Stress management tips for hospitality professionals

December 21, 2020
min read

As we enter what many consider the most stressful time of year, the hospitality industry is met with the mixed news of a clear rebound underway within its space, although still leading with the highest unemployment rate.   To say it’s a season of mixed emotions would be an understatement.  

At the core of our business is a mission for human-betterment, a goal to be more than “just” a hospitality staffing source for Talent and Businesses.  With COVID-19 still creating frustrating employment challenges, we wanted to know just how to manage feelings of stress in the workplace this time of year, and ongoing.  We turned to Kaley Warner Klemp, a sought-after career coach who advises on how to uncover and address core challenges in communication, trust, and culture within an organization. Here’s what she had to say:

In a “normal” year, what are some typical work stress experiences?

Work can always be a stressful experience – communicating clearly, collaborating on complex projects, responsible budgeting while simultaneously investing in culture and talent, making and keeping clear agreements, keeping clients engaged and delighted with your work and tight deadlines are just a few things that can be stressful parts of typical work experiences.  In the hospitality industry, catering to guest needs in a fast-paced environment, sometimes for long hours, can be stressful.

How has workplace stress changed in 2020, particularly in hospitality?

There’s been an interesting split in workplace stress in 2020, particularly in hospitality. For those who are working from home, dynamics of collaboration and communication have grown even more challenging, as there’s no easy way to stop by someone else’s office or bounce an idea off them. Some are experiencing overwhelm as they both do their professional work and run some version of an at-home school, and others are feeling deep loneliness, as the human interaction they once enjoyed is now mostly through a screen, missing the rich texture of non-verbal connection.

For those who are back in service roles, questions of safety, enforcement, and risk create a new level of background stress, as service with a smile is hard to see behind a mask.  Safety at work is a key component of mental wellbeing.  I was happy to learn that Jitjatjo created a free, virtual COVID-19 Awareness and Hygiene Training accreditation program that is available for anyone. This ensures that both employees and employers feel safe and are fully aware of COVID-19 safety procedures, creating an ability to feel trusting and confident.

Are you seeing any trends in workplace stress across all industries?

Overall, many of the previous stressors are still there, but the lines between work and home have become blurry, often enticing people to work more. The psychological toll of having the living room be the office has many feeling less rested or refreshed since there isn’t a clear “break.” This often creates stress on people’s personal relationships, as the dynamics from the office leak at home and vice-versa. Investing in personal relationships and their wellbeing is no longer just “personal” but also important for having a healthy workplace. Many people have also noticed that they’ve picked up a coping habit or two – which worked in the short term – but aren’t helpful for the long term. For instance, many people have transitioned their prior commute time to active work or meeting time. While initially, that may have given them a boost in productivity, their overall happiness has dropped as they’ve stopped learning from their commute podcast, or engaging with friends or family who they used to talk with while they drove.

What are some simple ways to deal with stress at work in the moment?

Recognizing stress in the moment is actually very powerful in itself because it gives the possibility of doing something intentional rather than just reacting to the situation. The easiest is to take a long slow deep breath. James Nestor in his book Breath has written about the anxiety-calming benefits of a long exhale. No one even needs to know you’ve done it. Then ask yourself, “What choices do I have in this moment?” This gives you access to the strategic part of your brain, which helps you shift from stress to action. has great articles and resources. One of my favorites is LifeXT’s Resiliency in Crisis Guide.

What are some best practices for managing workplace stress long term?

There are few tried and true practices for stress management, regardless of industry or context. The first is a centering practice – whether meditation, prayer, walking in nature, playing music, or something of your own creation – that helps you feel grounded. I recommend doing these practices in the morning since it’s easier to return to that place of perspective and calm if you’ve already had an experience of it that day. Another best practice is to use gratitude. The research is compelling that if you take a stressful situation (at work or home) and find 3 things that you are grateful for, you can rewire your brain. While it doesn’t solve the situation, it provides perspective and resiliency that are powerful for managing workplace stress in the long term.

How can hospitality leaders help employees be at their best?

Especially in hospitality, leaders can help their teammates be their best by remembering to engage with them as humans. Generosity of spirit and a reminder to breathe goes a long way. Setting aside time to re-center as individuals and reconnect with colleagues – especially as we approach the end of the year, which can add additional layers of stress – helps everyone appreciate one another, remember why they’ve joined this incredible industry, and bring out their best at work.

Thanks for the tips, Kaley.


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