Episode Summary

The business world is shifting from a customer-first to an employee-first mindset. Such an approach doesn’t mean neglecting the customer. On the contrary, it leads to happy and motivated employees who become your organization’s best advocates and ensure an exceptional customer experience. 

But creating a human-centered culture and providing employees with resources and compensation packages that will inspire them to work towards a shared goal is challenging, and many organizations don’t fully understand how to get there. 

The key to a working environment that encourages employees to achieve work-life balance — or as our guest says, life-work balance — is to create a culture of open communication and let employees share their ideas, perspectives, and struggles. It also relies on leading by example and allowing managers to share their vulnerabilities. Finally, encouraging everyone to take breaks, slow down, and have a certain flexibility and autonomy in their work is important.

In this episode of Restaurants Reinvented, we have the pleasure of hearing from Milena Regos, the Founder, Creator, and Chief Wellbeing Officer of Unhustle. Milena and our host Jen Kern discuss the challenges companies — including those in the restaurant industry — face today, such as labor shortages caused by burnout and overall employee dissatisfaction. In addition, they discuss burnout prevention and the steps companies must take to attract and retain employees. 


Name: Milena Regos, Unhustle
🍽 What she does: Milena is the Founder, Creator, and Chief Wellbeing Officer of Unhustle.
🍽 Noteworthy: Milena is an award-winning marketer who dealt with burnout, which inspired and motivated her to launch the Unhustle movement.
🍽 Where to find Milena: LinkedIn

Key Insights

🌶️ The business world needs a cultural shift

Many businesses are paying attention to creating a culture that aligns the company’s values and mission with employees’ beliefs. However, we end up having to put ourselves in the so-called hustle mode and worry that any change can negatively affect the organization’s growth and success.

Unfortunately, hustle culture results in burnout, people leaving their jobs, or staying in a position where they suffer from chronic stress. In addition, regardless of the industry and size, US companies are facing a labor shortage, and employers must make cultural changes to attract and retain talented/valuable individuals. ”Let’s replace hustle culture with human culture, and let’s live our lives now and still do high-quality work.”

🌶️ Employers must focus on burnout prevention 

As mentioned above, every company aiming for high employee retention is required to adopt an employee-first approach.

It’s hard enough to find a good employee (many organizations must redefine and redesign their recruitment and onboarding processes), but retaining the good ones adds a new layer of complexity. Thus, once you find an employee who is a good fit for your company, it’s up to you to assure them and show them that your company is worth working at.

As Milena explains, both managers and employees should focus on achieving a life-work balance, not the other way around. Finally, helping employees avoid burnout also benefits your company from a financial standpoint. ”Burnout prevention is a lot easier and less costly than burnout cure or hiring new employees over and over and having this high turnover.”

🌶️ Not everything you do must bring profit

Hustle culture ”teaches” us that we must be active and productive every second of our lives. But what does all of that mean? Do we all have the same perspective on what success looks like? The pandemic showed us that everything could change in a second, and slowing down is not a sign of weakness.

On the contrary, sitting still during the pandemic was our number one priority; it was our only job — to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and our community safe. Now, when we are slowly going back to normal (whatever that means), it’s time to preserve some of those patterns from the pandemic and appreciate every moment. No one says we should stop working hard or be devoted to our career, but life is also about things that make us happy and have nothing to do with income. ”The whole myth that you constantly have to be doing it in order to achieve something is just a myth. So self-awareness, mindfulness, meditation, breathing practices, time in nature, time alone. We’re constantly bombarded with information, notifications, news, and all these things. We fill our heads with so much that we leave very little time for just presence and breathing and sitting alone with our thoughts.”

Episode Highlights

What is the Unhustle?

Unhustle is a rebellion to live and work well. We want to flip the script on redefining success — what success means for us as human beings, as a collective, as a society, and what is important, meaningful, and purposeful in our lives. […] It is the opposite of hustle culture. 

I see a big need personally and also collectively, as a society, to look at what we are doing. The way we’re working is broken. We’re burned out. We’re overstretched, overworked, stressed out, and mental health [problems] are on the rise. So how do we change our way of thinking — the way we do business so that it’s not only good for humans, but it’s also good for the bottom line.”

It’s time to substitute hustle culture with human-centered culture

Human-centered culture is the opposite of hustle culture. If you look at hustle culture, you exert yourself to the max. All you focus your energy on is work.

Human-centered culture starts from the top. It starts with leadership. It starts with having more emphasis on these soft skills — so empathy, vulnerability, and treating humans as humans. […] Treating people the way they want to be treated and not the way you want to be treated because that’s not being in their shoes. 

Having more of an open mind, positive workforce, giving people flexibility in how they work and when they work. Being more open to providing learning resources. That’s what young people want and all of these things — I can keep describing them — but it’s what makes us human. […] The benefit to that is that it shows an increase in performance for the company. So more conscious capitalism, as opposed to just this big orientation on maximizing profits at all costs. And, in that case, the cost is human.”

Burnout is not another buzzword; its real

”Burnout is chronic stress that has not been managed successfully. People think it’s a personal thing, but oftentimes, it’s an organizational thing. 

Some of the causes of burnout are unsustainable workload, organizational issues, and lack of control. So people thrive on more autonomy and flexibility. Insufficient rewards for effort — how are you treating your employees? If they do not see rewards for their efforts, it may result in burnout. Lack of supportive community, lack of fairness, and mismatched values and skills. 

So if you put somebody in too challenging of a position, it’s going to push them into anxiety mode. If you put them in too boring of a position, they’re gonna be bored. It may end up in burnout. […] 

When you look at the restaurant environment, if some of the employees burn out, the customer does not have a good experience. Mistakes are happening. People are not treated the way you want to be treated from a customer service perspective. People are not showing up for their shifts, so other people have to pick up the slack. And then they end up working extra hours. So I guess my question is, “What are we doing in the restaurant industry to prevent burnout?”

How to prevent burnout and create an environment people want to work in

”Get together with your team and decide together. And you may work with an outside consultant if you don’t know how to do this, but how do you create a more open, positive work culture where people are not afraid to show themselves? Where leaders lead with vulnerability, empathy, and commonly shared goals for the business. […] Sometimes, it’s okay to part ways if they’re not a good match. But get clear on the work culture you want to create. […]

For burnout prevention, what are some things you can implement starting tomorrow? Maybe it’s PTO, mental health [days], mandatory breaks, or a flexible work schedule. Some things are within your control, within the resources you have, and the team you’re working with. What can you do tomorrow to implement some burnout prevention strategies? Maybe it’s self-care days or afternoons. There are so many things you can tap into. 

And third, implement some kind of empathetic leadership and training. I think young people are drawn to more learning and development, to begin with. So offering that to them will be beneficial to the managers as well as to the employees and the frontline staff.”

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