The New Relationship to Work: a necessary adaptation

The word work comes from the Latin tripalium, which was an instrument of torture made up of three stakes! Historically, work therefore refers to suffering and pain.

This notion of work has evolved, it has become intrinsically linked to the idea of ​​production and remuneration. Indeed, we work for a living! Work is also health, we are told! Certainly, but it has many other virtues.

In the modern sense of the term, work is a human activity in its own right, it structures time, gives a framework and allows you to better appreciate your free time. It is also used to exist socially, to be known and recognized, to see people and finally to do things that interest us.

Work is now becoming a meaningful human activity!

Working requires developing skills and qualities, which is rewarding, gives self-confidence and contributes to personal development.

What if work made you so happy? The “passion professions” exist, the hotel and restaurant sector is the perfect example. These jobs require full-time self-investment, but the schedules and restrictive conditions have raised many questions. The health crisis was a period of introspection which accelerated these questions and, it seems, contributed to blurring the benchmarks.

Today, we notice a decline in the place of work in the life of the French in general. The proportion of working French people saying that the place of work in their life was “very important” has plummeted in just over thirty years, from 60% in 1990 to 24% in 2021.

This decline translates into a reversal of the aspirations and symbols of professional success inherited from the postwar boom and which flourished in the 1990s.

An Ifop survey of March 2022 reveals that for 56% of French people, work is “a necessary constraint to meet one’s needs” while “44% believe that it is a way to flourish in the life “.

The hotel and catering sector is particularly affected, the workforce has shrunk and job offers are no longer finding takers. The sector is facing real difficulties in terms of attractiveness and both small and large establishments are affected.

The first symbol in decline is the time devoted to work. We are witnessing the end of “the employee who does not count his hours” and is manifested by a reversal of preferences between free time and money. In 2022, again according to an Ifop survey, 61% of French employees now prefer to earn less money, but have more free time.

Another fact noted is the decline in employee engagement. It has its origins in the fact that companies no longer meet their needs, whether in terms of remuneration, training, development, scheduling or involvement. It would seem that the profession of hoteliers-restaurateurs must reinvent itself to gain in terms of attractiveness, particularly in terms of salary scales, but even more so in terms of working conditions.

In the sector, the average monthly salary would be 1,810 euros gross, according to figures provided by AFP, against more than 2,400 euros in other professional branches before the crisis.

By wanting too much to keep commitments at work, professional life has been able to encroach on personal life, sometimes resulting in detrimental sacrifices. “In the hotel and restaurant industry, we all make sacrifices, we work when others are having fun, it’s inherent in the profession even when the salaries are not attractive“. Atypical working hours (night work, Saturdays, Sundays) remain major characteristics of the sector with, for example, 54% of cooks and 66% of employees working on Sundays, compared to 31% on average. Today, the preservation of the balance “life pro-personal life” is a major quest sought by employees. This is a key point in the prevention of “Quiet quitting”.

This trend from the United States means “silent resignation”. Concretely, this is a situation in which employees, instead of resigning, remain in their position by doing the bare minimum. This new way of approaching your professional life means: “Work for your salary (or act your wage in English)” and “prioritize your personal life”

This professional disengagement mainly affects young people. The employees concerned are physically present at work at the times agreed in their contract but refuse overtime, solicitations outside their working hours or any requests for assistance from the employer or a colleague. Quiet quitters also want to find a balance between the efforts made and the rewards obtained.

The relationship to space or the workplace is just as disrupted. The growing demand for teleworking is a major contributor to this, as is the management function, which no longer attracts younger generations. However, in our profession, jobs are not “telecommutable”. A hybrid solution could however be envisaged in certain cases, in particular for administrative tasks at the rate of a half day or a day per week.

During successive confinements, some of the employees began to reflect on their working conditions, outdated salary scales and demanding schedules. They discovered other priorities, for example spending more time with their family than when they worked in a hotel or a restaurant, which is not really synonymous with free time. This reflection has galvanized the desire to broaden the field of possibilities.

In France, some 520,000 resignations were recorded in the first quarter of 2022 with a resignation rate of 6.8% among catering employees and 4.7% for those in commerce.

Employees have not necessarily left to compete, but we see the establishment of different organizations with an alternation between temporary assignments and inactivity or change of status by adopting that of freelance. These organizations are far from ideal, but they allow you to choose your working time and optimize the desired balance.

And in terms of giving meaning back, many have turned to total reconversions from catering to permaculture, from hotels to personal services, from marketing to woodworking,… This is quite new and reflects the new societal trends we are facing!

The relationship to work has indeed evolved. We no longer enter a company to make a career there but to spend a moment of our professional life there, to learn, to discover, to flourish. On average, a person changes jobs between 5 and 13 times during their career. The average duration in the same position is about 5 years. According to Pôle Emploi, young workers today will change jobs on average 13 to 15 times during their lifetime.

We do not retain a young talent as an experienced talent, in the restaurant or IT sector. Expectations in terms of benefits are different.

There are, however, themes that seem important for each generation and more particularly expected in the hospitality sector.

First of all, the flexibility to organize your work and arrange your schedules, hybrid, office, teleworking, or even 4-day weeks, the assurance of having one or two weekends each month, or even the end of cut-off hours.

Then, the values, applied within the company as mentioned during the recruitment interview, with an organization that will have an impact on the well-being of employees and their mental health. Benevolent management is now expected: gratitude, appreciation, listening and achievable goals will contribute to team performance, essential assets to be put in place to retain hotel and catering staff in search of meaning.

Then the pride of belonging to a company that is committed in practice to strong and impactful subjects. An “eco-friendly” label, for example, can be a lever to attract talents who wish to get involved in a cause that is close to their heart and that makes sense.

Finally, a commitment to employee training and learning to support skills development. Today more than one in three French people think that their job does not prepare them for the future professional challenges of environmental transitions, technological developments or even the new demands of the world of work.

Language skills, for example, come first with 29% for French employees and 43% for Generation Z more specifically.

To cope with this new relationship to work, it is therefore essential to create a differentiating environment in 2023 and beyond to continue to believe that work contributes to our happiness insofar as we find the desired meaning in it.

Ségolène Saltel for B.R.A. Magazine

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