Shouldn’t We Try Improving Service Quality by Improving our Workers Health as well?

The nature of the hotel industry is dynamic due to fluctuating profits, tight margins and pressure to deliver high quality service to their guests /patrons. High employee turnover, Presenteeism and Absenteeism within the Hospitality Industry presents a challenge for effective management (Demir, 2004) Confronted with a tight labour supply and the need to enhance service quality, today’s hospitality managers should look to invest in human resources rather than just minimizing labour costs (Klebanow and Elder, 1992)

In a study conducted amongst hotel employees it was found that workers health was increasingly declining due to stress and obesity caused by shift work and fatigue as a result of working long hours, bad eating habits,  unpredictable shifts, few breaks, heavy physical demands (Wallace, 2003) casualization and high employee turnover. 

The table below shows the various risk, environment and health outcomes experienced by employees of the hospitality and tourism industry.

RISK Physical Work Environment Description Health Outcomes
Noise, hearing and high sound levels
  • Kitchens(pots and pans)
  • Nightclubs, Bar/Restaurants(sound equipment)
  • In restaurants the noise level tends to be high due to customers talking, staff shouting orders, clashing dishes, glasses, cutlery, different kitchen appliances, ventilation and hoists.


Hearing loss, mental fatigue, lack of concentration can lead to accidents
Low light conditions
  • A cozy light environment may be pleasant for guests (restaurants, bars, and casinos) but may be a cause of risks, such as falling, burning and eyestrain.


Higher accident risk
Temperature and breathing problems
  •  High temperatures (hot steam)
  •  Draughts, because of open doors and air conditioning
  • Warm and humid environments
  • Alternating between cold and hot surroundings
  • Indoor climate problems such as poor air quality and bad smells
  • Annoying, harmful and toxic substances in the air (dirt, grease, oil, vapor, smoke and gases)
  • Artificial cold in food storage


Discomfort, heat stress, inability to concentrate, muscle cramps, heat exhaustion, weakness, headaches, heat stroke.
Physically demanding work
  • Long periods of standing in kitchens
  • Repetitive activities in kitchen such as chopping, washing dishes, stirring.
  • Walking and carrying loads as a waiter, often aggravated by frequent climbing and descending stairs.
  • Carrying heavy loads (beds and furniture for room personnel, bulk food packages for kitchen personnel.


MSDs such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, etc
Contact with dangerous substances
  • Workers can be exposed to potentially dangerous chemicals such as oven and floor cleaners, disinfectants, soaps and detergents, pesticides
  • Dermatitis, as a result excessive water and  extensive wet-work
  • Skin allergies that results from contact with food, cleaning agents and disinfectant materials
  • Chambermaids face the risk of allergies and biological infections.


Eczema, biological infections, dermatitis, skin allergies, eye and nose irritations, allergies and respiratory diseases.
Equipment and technology
  • New equipment and technology is often beneficial in the hotel and restaurant sector. However, new problems may also arise, because of incorrect or clumsy handling of equipment, simplification of tasks and work content, and repetitive movements.


Slips, trips and falls
  •  Food spills on walkways, objects, slippery mats and coatings, insufficiently illuminated walkways, changes in floor levels, missing signs.
  • According to the US National Floor Safety Institute (2006), wet or otherwise dangerous floors directly cause most slips and falls that occur in the foodservice industry. Inexperience and age affects the likelihood of a slip-and-fall.


Accidents can cause sprains, broken limbs, injured necks and backs, cuts and bruises from falling and injuries from falling onto or into machinery, or into deep fat fryers.
Safety Conditions
  •  Sharp objects and working with hot substances and materials among kitchen personnel    
  • Risks for waiters and kitchen personnel are related to the physical environment of organizations and include differences in floor levels, stairs and deficiencies regarding canopy roofing over loading bays and goods entrances.
  • Injuries are also common among chambermaids cleaning up e.g. broken glass etc.
  • Employees who have to return home late at night after work my face additional safety risks.


Cuts, Limbs caught in moving parts, electric shock, lacerations and needle stick injuries, rape and assault.
Smoking, alcohol consumption
  • These substances are part of the hospitality service. There is easy access to drugs and alcohol beverages.
  • Passive smoking is particularly a problem for employees working in nightclubs, bars/ restaurants.


Irritant and respiratory symptoms, cancer, lower life expectancy.
Violence, harassment and discrimination


  • Violence and harassment from customers, added to that from colleagues and superiors, is a significant risk factor in the hotel and restaurant sector. Employees who have contact with clients need to stay friendly and calm, which is not always easy.
  • Contact with the public is especially related to violence, aggression and discrimination for employees in bars, nightclubs and restaurant. In this case, it often involves members of the public who have drunk too much.
  • Staff working in food takeaway outlets also faces the risk of violence and abuse from the public.
  • Risk factors for doormen include violence or the threat of violence


Physical violence includes instances of kicking, pushing, burning someone with hot equipment or food and throwing objects.


Unwanted sexual attention

High workload and stress
  • Continuous customer contact
  • Complexity of certain tasks requiring high concentration levels.
  • Workload rises at peak hours and is dependent on customer behaviour.
  • Lack of replacement of sick colleagues, which in turn leads to more work for the remaining staff.
  • Complaints also result from working additional hours with difficult clients.


Workers in the tourism sector report more than average headaches, stress and fear.


Impaired work-life balance.


Depression, increased absenteeism.




Organization, management and working climate
  • Employees often have to perform more than one task, and tasks may be different depending on the time of the day. However, performing more than one task may also expose employees to strenuous work and to a higher probability of injury due to lack of specific training and professional specialization.
  • Sometimes, employees in the sector feel squeezed between demanding employers and clients.
  • Typical of the work organization in the sector are the peak periods, which put an amount of work pressure on the worker.


Autonomy and control
  • Problems related to control in and over work, checks by superiors, no time for breaks, uncertainty about the finishing time of the work, and lack of communication are practically inherent in the hotel and restaurant sector.
  • Employees report a low degree of influence over their own work and also experience low predictability of work.
  • Monotonous work and work without creativity and initiative is widespread in the sector, though this depends on the type of work and organization.


Training and learning opportunities
  • Much work tends to be of an unskilled nature.
  • Concern also relates to non-completion of training courses.
  • Limited structured career development.


SOURCE: Dienstbuhl & Dietmar, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (2008) Cited in “Protecting Workers in hotels, restaurants and catering”.


The hospitality sector is both physically and psychologically demanding, with employees having little control or authority of their environment, (Hinkin & Tracey 2000). Stress is rampant, the majority of the tourism workforce are young and inexperienced, thus role ambiguity and role conflict are commonly experienced by these young workers within the hospitality sector, their work is described as low skilled, mundane and repetitive with poor quality training and supervision causing low job satisfaction (Hinkin & Tracey, 2000). This sector is therefore experiencing high turnover rates, absenteeism, due to ill-health, presenteeism caused by stress and low energy levels leading to the low levels of service quality experienced.  The largely intangible nature of the service, meaning concurrent consumption and production, are the key role of employees in producing the hospitality product (Bowen & Ford, 2004).

Hospitality employees fulfill roles which demand high levels of interaction and communication between hosts and guests. For those working in hospitality, these interactions have the potential to generate considerable stress which is a causal agent in physical and mental disorders leading to absenteeism, and reduced productivity ( Ganster and Schaubroeck, 1991) and low organizational commitment.

Solutions Please!!!!!

shiftstartSo there is the why, what is the solution to this problem? Eat better, Exercise more, Meditate, join a social club, listen to Music,  drink more Coffee and Wine… or you could increase Organizational Commitment and Service Quality through the use of Health and Wellness Programmes.  In order to increase Productivity, Job Performance, and lower Stress and increase Engagement; management must show an active interest in their employee’s well being as well as involve them in the act of creating a wellness Programme as they are the participants of such.



Journals used –

Birdir, Kemal. “General Manager Turnover and Root Causes.” International Journal of Contemporary  Hospitality Management 14, no. 1 (2002): 43-47.

Brien, Anthony. “The New Zealand Hotel Industry: Vacancies increase while applicant numbers and  calibre decrease.” International Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Administration 5, no. 1   (2004): 87-108.

Bowen, John, and Robert Ford. “What experts say about managing hospitality service delivery systems.”  International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management 16, no. 7 (2004): 394-401.

Davidson, Michael, Nils Timo, and Ying Wang. “How much does Labour Turnover Cost? A case study of  Australian four-five star hotels.” International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management 22, no. 4 (2010): 451-466.

Demir, Cengiz. “The Importance of Human Resources Planning for Tourism Administration.” The school of Tourism Administration and Hotel Management, 2004: 293-298.

Hinkin, Timothy R, and J Bruce Tracey. “The cost turnover: Putting a price on the learning curve.” Cornell  University 41, no. 3 (2000): 14-21.

Ganster, Daniel, and John Schaubroeck. “Work Stress and Employee Health.” Journal of Management 17, no. 2 (1991): 235-271.

Wallace, Meredith. OSH Implications of Shiftwork and Irregular hours of Work: Guidelines for Managing   Shiftwork. Sydney: Ivanhoe East Vic: Health & Work Behaviour Management Consultants, 2003.


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