Finding a place for mindfulness in the hospitality industry

Mind Full or Mindful.jpg

We find ourselves living in an anxious climate right now, politically, societally, environmentally and spiritually. We exist in a transformative period of change in the hospitality industry with a shift in thought to mindfulness and overall health of our companies, clients and internal customers. To experience hospitality in its truest most honest form, one must be authentic, genuine and embrace each new moment as an opportunity to leave a lasting impression. That is exactly what mindfulness is, tuning into the moment and cultivating awareness in yourself.

I have been in hospitality operations since graduating from Cornell’s Hotel School in 2003, I have opened restaurants and hotels, celebrated many successes but I myself have experienced daily stress, fatigue, and burnout. This industry is hard and demanding and exhausting. I was searching for an outlet.

Every guest interaction is a chance to create something magical and yet we find our hospitality employees and associates are stressed, unengaged and apathetic; this does not create a culture of compassion and inspire service. How do we offer training and programs that allow employees to embrace investing in their own health? This concept has intrigued and alluded me over the last couple of years. I am one of the millions who have downloaded popular meditation apps including Headspace and Calm and roughly invest in 4+ retreat/wellness experiences a year to re-center. I don’t see this mindfulness movement disappearing, on the contrary; I see it blossoming. And I see how it can add significant value to our hospitality industry as a whole when the programming is tailored and appropriate to the organization.

The Global Wellness Institute reports that the world’s 3.2 billion workers are suffering more chronic disease, are increasingly unwell, stressed and generally unhappy. From a business sense, this translates to a significant decrease in productivity, increased medical costs already putting stress on an unstable healthcare system. They report in the US alone 2.2 trillion is spent each year on medical expenses, and only 9% of the global workforce have access to workforce wellness programs. 1 out of 18 Americans works in the Travel and Tourism industry. The Restaurant Industry accounts for 10% of the United States workforce roughly 14.7 million people. With an industry of our size and stature, we should lead and embrace mindfulness in our workplaces.

There is a natural curiosity towards the expectations of our guests, anticipation of their needs, and expectations of ourselves. It can be a lot to handle each shift, each hour with the constant distractions that life throws at us and the chaotic nature of the hospitality industry. With a culture of spiritually and emotionally bankrupt staffs, how do we get our employees to give and be their best? A colleague said it so eloquently last week, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Cultivation of an ecosystem that is based on awareness, bringing that state of mindfulness will open our doors and hearts to a healthier state of mind and by improving the mental and physical health of our teams, we will decrease turnover and increase loyalty. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) studies show that incorporating a consistent meditation program can decrease anxiety and depression and improve overall health and well being.

With the goal in mind of achieving customer satisfaction, it would be relevant to consider the following; our external and internal customers seek to achieve the following basic needs: Physiological, they need to eat and feel nourished, Economic, there is a perceived value and spend to our offering, Social- a warm, welcoming environment, Psychological, we all want to improve our self esteem and lastly, Convenience, we want someone else to do the work for us. Workplaces are changing, technology and globalization have changed us into a true shareconomy. But there is still no way for an app to extend gracious hospitality. That trait will always exist within the men and women in our industry.

Hotels, restaurants, hospitality professionals, it’s the intangible experiences that we need to focus on and create time for awareness for our staff so that they may deliver on our service promises and reach their potential. Let’s endeavor to take care of our own well being so we can continue to take care of our guests. Let’s make a mindful workplace the ultimate destination.