Giving hotel employees the opportunity to organize their professional lives via part-time work, remote work and flexible scheduling brings benefits not just to the personnel’s work-life balance but also to the organization and its capacity for resilience. Flexible attitudes that stretch not just to women but to the entire workforce are ultimately the sign of a healthy and supportive corporate culture.
Here are answers to questions based on a 2022 industry report that looks at the positive impact of flexible working practices in the hotel sector.
1. Why are women executives in the hospitality industry such “rare pearls”?
Because there are so few of them! As an industry, only 25.5% of executives are women. Women have made tremendous strides professionally and have received training on all sorts of topics. Considerable energy, effort, and time have been invested by women, yet opportunities have lagged. We need to stop fixing the woman and start fixing the situation: the biased systems, the rigid structures, the control cultures, and the homogenous leadership teams.
2. How can work flexibility start fixing the situation, (rather than “fixing women”)?
Work flexibility refers to employees’ freedom to organize themselves through part-time work, remote work, flexible scheduling, and compressed workweeks. Work flexibility is about where, when and, how employees work and thus enables employees to manage both work and family demands. Hence when a company seriously integrates work flexibility and a supportive environment, they are starting to fix the situation rather than the woman.
3. What’s the role of corporate culture in creating more flexible working structures?
It’s critical. Our study results show that a family-friendly corporate culture leads to greater work flexibility. Family-supportive cultures encourage people to express their involvement and interest in non-work matters. This is viewed as healthy. As such, employees are offered flexibility in completing their work and this is viewed as a strategic way of doing business. In family-supportive cultures, working long hours is not the only path for advancing, nor is the belief that employees who are highly committed to their personal lives cannot be highly committed to work.
4. What is the difference between work flexibility and labor flexibility?
Work flexibility benefits both employees and hotels. Our results show that work flexibility is positively related to innovative capabilities, company resilience and employees’ wellbeing. In this study, we also examined another type of flexibility which is labor flexibility – the company’s freedom to manage its employees. This type of flexibility includes the right to hire and fire staff, to alter wages and working conditions to suit the prevailing economic conditions, the ability to adjust work schedules and quality of work time in relation to overtime, shiftwork, etc., and the ability to extend the range of tasks an employee can perform.
Our study shows that labor flexibility benefits primarily the hotels, because it is positively related to innovative capabilities and company resilience (not employee wellbeing). It’s worth noting that labor flexibility does not benefit individuals, only hotels. This is an important point because hotels tend to have a lot of labor flex but not enough work flex.
5. Does flexibility affect internal stakeholders in different ways? Is there a gender differentiation – i.e., should flexibility just be seen as a “woman’s issue”?
Flexibility used to be considered as a woman’s issue’ – i.e., exclusively a debate for working moms, and this is most probably the reason why it was never a mainstream topic in companies. Today, flexibility has become a hallmark of companies with great work cultures. In addition, Covid-19 has triggered a massive shift in work practices and somewhat normalized remote work. The pandemic has also affected the psychological state and social values of people, prompting them to re-evaluate their priorities in life and changed people’s expectations from their employers. Consequently, flexibility has taken center stage, and much can be learned from the experiences of women who have always been aspiring, struggling, managing and thriving with flexibility.
6. How has Covid-19 helped to rethink and redesign the world of work in terms of flexibility?
Zoom and remote work existed before Covid19. The pandemic has accelerated it and somewhat normalized different ways of working including how we organize events by going fully online. Of course, some operations’ roles in hotels cannot be remote (the person must be present) yet companies can still instill some flexibility when it comes to, for example, scheduling their shifts. Flexibility is in everyone’s mind today, and amid the labor shortage crisis, it is a key value proposition to attract develop and retain talent. Some of the recommendations we propose is to recognize the different work flexibility needs of different employee group, set up realistic work flexibility targets and monitor progress, and to empower Heads of Departments and line managers to oversee flexible working patterns with their team members so they can deliver the right outcome.