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15 Jun, 2011

Study: Female Hotel Staff Face High Stress, Low Job Satisfaction

Female hotel staff are struggling to cope with high levels of stress, with married women being worse affected due to the pressures of trying to maintain a home:workplace balance, according to the results of a research study by Dr Sheeba Hamid of Aligarh Muslim University in Aligarh, India.

One of several interesting and creative pieces of research presented at the Asia-Pacific Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education (APacCHRIE) annual academic conference in Hong Kong earlier this month, the study says: “Heavy schedules and tighter deadlines at hotel and home both are telling on the health of married women workers. They are becoming prone to restlessness and insomnia. The major cause identified in the study for these problems is domestic stress.”

(To get the full study, pls contact Dr Sheeba Hamid: sheebaranyah@yahoo.co.in)

Although the scope of the study was only confined to hotels in Delhi, its results have worldwide applicability because they highlight a relatively unseen aspect of the global tourism boom – under the external veneer of the PR spin and glamorous branding image lies a high-stress lifestyle of overwork, low-pay and high-pressure. Although other research studies have dwelt more gnerically on the links between stress and job satisfaction, as well as stress-related illnesses, this study focussed more clearly on the relationship between levels of stress and job satisfaction among female hotel personnel on the basis of their marital, parental and managerial status.

Said the study, “Research regarding stress and job satisfaction in hospitality industry in India is an understudied topic. Delhi has witnessed tremendous boom in hotel industry in recent years especially after hosting Commonwealth Games in 2010. As the competitive pressure increases, the hotel staff is bound to face plenty of stress in the wake of tighter deadlines, heavier schedules, new projects, pressure to perform at peak levels all the time, expansion of technology resulting in heightened expectation of productivity, constant alertness and following a non-failing star hotel work culture.”

Even though women comprise 40% – 45% of star hotels’ workforce in Delhi, research literature on them is “practically negligible”, the study said. “It was also noticeable during the survey that women are largely visible at non-managerial positions as opposed to managerial positions in star hotels at Delhi. Women workers are mostly visible in guest relations’ and human resource departments. Managerial positions are mostly occupied by them in housekeeping, essentially considered to be a female forte and occasionally in guest relations and human resource department. This brings out the fact as stated by (Taj, 2010) that Indian males in the workplace continue to recycle the stereotype images of women.”

In addition to desk research, discussions and interviews, a structured questionnaire was served to different categories of women workers in 40 star-rated Delhi hotels. Out of 330 questionnaires distributed, surprisingly 308 were returned. Six were rejected on the basis of inadequate information. Dr Hamid wrote, “The response to the study was encouraging and leads (the researcher) to believe that women in India are slowly learning to become vocal about what they want and deserve both at home and workplace.” In order to monitor the variation among responses of different categories’ respondents, chi-square test was used according to requirement and suitability.


The study categorised the respondents thus: A: Unmarried; B: Married, with children; C: Married, without children; D: Unmarried, managerial status; E: Married, without children, managerial status; F: Married, with children, managerial status.

It said, “Today’s fast paced lifestyle calls for managing high levels of competition, stress, tension and work/life balance. The high price to pay for this lifestyle wreaks havoc on human minds and results in stressed-out individuals. People are not able to manage all the demands on them and buckle under pressure. Stress brings failure and failure brings more stress which becomes a vicious cycle, eventually resulting in falling performance.

“As further pointed out by the author, the individual member goes through humiliation as he is not able to match the performance level of others and since performance alone is the key for any hike in salary or winning an award, under performance at work leads to low level of morale and job satisfaction.

Although men and women both have proved their mettle in the corporate world globally but the fact remains that women are in the minority and invisible to quite an extent in leadership roles in India. They also face “pressure of social and role constraints imposed upon them by society, family and quite surprisingly by women themselves. This is because women in India are still juggling between being ‘man on the job’ and the otherwise conventional role of a homemaker. There is no kudos for her exemplary performance at work unless she is a perfect wife, mother and daughter and so on. Another social reality in India is that there is an increased need for women’s earnings consequent upon rise in family expenses. She has been readily accepted as co-breadwinner but not yet unburdened from her exclusive domestic responsibilities.”

Heavy Workload

Concluded Dr Hamid, “It is evident  that category ‘B’ and ‘F’ have registered high degree of domestic stress and most of them find it difficult to manage domestic and professional responsibilities without any stress. However, employees of other categories are facing lesser domestic stress as they have lesser domestic responsibilities. From the responses, category ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘F’ have confronting domestic and professional commitments. On the other hand, remaining categories’ are less affected by work/life conflict.

“It is clear from the statistical information that majority of category ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘F’ find it difficult to face the challenge of their hotel job and domestic responsibilities due to heavy workload at both the fronts. Women employees of other categories rarely face such a conflicting situation. Women workers from category ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘F’ strongly feel that their efficiency at work could be more if they can get more support from home.

“Therefore it is indicative that domestic stress is adversely affecting the workplace responsibilities of most of the married women workers in star hotels at Delhi. The other categories under reference are less affected by domestic stress. However, it is universal that domestic stress and workers efficiency are negatively correlated.”

Dr Hamid wrote that most of the respondents in category ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘F’ feel that “they are caught in a vicious circle. Degree of stress is highest in case of category ‘F’. It is lowest in case of category ‘A’. Married women workers are more stressed than unmarried women workers. Furthermore, category ‘F’ is more stressed than category ‘E’. Category ‘D’ has also shown some symptoms of work related stress.

“The survey cited 81 respondents from category ‘B’ who said they are unable to sleep. 60 respondents of category ‘C’ are facing the problem of restlessness and insomnia and all respondents from category ‘F’ have shown these symptoms. Category ‘A’ has shown least symptoms of stress. The degree of stress in married women workers is more in comparison to unmarried women workers. The same is true in case of category ‘E’ and category ‘B’ and ‘C’.”

Keeping the House, Not Housekeeping

The survey said that majority of category ‘B’ respondents show signs of low level of self-esteem and job satisfaction. Category ‘C’ has also registered the same pattern of feelings regarding job satisfaction and self-esteem. Out of 37 workers under category ‘F’, 6 workers have not shown high level of job satisfaction and high level of self-esteem.

Women workers of all categories except category ‘A’ are experiencing low level of self esteem and low level of job satisfaction, the survey showed. Most of unmarried women workers in star hotels at Delhi have registered negative responses regarding low level of job satisfaction. However, 75% women workers in category ‘B’ have agreed that they feel held back in their professional life. 57 women workers in category ‘C’ have expressed similar views.

The research study added, :Literature regarding working women in the Indian scenario supports that women still face gender-bias and continue to do the softer jobs. This is evident in the results of the study. Secondly, (the fact that) they have to struggle hard to prove their worth at home and workplace is substantiated by the result of the study that all married women workers have reported overload of responsibilities owing to their status as working women. The success of a woman is mapped by the way she keeps her house and not the housekeeping she does at the hotel.”

She said the need to address this issue becomes imperative as negative emotions can have a negative impact on job performance and eventually job satisfaction.  Further research needs to be done to evolve effective stress management techniques for married women workers in star hotels at Delhi and especially for those who have parental/managerial status or both.

Suggested solutions

According to Dr Hamid, “Stress levels can be controlled through effective relaxation techniques. In order to build physical and emotional resilience, married women workers need to take charge of their emotions and time both. They have to become conscious of their state of mind and spend time on activities that can help in beating fatigue. Such activities can be:

• Indulging in physical exercise/yoga/sports which aid good health and positivity of attitude. This can be done either at home or even at the hotel.

• Allotting a relaxation time for them in daily schedule, and indulging in activities that can provide a sense of joy and happiness. It could be listening to music, reading a book or gardening. Such activities can make the married women worker a well oiled engine to meet the rough road ahead.

• Humor is said to be a great stress reliever. Sharing jokes, reading funny storybooks or watching comedy shows on television can be a good idea. Even watching cartoon channels with children at home can be an effective way to recharge them.

• Follow an action plan. When one is better organized, one’s efficiency increases. Making a daily schedule, making a list of activities and prioritizing them should be done on regular basis. Carrying personal problems to work and thinking about work at home is the worst thing to do. Spending quality and fruitful time at hotel and home both is strongly advised to married women workers.

• Better time-management can be displayed by securing family support. Married women workers should make their children more responsible and should not hesitate to ask for spousal help in domestic chores. In Indian context, even today, home is the special or at times exclusive responsibility of the woman. Married women workers need to influence this mindset and tending the house should become the joint duty of both the partners. Married women workers should learn to make a simple thing like laying out the dinner table, an enjoyable and continued family affair.

• Employee Counseling Cell/Employee Assistance Programs with a woman counselor on board for assistance in sorting out work/life conflicts amongst women employees. If women workers get a chance to voice their personal/professional concerns in a confidential manner then they can feel relaxed. Also they can get sound advises from a counselor that can help them sort out their day to day issues. Married women workers are recommended to try and secure top management commitment and support for such programs.