I recently left a job working for a new hotel in the town centre of bournemouth. Before starting the job, I was warned that it would be tough, that it would involve hard work and flexibility. I wish I had known just how true this was. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy my job at some point, and I am immensely proud of all the hard work that went into the opening, getting the end product ready for the customers.
The easiest way to describe working on a preopening is that it is like a pregnancy, nurturing the child until it is ready to be born. Ready to enter the world. Yes, I realise I sound like a complete weirdo. The thing is, I do feel like I have this huge bond with the hotel, more than I have ever felt towards a job before, because I was a part of its opening, of its history. I didn’t just come into a job in an existing hotel. I didn’t join the team that was already there, I experienced the team evolving, growing, learning on the job.
It was a strange eight months, not only watching the hotel being built, often from inside with hard hat tours for clients and local business people alike, but also working behind the scenes with the rest of the preopening team to ensure that when the hotel was ready for guests, when it was finally handed over to us, that we would have business.
In case you didn’t know, my actual job role was in sales and events. I was working to bring in business to a hotel that wasn’t finished, working with artists impression photos or, more often than not, only imagination, to paint a picture to the clients and assure them that the finished product would be worth the risk of booking before completion. It was one of the most challenging things I have had to do in my work life.
As things started ramping up, with the hotel almost ready for guests and the opening date looming ever closer, what was already a stressful job, became almost unbearable. Everyone found themselves working 12 hour shifts or more, as standard, with no overtime paid, doing a good job and bringing an amazing finished product to the public being the only motivation to keep going when tiredness threatened not only to compromise our work quality, but also our work relationships as people began snapping at others, passing work over to others who were already close to breaking.
The atmosphere in the office and throughout the hotel became tense, everyone was close to breaking point. We were working our normal shifts, plus overtime and then working on Preopening events in the evenings, offering show rounds of the brand new hotel that we barely knew our way round more than those first interested guests.
I found myself unable to switch off from work, the little time I spent back at home I would find myself thinking about all the work I had to do the next day, the next week. I lived and breathed the hotel. I would research on my phone news stories which mentioned the hotel, looking at comments about our hotel, our team, feeling more emotionally involved than I wanted to, than was healthy.
I rarely saw my children and when I did I would only have time to put them to bed. At the weekends, when I wasn’t working, I would be so exhausted I wouldn’t have the energy to do anything fun with them. I found myself snapping at them over the smallest things as my patience was shot. I would see Ed for an hour or two before sleep and I would fall asleep in front of films, tv programmes, when lying in bed with him. I became distant from him in our relationship as I was just too tired to put any effort into it. My appearance suffered along with my health. I didn’t have the time or energy to redo my makeup after a long day at work. I missed contraceptive and antidepressant pills alike. I would become dizzy, irritable, feel faint and sick often.
My eating habits were affected. I would be surviving on a Nutella muffin until dinner time, when I would end up resorting to takeaways because we didn’t have the time or energy to cook. My weight was up and down because of this, and the fact that my once regular trips to the gym were forced to stop as I didn’t have the time to go.
I would be in work before 8 most days, not leaving until at least 7 and with no break. I wouldn’t even go to the toilet as much as I should have done because it was two flights of stairs down and I felt I needed to do my work more than it was worth the trip downstairs.
It constantly felt like a battle to ensure I kept up with others in how long I was at work. Being the only one with young children in the office, I was constantly reminded that I had signed up for this and that everyone else had lives outside of work as well. I was told off for leaving work before 7 once, because a colleague was unwell and stayed later.
I felt I was completely taken for granted the majority of the time. I even dreamt about work. I was pushed to my breaking point and if I showed the tiniest weakness I would be reminded that everyone else was in the same boat. My depression got worse, I ended up having to increase my dosage of tablets, when I tried to talk about it at work, I was made to feel I was just making excuses. I stopped talking much at work about how I felt.
There was no time for emotions. I felt like a robot. I would drive into work on autopilot. I would work these incredibly long and stressful days and then I would drive back home, picking the kids up on the way. I would eventually go to bed, only to wake up and do the exact same all over again the following day. I lost interest in my job. I lost interest in the industry itself. I wanted out. I wanted time back. I wanted to be able to appreciate my children again. I wanted to actually enjoy life again. I couldn’t go on.