionals, must adapt to the changing attitudes of our employees and candidates. They are putting more emphasis on work/life balance and the definition of what that means is changing. The Millennial generation is now becoming our managers and leaders. The generation behind them – Generation Z – are entering the workplace.
We are now working with multiple generations, with differing attitudes as to what is acceptable in a work situation, what benefits there are from "facetime" or what is perceived to be working hard and productively. Our longer tenured leaders and team members grew their careers in a different era. They are now leading and working with people with a different attitude to their careers and what work/life balance means to them.
Working long hours and blurring the lines between personal and worktime is both a passion and a curse. We are answering emails and texts at any time of day and night. Our hospitality business never switches off and there are always guest, client and employee issues to be handled. As Hospitality Human Resource professionals, we have a unique challenge. Ours is a twenty-four hour business, we must ensure the staffing needs of our properties are met. This could mean having senior leaders on property on New Year's Eve to help with the evening's management. It also creates goodwill with the employees, as they see their leaders working alongside them during the holiday. We must also balance the strong interdependent culture of our teams, by encouraging our staff to go home to their families, when the work is done.
Our hospitality industry can also be accused of "presenteeism," which is to feel the need to put in long hours and not take all holiday days accrued. Our older colleagues often consider working extended hours and not taking vacation, as a badge of honor. Also, many of our employees are encouraged to think of themselves as the face of our operation. Because of presenteeism, our team members may end up staying in the operation far longer than required, which eventually leads to burn-out and a lack of work/life balance. We also build strong teams who end of being "work families", so they enjoy their time together and may stay longer on the job then necessary.
The Millennial employee is never offline from their personal and professional devices. The always available workplace and private life is all they know. To them, turning off work at 5:00PM is unheard of and foreign. Millennials see no problem with blending work and personal life. Checking work email during dinner, exchanging texts with their manager after 9:00PM, texting clients responding to a space request and catching up on email on Sunday afternoon, is standard practice. However, their "balance" is expected in other ways.
Our younger workers feel that technology allows them to work productively from anywhere. The older generation, within our industry, are more accustomed to work cultures with more facetime. Empty cubicles can be disconcerting, as they are afraid people who don't come to the office aren't working as hard. There is also the attitude that extra "facetime" or longer hours means more commitment and a better opportunity for career advancement. Our younger generations are working on multiple devices at one time in order to get their work done. Their "facetime" is their smartphone. They are responding to work and client communications at all times of day and night.
Most everyone aspires to a healthy work/life balance. There is new definition of what that means and older leaders may not understand what their younger team members define as a healthy and productive balance. In today's employee market, creating work/life balance for our younger employees creates a compelling competitive advantage. Our challenge as a Hospitality Recruiter is to articulate a work/life balance to prospective colleagues and ensure that their needs are met in our operations and make it a reality.
What Is The New Definition Of Work/Life Balance?
To a Millennial, work/life balance is flexibility and the freedom to work from where and when they want. It is not necessarily title or salary. For many Millennials, success is accumulating quality of life experiences, both of which are enabled by a better work/life balance.
As a Hospitality Recruiter, I often recruit Salespeople looking for a role that will allow them to work remotely. They know they will probably be at their home office desk at 7AM, and checking email on Sunday evening. In reality, they are probably working longer and more productively, than if they had to commute every day. I have some candidates say they will take a salary cut for this flexibility.
As leaders, we must adjust our attitudes and expectations to this new definition of work/life balance. We need to avoid projecting our own attitudes and behaviors on to our employees, looking for more balance and flexibility in their work lives. Facetime does not necessarily mean more productivity. If you feel you need to "check-up" on a remote worker, as working from home for you would be too distracting, that is a whole different issue. Employees need to have the trust of their managers to be productive when working from home.
When recruiting, if I have a candidate that wants to work full or partially remote, my client may have said that this role could move to a remote position once the team culture is established , but in the beginning it is important to have everyone together. Clearly some roles lend themselves to more hour and office location flexibility. From my professional perspective, anyone who leads a team should expect, for the majority of time, to work on-property. Clearly a DOSM who travels home from an overseas tradeshow on a weekend, should have the ability to work from home on Monday. However, the demands of their leadership role may require they be in the office for the Monday morning standup. A smart GM would not even question that DOSM who wants to leave early later in the week to make a pick up at daycare.
Millennials are entering a stage of life when they are marrying, buying homes and having children. At the same time, the demands of work are increasing, while they are equipped and often expected to work 24/7. Yet, despite a growing desire for a better work/life balance, only half of workers say their employer is perceived to value work/life balance, and even less say their employers offer programs and policies that allow for schedule and office location flexibility.
Hospitality is a labor intensive industry that offers great opportunities for career advancement. In the past, one had to be willing to relocate frequently and work around the clock. Millennials are not as prepared to sacrifice family stability. I see many clients showing more flexibility to accommodate a valued employee's need to move to another location and work remotely, or flex office times to allow for family commitments. Employees are also now more likely to put a pause on career advancement to take personal time to take care of ailing family members or have an extended travel experience. We have witnessed first-hand how the demand, pressure, stress and fatigue accumulates when we do not have the working and family life running in sync. It is critical that we accommodate these changing needs and attitudes.
For managers to successfully achieve work/life balance in their teams and departments, there has to be effective leadership, sensitivity and flexibility in place. This includes clearly defining what the end goal is; setting priorities, inviting planning input and delegating effectively. Giving staff flexibility over their schedule goes a long way, as does sharing schedules in advance, so that staff can make better plans for quality family time. Advance planning also encourages the team to come together and 'swap' shifts internally so that everyone gets the time off that they need, without any ill feelings towards managers, or the business suffering because of poor attitude and service.
In order to continue to operate successful hospitality operations by attracting the best talent, growing careers and with low turnover, we must adapt to the new attitudes and needs of our team members. Creative work alternatives that are sensitive to the changing personal needs and desires of our multi generation teams will ensure that needs are met to be productive and satisfied. The standard "facetime", communications channels, time off and rigid work schedules no longer work or are appropriate.
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