How to keep hotel workers safe in a crisis

Worker safety has never been more important than it is today. Like many other areas of the hospitality business, the concept of safety has changed in light of the novel coronavirus, with hotel managers and associates genuinely concerned that their job sites are safe. The hospitality industry had been hard at work improving worker safety prior to the pandemic, and now it's time to build on pre-coronavirus trends to create a better environment for all hotel employees.

Hoteliers are already well aware of the dangers employees face, which is why they announced the 5-Star Promise in 2018 in collaboration with the American Hotel & Lodging Association. As part of the promise, hotel industry leaders set out to provide expanded training, establish safety procedures in the event of an emergency and deploy employee safety devices across the industry. According to the AHLA, more than 5,000 properties across the U.S. have already completed the deployment of these safety devices.

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However, with the spread of the coronavirus the situation has changed. While every major brand has announced new safety procedures, hotels are being forced to operate with constrained labor pools. These smaller staff sizes, coupled with new sanitation procedures designed to create a hotel environment that restores consumer confidence, are creating a stressful environment for hotel associates to operate in.

How can hotel workers provide a quality guest experience if they lack the confidence that their safety needs are being met? In essence, they cannot. It is up to hotel managers to reign in the chaos of the current business landscape by creating stability wherever possible.

Check Check Check

One way to provide stability is through strict checklist monitoring and rigorous self auditing. Scheduling technology is available that allows hotels to create an hourly checklist system they can stick to during periods of high traffic, and any gaps in the schedule should be addressed by a property's management team. 

Creating a checklist audit report and timing audit report can also help ensure hotel associates are doing the required tasks given to them by tracking how long it takes them to complete a checklist. For example, if a checklist is completed in less than 30 seconds it is an indication that the employee may not have thoroughly addressed each requirement, and would be flagged for review. This keeps your property consistent operationally and in the eyes of your associates.

There is also a high likelihood that hotels will have to work with a substantial number of COVID-infected guests. Employees can note these interactions while filling out checklists, creating a log of where they have been, who they were with and when. This can be useful for tracking the spread of the virus among staff should employees contract it. It is better to have to isolate two staff members rather than risk your entire hotel contracting the disease.

With this in mind, flexibility currently is a major component to hotel worker safety. Many hotels are operating to the best of their ability with nothing more than skeleton crews. Remaining staff members will often need to jump into unfamiliar roles and help out wherever they are needed. They will require additional training in order to adapt to the needs of the property on any given day. If hoteliers retain a rigid operational structure, they risk not having the workers they need on hand, and their property’s operations will struggle.

A Long Journey

Masks and their place behind the front desk should also be considered. The hospitality industry has always catered to guest needs, but workers are too essential to risk their health right now. A preoccupation with the short term is one of the reasons the U.S. continues to struggle with the spread of COVID-19, and keeping employees safe during this period is the key to long-term success. The nightmare scenario for any hotel is one where the majority, or even the entirety of a property's operations team, gets sick.

Employee burnout is also something to consider. Exhausted workers make mistakes, from room reservation errors to lapses in sanitation procedures. If your employees are moving a mile a minute every day trying to keep up with the pace of business, eventually they will have to stop for gas.

There is also an emotional component to worker safety that cannot be ignored right now. Providing positive reinforcement and rewarding standout efforts from hotel staff may seem small, but they show associates that they are being recognized and not taken for granted. With so much bad news circulating daily it is important for hoteliers to celebrate small victories in order to sustain morale. 

Front-line workers want to know that their efforts are being seen, especially as some of them are risking their health to continue working. In the long term, employee turnover will deal more damage to your hotel's bottom line than the cost of creating a safe working environment, particularly during a pandemic, and the workers who help weather this storm alongside you have the potential to become leaders within your organization in the future.

Hotel workers desire the same thing guests are looking for when making bookings these days: consistency, accountability and a commitment to safety. In order to do so they need access to tools that can help them maintain consistency, track accountability and ensure safety. If hotels equip their associates with the tools they need to succeed—whether they might be training, technology or access to leadership—then both worker and guest confidence can be sustained. 

Adria Levtchenko is CEO and co-founder of PurpleCloud Technologies.