ICBA Blog

The Importance of Self-Care While Working in Hospitality

From setting boundaries to building pre-shift routines, here’s how to look out for yourself amidst this fast-paced industry

 Self-care is crucial for everyone in every industry. But it’s especially important if you’re independent contractor in the hospitality industry. You spend the bulk of your workday taking care of the needs of others. Even if you’re working behind the scenes, you’re still part elevating customers’ experiences. No matter what role you fill in the hospitality industry—whether in an eatery, a hotel, or another type of establishment—the job requires a lot of energy. That’s why taking good care of yourself is so important. Here are some key areas to focus on.

Set smart boundaries

Even if you’re a total extrovert, a long shift in hospitality or food service can be draining. You must make small talk with patrons and communicate with coworkers to make a shift run as smoothly as possible. In hospitality, there’s also often a culture of coworkers hanging out after work to unwind. Having work friends can boost job satisfaction and make us more productive on the job, according to Harvard Business Review. But remember that it’s okay to say no to hanging after you’ve taken off your name tag. If you’re always staying out, that could be cutting into your downtime or even sleep time, two things essential for self-care. Set the boundaries you need, and remember that those boundaries can change as your needs change.

Take time off

If you’re a gig worker floating around in the hotel or restaurant industry, then taking on shift after shift can be tempting. After all, money comes with hours worked and/or tips earned. And cash pays the bills and helps you get the things you want. Nothing is wrong with putting in extra hours to save up or to pay off debt. But if you get into an endless cycle of going from one shift to another, you will eventually experience burnout.

According to the Mayo Clinic, burnout is a specific type of work-related stress. Burnout can actually lead to less productivity, a lack of motivation, and even health issues. Ultimately, overworking yourself can hinder your ability to work. That’s why finding balance in the gig economy is so important. If you go through a period of working more hours, ease off the next week—and try to reward yourself for your efforts. You don’t have to spend a bunch of money to indulge. A simple luxury can be lounging at home in front of Netflix if the mood strikes.

Pay attention to your body

Working as an independent contractor in the hospitality industry often means a lot of time on your feet. It can also mean carrying heavy items, pushing heavy carts, and a lot of repetitive movements. All of these things can have an impact on joints and muscles, leading to stiffness and pain. Tired feet are normal at the end of a day. But if you’re noticing a nagging ache or pain anywhere on your body that’s not getting better, you should address it before it sidelines you from work altogether. Continuing to work through the pain will often lead to more pain. To prevent injury, check out this study guide from Mount Sinai on best practices for lifting and how to condition yourself for your specific job role.

Create a pre-game ritual

As an independent contractor on the hospitality scene, you’re likely managing a lot of moving parts—including yourself! Once a shift starts, work can quickly get hectic or chaotic. Having a pre-shift routine can help keep you organized and prepared for what the day (or night) throws at you. Maybe you like to have a coffee and a protein bar before you clock in. Or perhaps you like to arrive at your shift early to plan your tasks. Your routine will depend on what you do, what you need to have with you, and how long your shifts are. The point is that a ritual can help you transition from regular life to work life and start you off on the right foot every time.

Go easy on yourself

The reality of the hospitality industry is that no matter how well you perform your job roles, there will always be complainers among customers. Thankfully, that won’t happen every time you head to work, but it will happen every now and again. Remember that a complaint is rarely about you. Sometimes other people simply take their personal frustrations out on others. Berating yourself over a complaint won’t help anything. If you did make a mistake, all you can do is learn from it and move on. Learn to let negativity go and always remember that tomorrow is another day with new potential.