The Burnout Risk

How do you identify and manage stress before it affects your hotel?

Interpersonal relationships between employees are a leading stress factor in the workplace, and hotels are no exception.

The word ‘stress’ is no longer foreign to the 21st century.  It has built an unbreakable bond with our fast-paced lives and is no longer unique to a single individual or an industry.

In spite of the negative connotation the word has, stress itself is not always a bad thing. It is our body’s way of indicating that danger is around the corner. It has helped the human race survive millions of years and has got us through every natural disaster since the evolution of mankind. In addition to physical risks, we also have to be aware of mental and psychological threats that come as a combo deal. 

The hospitality industry is known for its high level of stress. From long hours and around the clock service, to accommodate guest needs. So how do you identify and manage stress before it affects your hotel?

Two separate studies by John O’Neill (2011) and Ajeet Kumar Lal Mohan (2017), found that interpersonal relationships between employees is one of the leading stress factors. This is followed by inadequate training, dissatisfaction in compensation and workloads. 

Crucially, from a management point of view, O’Neill’s research showed a negative correlation between job stress and quality customer service delivery. Put simply, the less stressed employee was able to provide better customer service than his stressed-out colleagues. Over time, stress can lead to exhaustion, a decrease in ability to learn, depressive symptoms and withdrawal, which will result in poor job performance and ultimately affect your hotel.  

O’Neill’s research also shows that the “stress situation appears to be particularly acute for hotel managers”. So if you’re a hotel manager reading this article, I hope this serves as a reminder that it’s important to look after yourself as well as your staff. 

How to recognise stress in employees 

– Over a period of time stress starts to take physiological symptoms. Pay close attention to employees who complain of having regular headaches, aches and pains, exhaustion and blood pressure. Trouble with sleep, fatigue, indigestion, ulcers and blood pressure.   

– Mood is yet another good indicator when it comes to stress. Does the front office executive who is usually ready to greet you with a smile seem withdrawn and quiet lately? Are you easily irritable for the smallest reasons? Speak to your front office executive and check with yourself, are you overly stressed?

– Drop in job performance over a period of time. Go over leave records and ask, is there a name or two that have taken leave more frequently than the rest? This could be due to stress or it could be an entirely different matter but it’s best to address it with the staff in concern. Employees have a high regard for managers who are genuinely interested in their well-being and who make the effort to get to know them.  

– Lack of cooperation and conflict with colleagues is another indicator you need to watch out for. Poor relationships with colleagues is a leading stress factor in the industry.  

How to help your hotel staff deal with stress  

– Focus on clear and concise goals 

This will give your staff a sense of direction and help eliminate unnecessary stress factors. It will also help them stay motivated and engaged. The goals need to be realistic, achievable and specific so they provide a framework your staff can work with. These goals need to be reviewed on a regular basis. Ensure that you notice and praise the small wins to boost morale, do not only focus on where staff are falling short.   

– Listen to your staff 

Hospitality is all about looking after guests and ensuring that their needs and expectations are met. In an attempt to provide the best service, many managers in Sri Lanka tend to forget the importance of looking after the well-being of their staff. Take the time to get to know your staff and keep an open communication line at all times so that they can discuss what’s causing them stress. Employees who feel that they are heard are motivated, and this can help reduce stress.   

– Address issues as soon as they rise 

Confrontation is not something most Sri Lankans are particularly skilled at, but addressing concerns as soon as they are brought to your attention will help eliminate unnecessary issues and prevent things spiraling. It will also help employees build trust and confidence in you as a manager.

– Rethink your work culture 

Does your hotel focus only on filling rooms and having the best ratings on TripAdvisor and In many hotels in Sri Lanka, this is generally priority 1, 2 and 3 – if so, you might want to rethink your corporate culture. If your work environment promotes pressure and stress, you’re bound to have more stressed out employees, poor job satisfaction and a high employee turnover. This can quickly lead to a reputation of being an undesirable employer.    

Techniques to reduce stress in the hospitality business

Short term 


The next time you feel stressed, take a break and stretch. Stress is known to restrict blood flow causing tension in your muscles and lower back. Stretching will help you reduce stress, improve thinking and increase productivity.  

5-4-3-2-1 technique 

This technique helps with stress as well as when you’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed.  Stop what you are doing and acknowledge the following: 

5 things you see in your surroundings: it could be the phone on your desk, the printer or the sous chef in the kitchen 

4 things you can touch: it could be a notebook, cutlery or a glass of water 

3 things you can hear: it could be the doorman greeting a new guest, the phone ringing or prep in the kitchen 

2 things you can smell: it could be the smell of tea or freshly baked cake 

1 thing you can taste: this could be a toffee or a cup of tea 


Talking about how you’re feeling with a trusted colleague or a friend can bring many positive benefits. Verbalising will help you process your thoughts and serve as a good stress buster. Never underestimate the benefits of a venting session.  

Walk it off 

Overwhelmed with the number of emails you have to respond to or stressed about your team’s performance? Take a break and go for a walk around the hotel or venture into the outdoors for a bit. Leaving an environment that is stressing you out, even for a short period, will help you gain perspective of the situation and will overall help you feel better.  

Long term 

Revive a hobby 

Having personal time is absolutely vital. Mental well-being has a direct impact on physical health. Picking up a new hobby or reviving an old but long-forgotten pastime that gave you pleasure will help you cope with stressful situations better. Work is important but taking time to enjoy life is equally important. 

Spend quality time with family and friends 

Having a support system where you can share the good, the bad and the ugly times is extremely important. Humans are social beings and our survival depends on connecting with others and maintaining healthy relationships with family, friends and partners.  


A regular exercise routine has proven to be beneficial to mental and physical health. Exercise reduces stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in the body and helps the brain produce feel-good neurotransmitter called endorphins, which will help you feel good and improve your overall mood. 


Contrary to Sri Lanka’s reputation as a ‘chilled out island’ we do not practice good sleep hygiene. On average, a person is required to have 6 – 8hrs of sleep in order to feel well-rested and energised to carry on with their day’s work. Reduced hours and disturbed sleep affects the brain’s speed to process thoughts and the ability to solve problems which directly affects job performance.  

Hospitality Insider Issue 4