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Opinion: Marius Zürcher on workplace wellbeing

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Hospitality businesses must ensure the working environment and the workplace climate are up to scratch as they both reinforce each other, while ignoring either aspect can have a deleterious impact, says Marius Zürcher

I have written about the staff shortage issue that hotels and restaurants are dealing with, as well as possible solutions, a number of times already, but this month I have decided to zoom in on one solution in particular: increasing workplace wellbeing.

Workplace wellbeing is a broad term that relates to a lot of aspects of working life, but if you ask me, you can boil it down to two core areas: the state of physical work environment and the workplace climate.

The physical work environment is again a broad category. One major aspect that dictates the quality of the physical work environment is the presence or absence of bodily injury. This can refer to anything, from broken arms because the floors are chronically slippery, to noise-induced (partial) hearing loss caused by too high decibel levels. The latter are a good example to highlight, as they can both be a result of wilful disregard (constantly blasting music that is obviously too loud for prolonged exposure) as well as simple ignorance about how acoustics work.

Those that knowingly expose their staff to harmful decibel levels obviously do not deserve staff. For the other group, there are resources available. Other aspects that have an impact in the perceived quality of the physical workplace environment include temperature (for example, women generally feel the cold more than men, so consider all staff members when setting temperature, not just the most vocal ones), privacy (do not constantly put employees on display) and lighting (if it is too dark, employees’ eyesights are at risk). There are many more things to consider when trying to create an attractive and safe physical work environment, so the things listed in this article are by no means meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather nudges into the direction you should be thinking in.

The workplace climate could also be described as the ‘mood’ or ‘culture’ of a workplace. It is especially an area of concern in the hospitality industry, as it is known for toxic workplace climates. To overcome that narrative is no small feat and will require a lot of soul searching and behavioral changes in many businesses. There are many directions from which to tackle this herculean task. An obvious, comparatively rather simple strategy is raising wages. Too many people working in hospitality are underpaid, especially those in major urban areas or highly touristic areas. This problem has only gotten bigger in 2022.

A similar issue is the precarity of many hospitality jobs. Businesses should do their best to provide more stability and security. More money and job security are not enough, however. Two problems that are more complex and less tangible, but arguably as pressing are sexism and racism. They are not unsolvable however, as I have outlined in previous articles.

Another behavioral pattern that contributes to high levels of toxicity is the aggressive, borderline abusive tone, which is still all too prevalent, especially in kitchens. There are more and more examples businesses and kitchens, often run by women, in which this is not the case anymore. Restaurateurs should learn from such examples.

Businesses need to make sure that both the physical work environment as well as the workplace climate are up to par, as they both reinforce each other. Ignoring both, or even either, will always lead to stress, anxiety, resentment, and image problems, leading in turn to not just higher staff turnover, but also an even more aggressively shrinking supply of newcomers. The industry cannot afford that.

 

Marius Zürcher

About the author:

The co-owner & founder of start-up 1520 in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, Marius Zürcher was a participant at FCSI’s ‘Millennials’ focused roundtable at INTERGASTRA 2018.