Jonathan Richards, CEO & Founder at Breathe, speaks about the ways in which hospitality business owners can safeguard staff and streamline shift patterns.
The hospitality industry is arguably one of the hardest-hit sectors by the pandemic as it stands. Put simply, existing business models aren’t able to accommodate for the stringent health measures put in place by the government; the reopening of parts of the hospitality industry on the 4th July coincided with the loosening of the two-metre distancing rule to ‘one-metre-plus’.
The hospitality sector employs more than 3.2 million people, adding up to 10% of UK employment, and represents 6% of business and 5% of GDP, so the human impact of a potential collapse is immense. Regardless of the government announcements, businesses in this sector are resilient and are constantly looking for workarounds to enormous issues such as these.
Backing the cause, the AA has launched a Covid Confident accreditation scheme for the hospitality industry, to help instil public confidence in domestic tourism as lockdown measures ease. This means pubs, restaurants, cafes, and visitor attractions and more can demonstrate their commitment to public health whilst ushering in business. The government has also acknowledged the anguish of the hospitality sector and subsequently rolled out its Eat Out to Help Out initiative, in the hope of encouraging consumers out of lockdown fear and back into public spaces.
For this sector to successfully and safely reboot, its people must come first. Safeguarding staff and streamlining shift patterns will be of the utmost importance in the coming months and hospitality business owners must rethink how to do this.
Here are some thoughts on how:
- Furlough pulse-check
Mass furloughing of staff and then onboarding them back to work – certainly not something most of us would be familiar with handling. At the time of writing, furlough figures show 9.5 million people are using the scheme. This reality comes with the responsibility to respectfully handle the situation with employees who have been on furlough during this time.
Business owners must continue to check in regularly and involve staff with reopening plans and shift adjustments throughout the process. If you’re involving everyone with decisions and demonstrating why these measures are being put in place, it’s a great way to cultivate an inclusive workforce that’s more likely to back you when things get tough. Even if you are not certain on what your headcount is going to look like in the next few months, it’s important to keep transparent lines of communication open with everyone and demonstrate compassionate leadership.
Bosses aren’t gifted with a crystal ball, but even if you don’t have all the answers it’s crucial to be respectful in handling the human element of business, whatever the eventual outcomes.
- Onsite safety measures
Many hospitality businesses have been busy laying the foundations for a safe workplace throughout the lockdown period, and rightly so. Understanding that people are a businesses’ most valuable asset under all circumstances makes the investment in a safe working environment a key priority. Keeping a keen eye on government advice around reopening businesses as the guidance evolves will be paramount in the coming months – it’s a turbulent journey, so keeping pace with these changes is another top priority.
Safety measures and new work practices have been pioneered since the lift in lockdown legislation, and it’s reassuring to witness such innovative and successful reopenings. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff and managing shift patterns should be the focus, but it’s also worth looking for smart tools to adapt to this new sanitised work setting.
- There’s an app for that
Digital workarounds have had to take shape during this time. Apps for contactless processes are being launched to support the reopening of venues to facilitate the social distancing rules and promote staff and customer wellbeing. In fact, many tech firms recognise the security and data issues this raises so are teaming up to create effective solutions. Businesses should be looking at contactless tech options and conducting some careful research into which would work best for their premises to navigate these new guidelines.
Building successful shift patterns that conform to the government requirements can be a real headache for business owners. Developing systems that really work are tricky at the best of times, involving strenuous manual admin that employers really can’t accommodate when there’s bigger issues at large – like getting back to business. This is why I’d recommend focusing efforts on ensuring rotas are completely watertight to avoid further confusion.
Swapping shifts, unforeseen sick leave… it happens, but when there’s such a high risk of breaching health and safety guidelines, there simply is no room for error in developing an effective rota to manage this activity. Many companies have turned their focus to developing digital systems which are worth reviewing to see if they suit your short-term business model. The fact is, there’s no longer room for the administrative burdens associated with negotiating shift patterns – bosses must turn to automation to streamline the process and alleviate some of the strain.
As venues continue to reopen and navigate the new business landscape, time-poor employers must put their time and energy into strategising and look at reducing traditional admin to push forward and succeed against the grain.
Some final thoughts:
- Check in on furloughed staff and keep them involved in business plans
- Invest in keeping your people safe and making the venue meet government guidelines
- Research tech / apps to manage the admin burden
Finally… we’re all in this together. With the right attitude and forward planning, despite these uncertain conditions, hospitality businesses are proving resilient and will continue to bounce back.