There’s not many industries where your work life coincides with your home life more than hospitality.
On shift, you spend hours upon hours toiling away in the public eye, serving up the type of experience who’s appeal grows with each passing minute. You see the looks on the faces of each reveller, glowing with joyous abandon and your heart yearns to be on the other side of the bargain.
Come quitting time, it’s all you can do to give into those desires and walk around the other side of the bar to put the money you’ve just gained from the business, right back into it.
And that’s because in hospitality, work/life is less of a balance and more of a bleeding of two very similar worlds.
Now, I’ve written about the hospitality work/life balance before, but I’ve decided that it needs looking at in a little more detail.
Let’s start with the work side.
Is it just me, or does it never really feel like 100% work? Let me clarify this before the angry comments start to flood in.
It’s hard, gruelling, laborious stuff, but compared to your run of the mill nine-to-fiver, there’s a certain glamour involved that makes it more exciting, right?
After all, we work in an industry where our driving purpose is to provide a good time for any and all. Everything your average person considers special, is our version of a desk.
The Saturday night table at a restaurant, the seat at the bar where you can feel the energy radiating from the staff, the primal veil of the dancefloor where we give into our base desires and to hell with judgement! That’s our office floor, our water cooler, our kitchenette break room.
And to operate at any kind of competent level in such a work environment involves giving over some part of yourself to the cause. It’s our job to be seen not only contributing to the festivities, but to be enjoying them too.
This is an area where rules can be bent to within an inch of breaking point, all in the name of being hospitable to our clientele. The complimentary shots, the flair, the connectivity with everyone in the room. It’s all part of the dance and it sucks everybody in with its gravity.
And so, it makes sense that when it’s time to clock off, what’s so easy on paper becomes much more difficult in practice.
Every shift ends on an exhausted high. Your legs are aching but your head is brimming with excited potential. The shackles are off and you can finally give yourself fully to the occasion.
And no matter where you work, there’s always somewhere nearby that’s full of people working later than you. It becomes a regular pilgrimage from one place to the next—a well-practised beeline to the point where you could walk there on muscle memory alone.
There’s no waiting in line, only handshakes with bouncers and snarls from the filing public. And once inside, you’re greeted like Norm from Cheers; the party couldn’t start until your arrival.
These are the hours that seem to last forever whilst simultaneously feeling fleeting. Flashbacks of wild times in sweaty rooms, unmentionable deeds in toilets and kick ons in share houses are abundant.
All up to the familiar sound of birdsong and the first sight of dawn creeping in from behind the curtains.
For us, it hadn’t been a walk of shame for some time now. We’ve become numb to the disapproving glances of the city workers waiting in the bus stops. The only thing that pains us these days is the closed doors of the kebab shop.
Not even the sarcastic comments of the local barista, somehow chipper and functional even though you swear you saw them at the house about an hour ago (ahem), don’t cut through.
You thank the gods that your rented home came with thick curtains as you settle in for much too little sleep. Once awake, the countdown begins until you have to do it all over again.The life admin you bragged about being able to do in front of your nine-to-fiver mates is postponed for another day in favour of Netflix and Deliveroo. If the weather’s nice, maybe you’ll reconvene with your workmates for a dip in the ocean or a picnic in the park?
If it isn’t, another day of pub schnitty, free pool and some hair of the dog is on the cards.
You’re loud in the pub too—much louder than is acceptable for the time of day—and the concerned glances from the bar staff start. But you know they’ll never act on it, bar a fight breaking out, because you know that they need you to be just as cool later on when they pay your work a visit.
It’s these little cycles that keep us invested. The blind eyes turned and the pats on each other’s backs let us know that for all of the blood and sweat we put in, nothing goes unnoticed by those who matter. We’re a community.
And it’s through these unspoken deals that the networking can thrive.
Seldom do you see the top venues advertising for staff, do you? Why is that, do you think?
Is it because nobody actually leaves and the same team that opened the place, years ago, are the same team slogging it out to this day?
Of course not.
It’s because the owners and the managers already have their shortlist written out in the form of the hospitality people they interact with every day. As soon as notice is given, the feelers go out and the merry go round cranks up.
We all work in every venue, eventually. That’s why you can’t seem to escape our faces, no matter how many times you try out a new place.
And that’s why, in hospitality, the work/life balance is so blurred.
You’re partying whilst you’re on the clock, and you’re working the room when you’re off it.
And eventually it all has to stop, and the hangovers are granted a fleeting chance to take hold before they’re drowned by another midday schooner. But not yet—not now. For now, you’re immortal.
It’s only after you step away that you see how unsustainable immortality is.
News you care about. Tips you can use.
Everything your business needs to grow, delivered straight to your inbox.