How Forward Planning Can Revolutionise Our Industry and Our Lives

While we each focus on our individual corners of the industry, it’s easy to forget the bigger picture: hospitality employs a significant portion of the workforce – a staggering 2.7 million people, or roughly 8% of the UK’s total. However, comparing this figure to the pre-pandemic (2018) peak of 3.4 million paints a concerning picture. We’re undeniably experiencing a higher staff turnover rate than ever before, with individuals leaving the industry altogether, or leaving businesses faster than they have before. And that’s something that we’ve all felt in our own corners. To address this challenge, we need to actively listen to our staff and understand the underlying reasons behind this exodus.
We’ve been working with Planday to dive into their recent survey of 2,000 shift workers from across the UK (90% of whom were hospitality-specific), cross-referencing their responses with industry experts and leaders. The finding was clear: you need to create a firm bedrock on which to build employee happiness and retention. And that bedrock is giving your employees enough time and notice to plan their lives, their money and their health.
“We need to create a healthy work environment that celebrates work/life balance, understanding the importance of giving teams an opportunity to plan their life in advance with effective rota management and, ultimately, recognising the importance of health and wellbeing as one of the key components to a profitable and sustainable business model.” – Kris Hall, CEO, The Burnt Chef

The Industry Toll: Short-term Planning and its Wide-reaching Impact

The repercussions of failing to give sufficient notice with rotas are deeply concerning.  A staggering 61% of hospitality businesses grapple with staff shortages, with 40% being forced to reduce their operating hours due to understaffing. This directly translates to lost revenue and operational inefficiencies.

Furthermore, the workforce is demonstrably unhappy. Only half the staff surveyed feel valued and listened to by their employers. Dissatisfaction is further fueled by a combination of factors: low wages (66%), long hours (57%), and a profound lack of control over their work schedules (46%). Countertalk’s own Max Coltart notes: “While improving pay rates and shift length is at the mercy of business models and market conditions, giving staff the opportunity to plan their lives with plenty of notice is entirely within our control. We expect flexibility from our staff in the day-to-day, we should be offering it in return.” Quite apart from human empathetic concern, this discontentment creates a vicious cycle – a demotivated workforce providing subpar service, ultimately leading to a decline in customer satisfaction.

The Individual Toll: Sacrificing Well-being for Unpredictability

The burden of unpredictable schedules falls heavily on individuals, impacting their lives and their health in profound ways.
  • Mental health under strain: A staggering 85% of hospitality workers have battled symptoms of poor mental health in the past year. This can be directly linked to factors like severe work-life imbalance (17%).
  • Financial insecurity: Unpredictable shifts make budgeting a near-impossible feat, causing significant stress and anxiety (53%).
  • Strained personal lives: Half of the workers report missing out on spending quality time with family due to last-minute shift changes. This disrupts their ability to maintain healthy relationships and connections outside of work, further impacting their overall well-being.

Charting a New Course: A Future Built on Forward Planning

The path to a healthier industry lies in embracing forward planning as a core principle, alongside recognising and addressing collective challenges by offering support for mental health issues and career progression:

  • Technology as the Changemaker: 68% of workers welcome the use of mobile applications specifically designed for managing their schedules and rotas. This shift towards digital solutions fosters transparency and empowers staff with greater control over their work lives. Imagine a world where employees can easily access their schedules, swap shifts seamlessly, and plan their personal lives accordingly.
  • Smarter Scheduling: Investing in intelligent scheduling tools allows businesses to create predictable rotas with ample notice. This not only improves staff well-being (33%) but also ensures adequate staffing levels to meet customer demands. A move away from last-minute adjustments creates a more stable and efficient work environment for everyone.
  • Prioritising Well-being: Businesses must acknowledge the concerning mental health issues plaguing their workforce. Addressing this challenge requires proactive measures. Offering readily available mental health support (36%), actively promoting work-life balance (29%), and fostering open communication channels are crucial steps towards creating a supportive work environment.
  • Investing in the Future: Nearly half the workforce feels a lack of clear career paths. Addressing this through mentorship programs, training opportunities (45%), and providing a framework for growth can significantly boost employee morale and retention. When employees see a future for themselves within the company, they are more likely to stay invested and contribute their best work.

A Brighter Future Beckons: Change is the Catalyst

The hospitality industry has a unique opportunity to revolutionise itself. Embracing forward planning through technological advancements and prioritising staff well-being are not just options; they are essential steps towards building a more resilient and attractive industry. Businesses that prioritise these aspects will be better positioned to attract and retain top talent, ensuring not only the survival of the hospitality sector but also the well-being of the workforce that keeps it running:

  • Stem the tide of employee churn: Investing in staff through better wages, career development opportunities, and mental health support will make the industry a more attractive career choice, especially for younger generations.
  • Enhance customer satisfaction: A happy and engaged workforce translates to a more positive customer experience. When staff feel valued, they are more likely to go above and beyond to ensure guests have a memorable stay.
  • Boost the bottom line: Reduced staff turnover, improved customer satisfaction, and a more efficient work environment all contribute to a healthier financial outlook for businesses.

The future of the hospitality industry hinges on its ability to embrace change. By prioritising forward planning and investing in its workforce, our vital sector can not only survive but thrive, ensuring a future filled with exceptional service, a satisfied customer base, and a happy, healthy workforce.


At midday on the 25th March, Planday are launching their Single Biggest Shift campaign, based on their white paper which can be read here. Watch this space to see how to make the shift which will change our lives and our industry.

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