The restaurant industry demands a high-level of work. Long shifts, weekends, and holidays are part of the restaurant life. For restaurant employees, it can feel like work is life… and work-life balance is impossible.
But this mindset creates a negative and resentful workplace that injures employee morale and productivity. This creates a cycle of stressed and burned out employees, leading to high turnover, increased recruiting and training costs, and a loss of valuable time and resources.
Work-life balance is the key to a sustainable and productive workforce.
This is especially crucial in the restaurant industry, where a large percentage of employees work multiple jobs, are in school, and/or have families to support.
Restaurant workers especially have a need to balance multiple areas of their lives—but how can they do that in the 24/7/365 restaurant business?
Why Work-Life Balance For Restaurants
One-third of participants in a restaurant employment survey feel they are overloaded with work and family responsibilities. 38% have missed life events because of poor work-life balance.
One of the greatest concerns for these employees was a lack of sleep, which diminishes energy levels. This, in turn, leads to sick days and low productivity, perpetuating a cycle of negativity and resentment in-house. This is especially problematic in the hands-on, fast-paced restaurant industry.
Your employees are spending their nights, weekends, and holidays at your restaurant. They’re sacrificing moments at home in order to be working at your restaurant.
This creates an innate sense that “work is life.”
If approached correctly, though, this can create a positive mindset about work-life integration. If you build a positive culture in your restaurant, your employees won’t see work as sacrificing their home life. Rather, they’ll see work as a part of their social life and personal growth.
A positive work environment encourages employees to feel like a part of the restaurant family.
This lends itself to more motivated, less stressed employees. It increases employee loyalty, engagement, retention, and productivity while reducing the number of in-house conflicts.
This all reflects positively on the customer experience as well. Happy, productive employees can best serve the customer. This also provides a good employer reputation, because your employees are talking up your business.
The benefits of a positive, flexible culture that promotes work-life balance are endless. In the restaurant industry especially, employees care about growth, community, and flexibility.
So how can you foster this kind of environment? What can you do to promote a positive work-life balance in such a demanding, hour-heavy work environment?
1. Leaders need a work-life balance.
Work-life balance has to be implemented and promoted from the top-down. If the leaders of the restaurant don’t show a care for their own home life, they’re sending signals to their employees that it’s not okay to prioritize personal experiences.
Be a role model for the benefits of balance. Don’t overschedule yourself when it’s not necessary. Don’t complain about missing out on a home life event; go to that event and schedule your work accordingly.
If you respect your own work-life balance, you’ll respect the work-life balance of your employees in tandem. This creates a positive work environment that fosters open communication between management and employees regarding values and priorities.
2. Have an employee-focused mindset.
Most restaurants live by the belief that the customer is always right. While it’s important to focus on customer service, it’s equally as critical to take your employee’s voice into consideration. Show your employees that you’re on their side while also providing top quality service to customers.
Even one tip can be incredibly stressful for a server on a busy night. As the manager or owner, you can’t control how customers act or tip. But you can control how your restaurant culture responds to it and treats its employees.
For example, a customer complains about Joe, your best server. Joe always gets great tips and raving reviews. The customer complains Joe was slow and unresponsive. You apologize to the customer and offer them a free dessert.
Rather than return to Joe with anger, start a conversation with concern. Ask if Joe is having a bad day. Hear Joe’s side of the story. Listening to what Joe has to say rather than reprimanding builds a positive environment that shows you care about your employees’ well being. Joe may be struggling with something going on at home, for example, and you can encourage him to have a stronger work-life balance and prioritize that need.
3. Use flextime work arrangements.
Flexible work is the easiest way to build employee work-life balance. Flextime puts the responsibility of scheduling into the hands of the employee. This not only takes pressure off the manager, but it also allows the employee to better control their own life schedule. They can plan work around personal obligations to prioritize hours accordingly.
An employee doesn’t have to worry that you’ll schedule her during their daughter’s basketball game; she has complete control over her life and work. She doesn’t have to worry about taking time off to overcome the flu. She can spend every Wednesday night with her knitting club.
This minimizes scheduling stress, reduces burnout, builds open lines of communication, improves worker loyalty, and ultimately encourages a strong work-life balance.
4. Encourage time off.
Flexible work arrangements also help avoid presenteeism. When people show up to work sick or frustrated or grouchy, it reflects poorly on the customer and creates a negative working environment for all.
Make a point to tell your employees that it’s okay to take time off. With flexible hours, employees can simply work another day by self-scheduling their flextime.
You should also encourage taking two days off at a time some weeks. Two days can help people fully relax and recover, so they’re better able to return to work rested and productive. This is a great way to ensure restaurant workers get the benefits of the “weekend,” even if their two days off are in the middle of the week.
Recommended Reading: Stop Just Offering Flexibility – The Need For Flexible Culture
5. Provide break time.
Encourage short breaks throughout the day. People aren’t designed to work nonstop, especially running around with heavy plates of food all day. Your employees need time to recharge. This will make them healthier and more productive, which will also enable them to better serve the customer.
6. Offer training.
Training helps employees be more productive by teaching them necessary skills. You can provide ongoing culinary training to chefs or sales courses to servers. This helps fine tune skills so your employees are always on the top of their game. If you implement new technologies to maintain cutting-edge status, be sure to offer thorough trainings to teach your employees about these platforms.
Beyond acquiring skills, offering employee training shows that you care about your workers. You want them to be the best they can be. In this way, you’ll want to consider offering other types of skills trainings, like a course on time management or a lesson on “how to be happy.”
When you demonstrate care for your employees’ work-life balance, they’ll show more loyalty and engagement in return.
Remember that skills training and loyal employees translate positively to the customer.
Recommended Reading: How Restaurants Can Compete For On-Demand Talent
7. Promote team bonding.
A great way to build a family atmosphere and promote work-life balance is to encourage company outings and team building. This can be a holiday party, a hiking trip, or even just breakfast club programs.
We also recommend restaurant-wide community engagement. This includes volunteering as a group to get out of the restaurant and serve the local community together. You can also run a promotion where a portion of each bill supports a local charity. This gives your employees something to rally behind.
Serving your local community makes your restaurant visible while encouraging team bonding.
8. Create open lines of communication.
Ultimately, none of the above methods will work if you don’t communicate with your employees. If your employees are fearful to tell you about their needs regarding work-life balance, you’ll never create a positive and productive environment.
Build an ongoing discussion regarding work-life balance. When emergencies pop up, be understanding and accommodating.
If you start noticing patterns of absenteeism, have a rational conversation with your employees. Share with them the needs of the business and how their role contributes to that. This can create a fruitful conversation without blaming. Be professional, understanding, and compassionate in order to build a constructive work environment.
9. Make it positive.
Overall, you want it to feel like a family in your restaurant. Your employees are spending their Saturday nights and New Years with you, so you want them to enjoy coming to work and living those moments in your restaurant.
In the restaurant industry, a lot of “life” moments are spent at work—but that doesn’t mean it has to feel like work. Making your company fun, exciting, and family-oriented can help promote a positive working culture.
Ultimately, promoting work-life balance gives your employees the freedom to live their own lives while also encouraging a strong culture of positivity and productivity in the restaurant.
Are you interested in promoting a positive, balanced culture for your restaurant?
Forge is the leading software for flextime scheduling to promote this kind of culture!
Sign up to be a Forge employer so you can start building this productive, profitable work-life balance for your employees!