In tourism, downtime for workers is as vital as vacation time for travellers. Find out why balancing work and family is crucial for industry success.
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The importance of work-family balance in the tourism sector

In tourism, downtime for workers is as vital as vacation time for travelers. Find out why balancing work and family is crucial for industry success.

Tourism generates income and employment as a vital component of the global economy. It promotes cultural diversity, intercultural exchange, and mutual understanding among people from different countries and cultures. Touristic experiences are not limited solely to tourist destinations but also encompass a wide range of services and activities, such as hospitality, gastronomy, transportation, and tourist attractions.

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Behind the facade of the tourism industry, stories of workers who sacrifice their comfort and personal well-being to ensure that tourists enjoy unforgettable moments are often found. From waiters and receptionists to tour guides and drivers, these professionals play critical roles in creating positive tourism experiences.

However, the nature of work in the tourism sector can bring challenges. Irregular schedules and long working hours can affect workers’ physical and mental health and their social and family lives. Many employees in the tourism sector face pressure to maintain high service standards while dealing with the fatigue and stress associated with their work and the difficulty of balancing their family life with work life.

Are workers in the tourism sector sacrificing their well-being for our enjoyment? Discover how work-life balance impacts health and performance in the tourism sector.

Jose Aurelio Medina-Garrido

Work-family conflict and its effects

The conflict between work and family life creates stress and exhaustion for workers in the tourism sector, impacting their quality of life. Balancing work responsibilities with family time poses a challenge, especially for those whose jobs demand irregular hours, including weekends and holidays. This constant availability disrupts family plans and routines, leading to physical and emotional strain. Such strain can harm workers’ health and overall well-being and strain family relationships, causing workers to feel guilty for not being more present. Moreover, this stress and fatigue can reduce job productivity and satisfaction, potentially tarnishing the reputation and profitability of tourism companies.

To address these challenges, it is vital for employers in the tourism sector to acknowledge the significance of supporting the balance between work and family life. This may involve implementing labor policies that advocate for adequate rest periods and offering organisational support for workers and their families. Additionally, nurturing an organisational culture that prioritizes employee well-being and encourages a healthy, balanced work environment can mitigate work-family conflict and enhance job satisfaction and quality of life for tourism sector workers.

Credit. Midjourney

Organisational support: A key piece

Organisational support within the tourism sector is crucial in promoting work-life balance for employees. Companies are adopting various measures to support work-life balance for their employees, including flexible work options like telecommuting where feasible, flexible schedules, and granting days off as required. Additionally, they provide paid parental leave programs, on-site childcare services or childcare subsidies, counseling, and support programs. Furthermore,  some organisations have implemented wellness programs that include physical activities, yoga, meditation, and counseling sessions to help employees manage stress and improve their overall well-being. It is essential to foster an organisational culture of support shared by supervisors and workers, which values and respects personal and family needs.

However, it is not enough for work-life balance measures to merely exist; they must also be easily accessible, straightforward, and without repercussions that economically or socially penalize workers or disadvantage them for future job promotions.

Impact of work-family balance policies

Policies promoting work-life balance have multiple impacts on workers in the tourism sector, extending beyond the workplace. These policies promote emotional and mental well-being, work engagement, and loyalty to the company. Additionally, they improve performance, efficiency, and task quality and contribute to reduced absenteeism and turnover. These measures benefit not only the workers but also the companies.

1. Emotional and Mental Well-being: Policies supporting the balance between work and family life help reduce the stress and anxiety associated with work and personal responsibilities. This fosters a sense of balance and satisfaction among employees, ultimately contributing to improved mental and emotional health.

2. Work Engagement and Company Loyalty: Employees who feel supported in balancing work and personal life tend to be more engaged and loyal to the company. They feel valued and supported, strengthening their bond with the organisation.

3. Performance and Efficiency: Workers who can effectively manage their work and family responsibilities are more productive and efficient. The ability to focus on work tasks without distractions related to personal issues improves the quality and quantity of work performed.

4. Reduction of Absenteeism and Turnover: Work-life balance policies help reduce absenteeism as employees have fewer reasons to miss work due to unresolved personal issues. Additionally, job satisfaction and the sense of support from the company decrease the likelihood of employees seeking job opportunities elsewhere.

Ultimately, work-life balance policies benefit not only individual workers but also positively impact organisational culture and the profitability of companies in the tourism sector. By prioritizing the well-being of their employees, companies can build more engaged, productive, and resilient teams, contributing to the organisation’s long-term success.

Practical recommendations for managers and supervisors

Supervisors play a crucial role in creating a work environment that promotes work-life balance. To uphold this balance and prevent exhaustion and demotivation among their teams, managers, and supervisors can implement several strategies. Besides providing accessible work-life balance initiatives like flexible schedules and family support programs, they should foster an organisational culture that values and promotes organisational support for employee well-being, recognizing the importance of family and personal life.

Supervisors play a fundamental role in creating a work environment that supports the balance between work and personal life. By adopting a comprehensive, flexible, and supportive approach to their employees’ needs, supervisors can significantly contribute to the well-being and satisfaction of their team, as well as the organisation’s overall success in the tourism sector.

Practical recommendations for governments and organisations promoting work-life balance in the tourism sector

1. Implement and Enforce Work-Life Balance Legislation: Governments should enact laws and regulations that mandate minimum standards for work-life balance in the tourism sector. This includes limits on working hours, provisions for paid time off, and protections against unfair scheduling practices.

2. Provide Financial Incentives for Work-Life Balance Initiatives: Governments and industry organisations can offer financial incentives, such as tax breaks or subsidies, to companies implementing effective work-life balance policies. By incentivizing employers to prioritize the well-being of their employees, governments can foster a culture of support and balance within the tourism industry.

3. Invest in Education and Training Programs: Organisations should invest in education and training programs that raise awareness about the importance of work-life balance and provide workers with the skills and resources they need to achieve it. This includes training for managers and supervisors on creating supportive work environments and fostering a culture of balance within their teams.

4. Promote Work-Life Balance as a Competitive Advantage: Organisations in the tourism sector should actively promote work-life balance as a source of competitive advantage.  Highlighting the benefits of supporting employee well-being, such as increased productivity, reduced turnover, and enhanced corporate image of the organisation, prioritizing work-life balance could be incorporated into the strategy of organisations and, in particular, their human resource management policies.

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Journal reference

Medina-Garrido, J. A., Biedma-Ferrer, J. M., & Bogren, M. (2023). Organizational support for work-family life balance as an antecedent to the well-being of tourism employees in Spain. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 57, 117-129. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhtm.2023.08.018

Dr Jose Aurelio Medina-Garrido, a distinguished member of the Department of Business Organization and INDESS (University Institute for Sustainable Social Development) at the University of Cadiz, is a seasoned academic leader focusing on entrepreneurship and information systems management. With over 80 impactful research publications, including articles in high-impact journals like JCR and SJR, his contributions to journals such as the International Small Business Journal and the International Journal of Hospitality Management have garnered substantial citations. He is the leader of the research group "New Challenges for Entrepreneurial Management: Information Systems, Sustainability, and Entrepreneurship (NewReD)" and led the projects "Determinants and socio-economic impact of high-potential entrepreneurship" and "Success factors for high-growth start-ups," reflecting his strategic research capabilities. He has participated in more than 32 university-industry research results transfer contracts. Currently, he also teaches entrepreneurship and information systems management.

Dr. José María Biedma-Ferrer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Business Organization at the University of Cadiz. With a PhD in Law and degrees in Law and Political Science, he has extensive management experience in the financial sector. Dr. Biedma-Ferrer has presented papers on human resources, business creation, and information systems at national and international congresses. He has broad research experience, has published in prestigious journals, and is the author of multiple books and chapters. He has participated as a researcher in several research projects. He is currently leading research studies on the impact of work-family reconciliation policies for companies and on students' entrepreneurial intentions.

Dr. Maria Bogren is an Associate Professor of Organization and Leadership at Nord University, Norway. Bogren's research interests are broad, mainly in areas such as Working Life, Entrepreneurship, Sustainability, and Marketing. She led the research project "Cross-border career choices in the Nordic region's green belt" (2022) and is currently involved in the research project Limitless Competence (2024-2026). She is a member of the following networks/research institutes: The Network for Working Life Research (NAFS), Mid Sweden University, Sweden, and The Institute for Sustainable Social Development (INDESS), University of Cadiz, Spain.