Working in hospitality makes setting boundaries seem impossible.

The first thing they tell you is to set clear working hours. HA! Guests go out at 05:00 on morning drives, check in at 23:00 at night and have questions about their safaris at all hours, not only because of the time difference but also because many people plan their holidays outside of THEIR working hours.

So how the heck do you do that?

1. Balance work times realistically:

Plan short, medium and long term as far as possible:

  • Short term: If you know you are going to have to check guests in late tonight, take a short rest or break earlier. Have a nap after tea or plan to sleep in a bit the next morning. Make sure that you get to balance the “overtime” with some downtime. Go on a game drive, have coffee with friends.
  • Medium term: If you have to work after-hours on a quote or a deadline, plan to take some off time when you are less likely to be disturbed but as soon as possible. Then make sure that you limit distractions and if you can, go offline for a day or so. It makes a massive difference.
  • Long term: Plan your breaks ahead. Even if it’s just a short trip somewhere, the intention is to completely break from your work environment and give yourself some time to recalibrate.

2. Establish a consistent sleep schedule:

Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even if your work schedule is inconsistent. This can help you maintain good sleep habits and avoid burnout. Also don’t discount the benefits of a quick nap 

3. Create a self-care routine:

Schedule time for exercise, meditation, hobbies, or other activities that help you relax and recharge. Some of my favourite memories are of playing cricket with other staff in the afternoon after guests went out on game drive. It’s only now I’m realising what that did for my own fitness, mental health and our team as a whole.

4. Prioritise time with family and friends:

Scheduling regular time with your loved ones is tricky, because you can’t necessarily adjust your work schedule. My folks and I talked about it soon after I started at the Lodges, and they got quite used to my hasty goodbyes once they understood that guests interrupted at any time. Plan regular catch ups (even if it’s virtual) with them where everyone understands that things might change at any moment, with the condition that you will reschedule as soon as possible. Spending time with the people you care about can help you maintain perspective and stay grounded.

5. Learn to delegate:

According to research from the Shadowmatch Team, the number 1 softest habit is Propensity to Hand off! Be willing to delegate tasks or responsibilities to others on your team, especially during busy periods. This is something you need to plan for as sometimes people don’t have the skills and then things swing back at you. In the end we need to build and empower people around us and if this can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and prevent burnout, double win!

6. Establish limits on work-related communication:

  • Consider setting boundaries around when and how often you check your work email or take work-related phone calls. For example, you may decide not to check your work email after a certain time in the evening or on weekends.
  • The same when you’re off. Your staff and co-workers need to understand when and, for what they can contact you. I often see managers who are super frustrated with staff calling them during their off times for some trivial thing that might have waited until they get back to work or be easily resolved by the relief person but because the boundaries aren’t clear that person is nervous/scared or uncertain, and they break into the Manager’s off time.  The trouble is that this does not allow your head to switch off and you therefore don’t get the break you need to completely relax and recharge.
    • Put some principles in place that counts for everyone.
      • At what level will the lodge call you for advice when you are on leave?
      • Is there a phone tree of next responsible person before they get to you?

7. Take Breaks during shifts

Make sure to take breaks during your workday, even if they are short. This can help you recharge and stay focused. My favourite time was always after Game Drives went out and the staff went for a short rest before dinner.  There is a silence that settles, when nobody is around that totally helped ground me.

8. Communicate your boundaries to others and respect each other’s boundaries:

If you need to, have an open discussion with your co-workers, managers, and clients about what your work-life boundaries are, so they can respect them and support you in maintaining them.

9. Learn to say no:

It’s not easy to do when there are only so many people to get the job done but be selective about the tasks and projects you take on, and be willing to turn down opportunities that don’t align with your priorities or capacity.

The funny part is that setting and maintaining your boundaries doesn’t have to be an epic battle, sometimes it’s as simple as going off the WhatsApp group.

What is the smallest possible step you can take to get you to a better work-life balance?

Feeling overwhelmed? Let’s talk it out – I’m here to listen and support you