The Perils and Pitfalls of Working in the Hospitality Industry



By Robin Jones, Spa Director, The Spa at the Grand Del Mar
September/October 2009

When William Bradley, 34, began experiencing severe foot pain two years ago, he tried everything to alleviate the agony – from stretching to icing to orthotic inserts – but to no avail. “It was the worst when I got out of bed in the morning, and felt like I was standing on glass,” says Bradley, the executive chef of Addison at The Grand Del Mar. “Then, the painful, dull ache continued throughout the day.” Finally, he went to a podiatrist and got an official diagnosis: Plantar fasciitis, caused when the ligament (the plantar fascia) that runs from the heel to the toes on the bottom of the foot becomes irritated and swollen. Not surprisingly, the cause was “too much time on my feet,” says Bradley, a plight most members of the hospitality industry can relate to.

Bradley’s doctor prescribed special splints, which he puts on every night to stretch and strengthen the fascia, and the results were immediate. “I have to be very disciplined though,” says Bradley. “I always wear my night splints.” The biggest change? No more fancy European loafers. “I wear cushioned clogs in the kitchen and sturdy comfortable shoes on my days off. Comfort over style.”

While night splints are often effective, there are many other remedies for those stricken with plantar fasciitis – frequently caused by repetitive stress from hours of standing, walking or running on hard services. Doctors often prescribe a series of exercises that stretch the irritated ligament. Foot reflexology is another treatment that may relieve the discomfort associated with this condition, and is different from massage (which applies pressure to the muscle and soft tissue), by working through the nerve ending. One of the benefits of reflexology is the relief of aches, pain and tension, along with increasing circulation which aids in healing. A technique called cross-friction massage is helpful along with active stretching of the calf, Achilles tendon and plantar fascia. Therapeutic footbaths, with products such as Epsom salts, are also beneficial for many types of foot ailments. Spa treatments such as mud therapies, detox and remineralize the system, and help reduce inflammation – and yoga is always an amazing therapy.

Good Body Mechanics Help Minimize Injury
As Bradley well knows, hospitality work is extremely physical and can mandate hours of walking and standing, lifting heavy objects, repetitive or forceful movements and/or work carried out in awkward postures. In addition to plantar fasciitis, other side effects of such work may include hip, knee, foot or back pain; chronic back problems; and fatigue or lack of energy. To avoid suffering such ailments, it helps to focus on moving through the day with good, solid body mechanics. For example:
¢ Concentrate on standing up straight and don’t slouch.
¢ If you lift something, always bend your knees to avoid straining the back.
¢ When lifting a heavy object, prevent injury by keeping your feet apart and use your body to do the pushing.
¢ After standing for a long period of time, ease pressure by placing one leg on a stool.
¢ And when turning around, avoid doing so abruptly, which can twist and strain the back.

It is important to give your body a rest, so remember to stop and take regular breaks. As a manager, I often think of ways to provide relief for employees. For example, in our Spa, the reception staff stands on plush cushioned mats to alleviate the stress of standing for hours. We also schedule adequate breaks for staff to rest between treatments and activities. A consistent exercise program is also critical and should incorporate stretching, cardio, yoga and weightlifting to keep the body energized and limber. Stay on track by getting up early and getting your exercise routine done first thing in the morning so there is nothing to throw you off schedule. And if possible, incorporate regular massages to address the specific areas of tension or distress, such as the back or neck.

Stress Can Take Its Toll Too
Not only does this kind of work generate physical wear and tear on the body but hospitality industry work entails working closely with the public, often requiring long hours. It can therefore be highly stressful and mentally taxing. While many people choose to work in this industry because they have an innate love of people and a passion for serving, sometimes the constant pressure can take its physical and mental toll. In fact, decades of research have linked stress to everything from insomnia to weakened immune systems to depression. So how does one cope with mounting stress?

Managing stress is all about taking charge, attaining a balanced life and, ultimately, mastering the ability to remain calm under pressure and effectively cope with and manage difficult challenges.